Over in Singapore, there’s a 49-year-old man who’s known by photographers as “The Camera Whisperer.” He’s a camera repair whiz who helps photographers revive broken equipment that professional repair centers won’t (or can’t) bring back to life.
Channel NewsAsia published a profile of David Hilos and the 3-minute video above about his work.
Hilos tackles everything from minor focusing issues to waterlogged and corroded cameras and lenses. While bringing a drowned DSLR back to life is difficult with a slim chance of success, Hilos still gives it his best shot for the owner and sometimes gets lucky.
After becoming obsessed with disassembling and reassembling his toys as a kid, Hilos eventually became an electrical engineer. His camera repair work is simply a side hobby contained on a small table in the living room of his apartment. These days, he spends over 10 hours a week in his free time on repair work.
Over the years, Hilos has become respected in the Singaporean photography community for taking on “impossible” repairs for desperate owners and charging only a fraction of what service centers demand.
“For Mr Hilos […] fixing something that seems like an impossible task is something he finds ‘fulfilling’,” writes Channel NewsAsia.
Like a surgeon, Mr Hilos skillfully removes the camera’s screws, some hidden underneath the rubber skin, others tucked away in small grooves; then arranges them in a clockwise pattern on his workbench.
“Everything about camera repairing has to be precise. Even for the screws, the number of turns have to be returned to the exact position,” he said.
To the right of his workbench, a collection of watchmaker-grade screwdrivers are laid out nicely – from German-made Wiha to Mercedes Benz screwdrivers, these tools are important to the quality of the work he does.
“A good screwdriver doesn’t create marks on screwheads. Some customers feel sad if the screws have signs of cosmetic damage – it affects the resale value of collector items,” said Mr Hilos, adding that dealing with fussy customers has, in fact, improved his standards as a fixer.
With all the intricacies involved in fixing a camera, it’s surprising that Mr Hilos does it all from a small study table in his HDB flat. And he reveals that at times, fixing a complicated issue can be done with simple household items like chopsticks and a toothbrush.
As he lifts the casing of the drowned Nikon D750, he scans the motherboard with his eye loop and makes his diagnosis. “There is a lot of corrosion”, he mumbles.