Depending upon what type of problem(s) your camera has, you may want to have someone else repair it, or save money by acquiring the parts and fixing it yourself.
BATTERY-RELATED PROBLEMS: Some apparent problems with the flash, shutter, motor, or other camera parts may actually be attributable to issues with the battery compartment or batteries. If a built-in flash or motor (for film advance/rewind or zoom lens) doesn’t work, use a flashlight to check both ends of the battery compartment for corrosion, and try using the camera while pressing on the battery cover/door with your fingers. Although many cameras will function with no batteries in them, some otherwise-manual camera models have an “electronic shutter”, which means that they cannot take photographs without battery power. If you need to replace a special type of battery, keep in mind that some battery types have multiple names (for example, “DL123” and “CR123” batteries are the same), so a differently-named but compatible battery type might be cheaper. In many situations, it is best to make sure the batteries are good (use a battery tester if possible) and the battery compartment/door doesn’t have any problems before trying to fix or replace other parts of the camera.
TRIPOD SOCKET: A stripped tripod socket may or may not be easy to fix, depending upon the camera model. Some cameras have a tripod socket which is a separate piece and is held to the rest of the camera by screws which are located in the area around it. If this is the case, you may be able to replace it simply by removing the old socket and screwing in a new one. Some cameras are similar to this, but the tripod socket module is above the panel on the bottom of the camera, but otherwise easily removable. On the other hand, the tripod socket may be an inherent part of the panel on the bottom of the camera, or otherwise difficult to replace.
HOT SHOE: A rusty or otherwise damaged hot shoe (or “flash port”) on top of the camera is generally not too difficult to remove, because the screws are usually on the exterior and it can be removed after the screws are taken out. However, some cameras (like the Bell & Howell 35J) don’t have screws on the top of their hot shoe, making it harder to repair. Although they are considered somewhat universal, one “hot shoe” is not always the same as another (they vary slightly in size and style). The metal is usually thin enough to manipulate slightly with a tool if necessary, but this should be done carefully.
DATE FEATURE: The date-printing units featured on some cameras are usually powered by a separate battery than the built-in flash. It is generally a thin coin-style battery located somewhere in the back door, often a CR2025 type. On some models it is located behind a screwed-in battery door next to the film pressure plate on the door. If the screw is stripped or the battery compartment is corroded, you might have to replace the back door (or the date unit, if it unscrews from the back door) to use the date feature. If not, it is quite possible that an inexpensive replacement battery will make the date feature work properly.
BACK DOOR: Some cameras allow the rear door to be removed by unscrewing two screws on the end of it (such as the Windsor WX-3), while others need the camera to be taken apart to remove it. The replacement door will have to be compatible with the camera’s door-opening mechanism. Make sure that the replacement has a film pressure plate, if that is normal for the camera you are trying to repair.
BUILT-IN LENS COVER: A few cameras (including some Olympus models) have a large sliding lens cover which also acts as a shutter lock. If this type of lens cover is not completely open, the camera will not function, which can become a problem if it moves too loosely and easily slides back/forth. If you have this problem, putting some thin tape over the area the lens cover moves along may keep it in place more firmly (while still allowing it to slide open and shut). Some other camera models have the built-in lens cover entirely contained on the inside of the front panel, making it possible to replace a failed lens cover by replacing this panel. If the lens cover is stuck open and will not close, consider buying a pouch or case to protect the lens from being scratched or becoming dirty.
STRAP: Most (about three out of four) cameras have straps that can be easily removed and replaced. Make sure you don’t buy a strap which requires two strap-mounts for a camera with only one. You may need a small key ring to attach the strap on some cameras. However, some models have a built-in strap which requires the camera to be opened up if it is to be replaced.
FLASH: If a built-in flash doesn’t work and the problem isn’t battery-related, one possibility is that the flash is automatic and you are trying to use it in an area which isn’t dark enough for it. If camera has “hot shoe” or other external flash connection sockets, you should be able to attach an external flash and use it instead of the built-in flash.
BATTERY COVER: A few cameras with battery compartments have removable battery covers which can easily be replaced, but the vast majority have the battery cover attached to the rest of the camera. These sometimes need to be replaced if the metal on them becomes corroded or their edge is worn out and no longer closes properly. Some cameras allow the battery door/cover to be replaced after removing the bottom panel, but this varies depending upon the camera.
CORROSION: It may be possible to repair a camera which only has corrosion on the battery door/cover (see previous paragraph), but it will be more difficult to fix if the corrosion is located on inner battery terminals and/or elsewhere. Corrosion sometimes leaks out of the battery compartment and affects inner parts of the camera (although it rarely reaches the film area), so many parts could be damaged if there is severe corrosion.
VIEWFINDER: The ease of replacing a cracked or otherwise damaged viewfinder (without harming the rest of the camera) varies greatly depending upon the particular model and can be quite difficult with some. As for inaccurate viewfinders, this is an inherent problem with some camera models; see my article on viewfinders (the URL is at the end of this article) for more details on how to fix or compensate for this.
PARTS: Finding a camera like yours (same model or “clone”) which is broken or in poor condition is often the best way to acquire parts. Parts cameras can be found at thrift shops, internet auction services, and some online shopping websites which sell used items. SLR-type and other expensive cameras are more likely to be listed on internet auction websites in poor or broken condition because of their greater value. Groups of parts or “as is” cameras are sometimes sold cheaply.
OTHER PROBLEMS: If your 35mm camera has a more complex problem, like a broken shutter or failed built-in flash, you might want to have it fixed at a camera store. You should also do this if the camera is expensive and has any kind of internal problem, unless you are skilled at repairing cameras. If its value is too low to justify this, consider buying another camera of the same model and keeping the one you have now to use for parts later if that becomes necessary.
Although fixing a camera can take some time and/or money, it is often worthwhile; it is not always easy to find another camera which takes quality photographs, gives you the amount of control over it that you feel is necessary, and is compatible with any photographic accessories you own. Like any product, repairing it instead of buying another also helps protect the environment and conserve natural resources.