I first wrote about seeing the tracks here in March of 2006. While these solutions work, the Plastiform viewer needs to be kept in a humidor and the Kyread spray is a bit of mess to use and the results are variable. One result of the Kyread treatment can be seen here (please wait for the pictures to load, it’s a big page).
Here is what appears to be a vastly improved solution:
The image above shows the view of a 4-track 1/4-inch tape and the reticle from the B&L magnifier. Track 4 (at the top) shows slightly at the top right and then fades out. Images made with Nikon D200 and Nikon 105 mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor without the magnifier lens attached. The following image shows an overview of the magnifier and viewer on an A80RC.
When some of the folks on the Studer list started discussing the Sigma Hi-Chemical MV-95 magnetic viewer (seen here), I was curious. It is not inexpensive, but a kind list member set up a group buy and I bought one and am very impressed. It is slower to react, but after a minute or so, it gives a very good image of the track format and shows signals at a lower level more easily than either of the previous two products.
To round out the “kit” I decided I needed another magnifier and the good folks at Efston Science in Toronto recommended a Bausch & Lomb 7X Hastings Triplet Measuring Magnifier with the 81-34-36 General purpose scale. This is a compact unit with scales of 0.5 inch, 10 mm and a quadrant of angles, among others. Calibration is 0.005 inches and 0.1 mm and one degree. Here is the B&L page for this product. It appears that many online retailers sell this. Peak makes a similar unit (here or here) called the Mini-Comparator 7X. An alternate reticle might be more useful than the simple metric one that normally comes with this. I like the one that came with the B&L which is almost identical to the Peak #12 (shown here). I would consider both inch and metric scales as I think about track widths in both measurement systems.
Of course, you’ll need more light, and the ever-handy Surefire LED flashlight is my tool of choice. Here is my page about flashlights.
I often place things like this behind the head stack on a machine. Be careful on an A80 as there is a round-head screw that could damage the thin bottom metal sheet of the viewer. I removed the screw.