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Different shutter types (Pros & Cons)

Tips and Tricks
Posted by Bengt Köhler Sandberg 2013-01-12

Have tested quite a lot of old camers during my camera nerd years and have found some common good and bad things about the different shutter types.
And this is mainly based on how I have found old second hand cameras.

Focal-plane shutters

Focal plane means that the shutter is positioned immediately in front of the focal plane of the camera.
In other words in front of the film or digital sensor.
Most common shutter on all SLRs around the 60s - 70s to today.
And there are mainly two versions commonly used.

Toy Camera Tips

Horizontal traveling curtain shutter usually made of cloth or rubber.

Most famous because Leica cameras use these but this were very common on many SLR's from 70s and older.
You also se this shutter on some medium format cameras.

The cameras I have tested with this shutter type have been mainly SLRs that take 135 film and age around the 70s or older.

Reliable shutter speeds between
1/250s down to 1s.
Usually quiet and don't make much vibrations.
Many cameras with this are easy to adjust the shutter on.

Faster shutter speeds can make uneven exposures.
This problem comes when one
curtain open or closes faster than the other.
So you can end up with one side brighter or darker than the other.
But have only seen this problem with speeds that are 1/500 or faster.

Have read that these shutters can have a problem in extremely cold weather but I don't know if that's true.

Toy Camera Tips

Vertical traveling shutter made of metal.

This is the most common shutter on all SLRs from the 80s to today.
But not common on cameras that take bigger film size the 135 film.
Guess that this will be too heavy or make too much vibrations.

The cameras I have tested with this shutter type have been from the 60s or newer.

reliable at any shutter speed.
Have tested cameras that are from the 60s and still works like new which is very impressive.
Can have really fast shutter speeds, down to 1/8000

Usually makes more noise and vibrations compared to the horizontal cloth shutter
Can't be easily repaired if it do brake.

Leaf shutter

A leaf shutter works almost like the aperture blades inside of a lens.
This have three or more metal blades that open and closes the make a exposure.
These shutter blades are usually inside the lens but there are a few exceptions to this.

Toy Camera Tips

Very common shutter type on cameras that are from the 50s and older but you can find this on modern cameras also.
I have mostly tested cameras which are from the 50-60s but also some that are as old as 1930s.
How good this shutters worked have varied quite a lot and I have some really old one that almost work like new and others which have had very inaccurate shutter speeds.

One common problem is that longer shutter speeds are too long or can stuck.
I also had the idea that faster speeds are usually quite accurate even if slower one are way off.
But this is often not the case and one that have problems at longer shutter speeds will often be 20-50% to slow on all shutter speeds.

This however is not always so and I have tested one where 1s was about 2-3s.
1/25 to 1/50 was quite accurate, 1/100 was spot on.
1/200 and 1/400 hade almost the exact same speed of around 1/140.

Shutter speeds are usually quite reliable but older ones are often little slower than they should.
Often makes very little noise and vibrations.
Flash can often sync to all shutter speeds, even 1/500.

Negative size doesn't matter because the shutter is in the lens so you can get a nice and even exposure even on a huge negative size.
And this is almost the only shutter type you find on a large format camera.

Have some really old cameras that are from around the 30s which still works like a clock today.

The most common problem is that longer exposures are to slow or get stuck.
Often starts at 1/30 - 1/15 and get worse the longer the exposure time gets.
B or buld usually still works on these that have this problem.

Sensitive to cold temperature and a slow shutter usually have more problems in cold weather.

Max shutter speed of 1/500 and many old cameras often have lower than that.

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