What is the difference between different shutters?

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I notice that some LF lenses come with your own choice of shutter.


I have a grid here showing the differences between Copal and Prontor shutters. Can someone explain what the differences mean in real life, and whether I should care...

Exposure timeB.T. 1/500-1 B.1/250-1
ShutterCocking shutterSelf-cocking shutter
f stopsNoYes
Necessary equipmentNonecentral remote control unit (mechanical)

Am I likely to pay more for one or the other? How much more? Do most people care which shutter they get?

-- Chris Bitmead (chrisb@ans.com.au), August 12, 1998


This Prontor shutter sounds like one that can be operated from behind the camera. It also sounds more expensive.

The Copal shutter unit doesn't have marked f-stops because the same unit cam be used with different focal lengths. If you buy it with a particular lens, it will have a metal ring showing the f-numbers for that lens.

I care about simplicity and cost. Different people have different priorities, of course.

-- Alan Gibson (gibson.al@mail.dec.com), August 12, 1998.

Try to get the most current shutters possible. Some modern lenses have some funky shutters. Copal 0, 1 and 3 are the standard sizes for modern lenses, and lens boards are available for these for virtually every camera. If you get into Compurs, some of them are in 0, 1 and 3 sizes, but some aren't, and Compurs are a lot like the Copals. Non 0, 1, 3 shutters pose a problem in getting boards without having to special order them.

There are a variety of other shutters, some easy to use, and some with controls that are down right frustrating, especially in cold weather. I had a 90mm Super Angulon that the shutter was so small on it that you had to use the finger nail on your little finger to even move it, not much fun at 5 degrees! When you get to the Betax 4's and Ilex 5's, they get bigger and can be to large for the board on a field camera with a tappered bellows.

I have tools available and the ability to make my own boards for my 4X5 and 8X10, and with the addition of a lens board adapter, can use the 4X5 boards on the 8X10. Buy a lens, preferably something current, in a Copal shutter, they seem to be the most popular. Make sure that it has enough coverage to allow movements, after all large format is mainly movements, if you aren't going to use movements, stay with medium or 35mm format. Now that you have a lens, use it, use it until you need something different. I think you will be surprised, developing sheet film and printing it, will take some time, and money, and you might not need the large range of lenses initially that you think you will. I worked with a Speed graphic and a 135mm lens for 10 years before I bought my first field camera and another lens, believe me, I know the 135mm lens and its abilities very well. Since then I have added a half dozen lenses, and use them all, but it has taken 20 years of experience to decide which ones I really need and would do me the most good.

-- Marv Thompson (mthompson@clinton.net), August 12, 1998.

The remote control unit is NOT necessary for the Prontor shutters you are asking about. The Prontors make it easier to make multiple exposures and facilitate faster shooting (that is why they are called Prontor Press shutters), but lacking the T setting is a pain. And yes they are much more expensive. The prontors are allegedly very slightly little more prone to breakdown. And they will do nothing to help you with landscape photography. Almost all new lenses from all manufacturers come in Copal shutters and work just fine for 98.7654% of all photography. Spend the monetary difference on polaroid and film, and yes you really should buy a new polaroid 545i back and not a used one.

Cheers again!


-- Ellis (evphoto@insync.net), August 12, 1998.

There are 3 common shutters available today. 1: The least expensive is the Copal in 0, 1 and 3 sizes. Coapl also still makes a simpler self-cocking design in small sizes the Copal Press.

2: Prontor works currently has 4 shutter types. The most common are.

Compur in 0 1 and 3 sizes Prontor Professional in 0 1 and 3 sizes Prontor Press The new Prontor shutter for digital lenses in 0 and 1 sizes

All current Compur and Prontor professional shutters can add accessories. The Prontor Pro can add both an aperture selector and a shutter speed selector to control these functions from behind the camera. The Compur can add an aperture selector. The Prontor Professional works best with 1 of 2 remote controls to control the operation of the shutter from behind the camera if a remote is not used these functions can be done with a long throw locking cable release. The Prontor Press does NOT, as was incorrectly stated above, use or accept the remote control.

The Prontor Pro and Prontor Press and Copal Press are self-cocking.

There are also some electronic shutters around:

Sinar Horseman Rollei Prontor

Some of these are only available in 0 and 1 sizes.

A Copal or Prontor Professional shutter is 1.5 to 2x the cost of the same size Copal so they can add a considerable amount to especially the shorter focal length range of non wide angle

-- Bob Salomon (bobsalomon@mindspring.com), October 22, 1998.

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