Using barrel lens without shutter : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I have two lenses for my 4x5, a 90mm and 180mm. Both are modern lenses in modern shutters, and I paid what I consider to be a fairly large sum for each, although both were used. I need a longer focal length lens (300mm - 360mm, 12" -14"?) and am interested to know if anyone out there has experience with using older lenses with barrel mounts. What I wonder is if you where to use fairly long-ish exposures, could you get by without a shutter. I am imaging using a lens cap to expose film and simply time the exposures with a second hand on my watch. Is this a doable idea? What are the pitfall I should think about? Any recommendations on what types of lenses I should be looking for? Thanks for your help.

-- Mark DeMulder (, November 30, 1999


Yes, you can do this by using a lens cap (or the 'hat' trick), if your exposures are long enough. A lens cap is best, so you can cap off the lens while you re-insert the dark slide. Long lenses are easier to correct, because they dont need a large angle of coverage, so even simple optical formulas work very well.

-- Ron Shaw (, November 30, 1999.

you will need to be very careful when trying to use a lens cap as a shutter. longer lenses are more prone to show up even the slightest camera motion, so you must take every precaution to make sure the camera is still and not induce any vibration when you remove the lens cap. the longer the exposure, the less critical this becomes. but remember, the best photographs ever taken were made by men who used shutterless lenses and glass plates - you might want to read a little about how men like carleton watkins and eduoard baldus worked.

-- jnorman (, November 30, 1999.

For probably not significantly more than an older barrel lense, you can probably find a used Nikkor 300mm f/9 in copal - this is an excellent lense which is small and light (52mm filter thread) and very sharp.

-- fw (, November 30, 1999.

"I need a longer focal length lens (300mm - 360mm, 12" -14"?)"

You can get these lenses all day long on ebay. For shutters, try this:

-- sheldon hambrick (, November 30, 1999.

Once you get out of the 'mounted in shutter' world, the cost of lens go down big-time. I worried about the lens cap deal... shaking the camera as I put it on etc. etc. I got a PCV pipe cap that was 4 inches in diameter and glued dark cloth inside. It works fine, and I can keep my hat on my bald head.

-- chuck k (, November 30, 1999.

I have a friend who uses the slower speed films for this purpose, as it increases the exposure times, not bad for landscapes, but can be hard for portraiture. Pat

-- pat j. krentz (, December 01, 1999.

I purchased a very good 19" Artar in a barrel mount on ebay for $77 and use it with a lens cap. Sharp as a tack. I also picked up a 375mm Ilex Caltar lens in barrel and have used it with great success using an old lens cap as a shutter. I'm just careful with any movement pulling it off and putting it back on. James

-- james (, December 02, 1999.

One of my very favorite photographers, Sally Mann, uses old shutterless lenses quite ofter. Lots of them are even junk box swap show lenses. Her recent interview in "View Camera" talks more about this.

-- Josh Root (, December 02, 1999.

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