What is the Prontor shutter all about?

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I currently have the option to purchase a Schneider Artar lens with a Prontor shutter. All my life I have used only Copal--and occasionally Compur--shutters. Can somebody please explain to me what the main differences are between these three shutters, and how the Prontor compares to Copal and Compur--in terms of accuracy, reliability, ease of use, overall quality, etc? Does the Prontor have any disadvantages or negative features? What is the "street word" on this shutter?

Also, why does Schneider choose to offer its large-format lenses in three different brands of shutters, instead of just one?

Thank you.

Nick Rowan

-- Nick Rowan (nrowan@vf.com), November 21, 2000


I believe the modern Prontor shutter is a self-cocking "press"-type shutter (advantageous for "multiple-pops"). I remember seeing ads for Prontor electronic shutters also, they have a unique sliding aperture bar that can be seen from the back end of a camera. The modern Prontors are expensive. The Artar is probably in an older Prontor shutter, which I don't believe varies much from a Compur - although I've read that reliability-wise the Compur is considered to be better.

-- Wayne DeWitt (wdewitt@snip.net), November 21, 2000.

I should add that the lens in question is a late-vintage Schneider Apo-Artar (360mm), manufactured circa 1990--so the Prontor shutter on it is only about 10 years old.

Nick Rowan

-- Nick Rowan (nrowan@vf.com), November 21, 2000.

There are 2 different Pronto shutters available, the Pronto and the Pronto Pro. I believe information is available at the Schneider Homepage. I would say that the Pronto Pro and the Copal are in the same class, from both reliability and construction. The Compur seems to be a construction in a whole other catagory.

-- William Levitt (light-zone@operamail.com), November 21, 2000.

Prontor shutters are made for the studio photographer. They have large scales and commands and are more convenient to use, but are large and heavy too. Not the backpacker first choice.

-- Paul Schilliger (pschilliger@smile.ch), November 21, 2000.

Thank you, Paul. I would be using the lens mostly in the field--so I don't think this shutter is the right one for me.

One more thing: the shutter is a Prontor Professional 3

-- Nick Rowan (nrowan@vf.com), November 21, 2000.

Nick: I think with the Artar you are going to be stuck with a large shutter due to the design of the lens. The Artars are thicker through the center than the Plasmat designs. This is a quality lens and shutter and I believe you would find the setup an excellent picture- taker. I am not trying to tell you what to purchase, but the weight may well be balanced by the quality.



-- Doug Paramore (dougmary@alaweb.com), November 21, 2000.


Are you saying that I SHOULD get this lens? That the lens is big or thick ANYWAY, and that the Prontor Professional 3 shutter is NOT going to be much bigger or more cumbersome than say the Copal 3 or Compur 3- -even in the field? What if I could buy the same lens in a Copal 3 or Compur 3? Do you think that those shutters would NOT be better than the Prontor Professional 3 for location use (mostly portraiture, in my case)? I have been told that the Prontor Professional shutter also requires a "control box" accessory, as well as, optionally, "cables" or some such thing--and this makes it sound all rather complicated to use. I like simplicity--although I do like the idea of a self-cocking shutter, to be able to possibly shoot faster.

-- Nick Rowan (nrowan@vf.com), November 21, 2000.

Nick: The Artars are not all that big, but they do not get smaller in the middle like the Symmars, for example. My choice would be a Copal shutter, but all #3 shutters are fairly large. The worst problem I can find with the Artar, if you plan to use it for location portraits, is that the maximum opening is too small. My 19in. Artar only opens up to f-11. I don't know the focal length of the one you are considering. Another problem is that the Artar is so blazengly sharp you will spend all your time retouching. Your portraits will look like medical book examples of skin problems without a soft filter. The Artars are wonderful for scenics and such where you are looking for all the detail you can get. As much as I like my Artar, I would look for another lens for portraits. In regards to shutters, the Prontar is top of the line, but the Copal seems to operate better for some reason (my opinion).

Hope this helps,


-- Doug Paramore (dougmary@alaweb.com), November 21, 2000.

Although I have never used one, I have been told that the Apo-Artars are very sharp lenses, comparable in design and size to the Apo-Ronars. Certainly an excellent long lens for landscape too. Artar comes from Graphic Arts, a lens primarely designed for repro. The Prontor Pro with it's central remote control unit is unfortunately expensive and awkward for "on location" takings. An Apo Tele-Xenar 400/5,6 New Compact version would maybe weigh not more than the Artar and control unit and it's cost would perhaps be comparable to the Artar and the required new control unit?

-- Paul Schilliger (pschilliger@smile.ch), November 22, 2000.

Doug, Thank you for your second reply, but I have already decided that I DO want the (Schneider Apo) Artar as a portrait lens, precisely because of its extra degree of sharpness: I WANT the portraits to look clinical and merciless in their registering of detail. That said, the thrust of my question really centered around the TYPE OF SHUTTER to accept with this lens--a lens, I should emphasize, that would be used mostly in the field--and whether a Prontor Professional 3 shutter, specifically, would be a sound choice, given my shooting needs, or whether I should wait to find the same lens in a COPAL or COMPUR SHUTTER. Any further thoughts? I.e., what would you do if you were in my position: buy the lens in a Prontor Professional 3 shutter, or wait to find the same lens in a Copal or Compur 3?

-- Nick Rowan (nrowan@vf.com), November 24, 2000.

The Prontor Professional is considered by some as better than Copal Press shutters. I've heard that the internal mechanisms are very good. Contrary to other posts, the expensive control box is not required to use this shutter, however the control box makes it's use easier. The control box lets you do things from the cable release box which all of us normally do by reaching around and manually adjusting a more pedestrian shutter such as a Copal Press (e.g. - activating the preview lever, and I believe also previewing at the selected aperture which is a cool feature for a press shutter). The force required for tripping a Prontor shutter is much greater than a Copal Press shutter. The control box cable release handles this nicely, but you can also use any good industrial strength cable release. You will struggle with wimpy cable releases with this shutter. Needless to say, it's near impossible to trip a Prontor Professional with any kind of low-pressure pneumatic cable release currently known to the world.

-- Larry Huppert (Larry.Huppert@mail.com), November 29, 2000.

"The Prontor Professional is considered by some as better than Copal Press shutters."

A Copal Press shutter is no where near as good, as versatile, as reliable, as vibration free as a Prontor Professional.

Prontor's equivelent to the Copal Press was the Prontor Press. A far inferior shutter to the Prontor Professional.

Also the Copal and Prontor Press shutters are hundreds of dollars less then a Prontor professional 01s, 1s or 3s.

Unfortunately they will most lokely cease to exist some time next year due to a 1000% price increase by Zeiss for all shutters from prontor Werke including Prontor and Compur designs.

This also led Copal to raise their prices to the lens manufacturers starting next year so lens prices will rise some next year after the current crop of shutters are used up by the factories.

-- Bob Salomon (bob@hpmarketingcorp.com), November 29, 2000.

I have one Prontor, and I cannot really recommend it.

The Copal (like most shutters) have one on/off switch on the barrel to close and open the lens at the set aperture. The Prontor uses a second cable release to do this operation. This release has three positions: lens closed, lens open at set aperture, lens wide open. Sometimes, this is convenient, when you want to keep your settings and switch often from viewing to taking configurations. I find this second cable release to be a nuisance in the field. If your other lenses are in Copal, it's easy to get confused.

The Prontor is bulkier, but being made mostly of plastic, it is about the same weight as the copal (at least in #1).

The Prontor has no T position, so you need a reliable locking cable release to do the same function using its B position. When your cable release wears down, sometimes you won't trigger the shutter while you think you had.

The prontor requires more force to release, and I suspect it causes more vibration for this reason.

Be sure to check the article on the main page about shutters.

-- Q.-Tuan Luong (qtl@ai.sri.com), November 29, 2000.

Tuan Luong,

Thank you very much for your practical, concrete advice--you have led me to conclude that the Prontor Professional shutter would probably NOT be appropriate for my shooting needs, and, moreover, may actually be a hindrance.

Larry Huppert,

Thank you, too.

I continue to regard this forum as one of the finest places anywhere to get information. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

-- Nick Rowan (nrowan@vf.com), December 05, 2000.

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