shutter life : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Hello folks,

As shutters are the most likely thing in LF photography to let you down when you really need them, I am a bit concerned about the average life of a mechanical spring shutter.

I own a Graflex (Rodenstock) Optar 4.5/135 mounted into a Graflex 1000 2A shutter (the Super Speed Graphic lens/shutter combination). All the shutter times sound different, the longer ones sound reasonable (I would never claim to be able to tell whether the short ones sound reasonable), and I didn't have any exposure problems so far, so I assume that at the moment it is fully working.

Are there any signs I should watch out for to notify of a degrading shutter? Is there any sort of maintenance I should do to it? If yes, do you know any able repair store in Germany/Austria?

Are the other ones among you who only own one lens as concerned as me too, that their shutter will let them down some day when they are on an important trip/shooting? Of course I am only an amateur, but nevertheless I would like to be able to shoot without any afterthoughts ;-)

Best regards,

-- David Haardt (, June 19, 2001


David: Unless you have needs of shutter speeds higher than 250-300 (which is what the Compur's seem to have as real top speeds) I would use a different lens. I considered buying the lens/shutter combination you have, and asked around first about reliability and ease of repair. In particular, I spoke to Steve Grimes who knows a lot about repairing shutters. ( The word I got was that this shutter is problem prone and that repair is very difficult and occasionally impossible. If this is true (and I am sure others will have a history with it) then I would be particularly concerned (as you are) that this is the one lens you are carrying around. The Schneider 135's are readily available in Compur shutters at reasonable prices and should still give years of trouble free service after a cleaning and lubrication. This is only what I've heard, I went for another option after checking into the shutter you mention. To answer your more general question, there are inexpensive digital timers available which will allow you to check your shutter speeds. It isn't a bad idea to check them now and then, especially before important trips. (And long enough before the trip that you could get it fixed if necessary.)

-- Kevin Crisp (, June 19, 2001.

What I would like to add to my initial posting:

I also thought of keeping (or even mounting and leaving it there until I need it) a Packard shutter as a never-die back-up. I thought the one with 1.75" opening hole (3.5x3.5" overall dimensions) would fit well.


-- David Haardt (, June 19, 2001.


As Kevin suggests, you might want to purchase a shutter speed testing instrument. It's a little plastic box with an LED and a sensor on the front. You place your lens in front of a light bulb or other light source, fire the shutter, and read the LED. The device also comes with a chart that allows you to determine whether your shutter speeds are within 1/6 or 1/3 of a stop. I bought one from several years ago for about $75. It's a good investment if you worry about the consistency of shutters. It's also a good tool for evaluating and adjusting used lenses or applying the zone system for different lens/film/developer combinations. You might also do some searching on this site for posts regarding the care and feeding of modern shutters. I remember reading some discussion about periodically exercising shutters and whether they should be stored with the shutter set at a certain speed.

Your follow-up on the Packard shutter reminded me that Packards also die, although with a little work they can be brought back to life. I fixed one several years a ago that would open and then fail to close. I ended up removing the blades to ensure they were flat and then polished and lubricated the pneumatic cylinder on the rear of the shutter. This did not solve the problem and I ended up attaching a small weight to the top of the cylinder. It worked like a charm. Also, it takes a little creativity to mount the Packard on certain cameras, particularly if you have a large lens and a small lensboard. Packards can be purchased with differnt size openings to fit the rear of the lens, but a larger opening generally means a larger shutter. The other complication is that the rubber tubing that fires the shutter has to be mounted through the lensboard, the lensboard holder, or (god forbid) the bellows. The tubing is about 3/8 wide so you need an extra 1/2 inch or so if you plan to mount the shutter to the lensboard. The other option, of course, is the mount the shutter in front of the lens or in some type of extension "box" on top of the lensboard. I hope this helps.


-- Dave Willison (, June 20, 2001.

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