Shutter speed variation.

Grandpa Ron

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Aug 9, 2018
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In a previous post I was interested in calibrating my old light meter, but first I have to wait for the rain to stop. The next logical questions is shutter speed.

Does anyone know of and easy way to measure shutter speed? In general are the largest variation at the slower or faster speeds?

I am using a 4x5 camera with some 1960's vintage Wollensak lenses, the first is 127 mm with a shutter speed range of 1/200 to 1 sec. The second is a 165 mm with a speed range of 1/100 to 1 sec..

I usually shoot at 1/50 of a sec. to get an f stop with the depth of field I like.

In general are the largest variation at the slower or faster speeds?

Older lenses, of course, use mechanical shutters that — by
definition — may have great deviance from the nominal va-
lues as they age. These may be observed at both ends of the
speed scale.
I put together a not-so-extremely accurate sensor to measure exposure time using an photodiode, a resistor, and a DSO.
my DIY Shutter Speed Tester

With most older copal/compur type leaf shutters the highest speed uses a tension spring ... that will tend to loose its spring over time, so the top speed gets slow.
The lower speeds (~1/30s) usually get slower due to gummed up gears.

Shutters – This Old Camera
Record the shutter firing in your cellphone. Send the file to your computer. Then open the file with Audacity which will show the signal which you can measure. It will show a picture of its firing and the app will let you measure the length of the shutter. It works up to about 125th. It's hard to analyze with shorter speeds.
Audacity download: Download


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A company called Northeast Instruments used to make a shutter timer. I happen to still have the one I bought back in the 70s. Hard to find today, and they can get pricey. But they work well.

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