About Shutters

It’s quite possible to shoot with vintage lenses using just a lens cap as a shutter. It works with slow media (photographic paper, wet plates etc.) or small apertures, but you’ll always be at risk of motion blur.  If you want to shoot film in good light, particularly at wide apertures, you need a shutter. 

Very few vintage lenses come with a shutter.  Suitable shutters are hard to find, expensive, and fitting one to your lens is a specialist machining job.  To get round this complex issue Pete designed a modern version of the guillotine shutter.  These have not been widely used since the 1800s, but they’re simple, reliable and easily adapted to all kinds of lenses.  They offer shutter speeds from 1/8th to 1/250th of a second, and they have a theatrical appeal which people love!  

There are 3 versions of the guillotine shutter: fixed behind the lens, fixed in front of the lens, and a slip-on version, suitable for larger lenses with straight hoods, including big Petzval types.  Shutter blades are made from a low-friction polymer with excellent flatness, the openings carefully calculated to provide normal shutter speeds.  It’s rarely necessary to carry more than 2 or 3 blades, which take up very little space.  They can be made in widths to suit lenses of any size.  

Click below to learn more about shutters.  Contact Pete for further information.

How shutters work:

This quick video shows how a guillotine shutter works.  It can be behind or in front of the lens.  The height of the opening determines the shutter speed (this one is 1/20s).  The shutter covers the lens before the exposure.  When released gravity caused it to drop and the opening passes across the lens, allowing a measured amount of light to reach the film.  When it reaches the bottom the lens is covered again and the fall is cushioned by a buffer.  Simples!  In-front-of-the-lens shutters may have a single adjustable blade.  Behind-the-lens shutters have a blade for each speed, but only about 3 are really needed.