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01-23-2009, 03:52 PM   #1
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Shutter speed reliability over time-is electronic better?

Because I often buy cameras along with lenses to get the lenses, I have had a bunch of K-mount cameras to play with. Old, new and SE K1000s, KM, K2, ME, ME Super, MG, MV, MV1, Program Plus (both colors), P3, P3n, P30t, P5, ZX-M and let's not get into AF. I have even owned all possible variations of the MX. Since I was mostly concerned with getting rid of this pile of cameras before my wife discovered the total number, I wanted these cameras to be as salable as possible, without trying to run film through every one. I always wondered how accurate the old shutters were.

One test I came up with was to fire off several shutters at the same time, set on 1 second. I only did a few comparisons, but the mechanical shutters were far more inconsistent. Some varied by 50% (my estimate by ear). Electronic shutters were all close enough to be considered identical.

Now your real camera expert will point out that mechanical shutters have a slow-speed movement and a high-speed movement, and my test only uses one section. Also in most cases, the mechanical shutters are older. And my test isn't repeatable (cameras are sold) or perfect. All true.

My theory is that electronic shutters retain their accuracy better over time. I don't know if there are any hard facts here but would be interested to read them. I am mostly curious about other opinions on my theory. Or just should I just pay to have someone adjust the mechanical shutter to specs and it'll be fine for another 20-40 years?

01-23-2009, 05:28 PM   #2
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I think the conventional wisdom goes like this:

Mechanical
  • Robust
  • Adjustable
  • Repairable
  • Not battery dependent

Electronic
  • Accurate, does not need adjustment
  • Replaceable, not repairable
  • Requires battery
  • May be damaged by moisture/time

I currently have four film cameras
  • Ricoh Singlex TLS (all manual, all mechanical)
  • Ricoh XR7 (auto/manual exposure, all electronic)
  • Ricoh XR2s (auto/manual exposure, electro-mechanical, back-up for XR7)
  • Olympus XA (auto exposure, all electronic)

You would think that I have enough cameras. Yep, you would think so. However, I am currently looking for a very clean Pentax KX to replace the XR7 as my primary film body. I simply like the idea of something that can be repaired.

Steve

(I don't use the Singlex much...it is in like-new mint condition and is kept for sentimental reasons...is similar to my first SLR...)
01-23-2009, 05:34 PM   #3
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BTW Dave...Is that a Auto-Rikenon 55/1.4 I see in your signature? You wouldn't care to part with it would you?

Steve
01-23-2009, 06:01 PM   #4
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The electronic shutters are indeed more accurate and were sold as such. Plus they supported faster speeds... as well as (undocumented) slower ones, especially in the first generations of electronic auto cameras. Depending on make, plenty reliable (i.e. Nikon whose rep was built on rock solid reliability went electronic...) And this accuracy was there right out of the box, not just over time.

Go over to the Pop photo site for some of their vintage reviews and see the exposure accuracy charts.

But is that accuracy entirely photographically significant? The answer depends on which side of history you come from: if struggling with inconsistent exposure and having to learn each camera's shutter curve, yeah, it's an advance. Does the average Joe/Mary get better pics, guaranteed, with an electronic shutter... well maybe, if the auto exposure keeps em from poor exposure decisions.

The other advantage of mechanical shutters, especially pertinent in winter, is that electronic ones won't be all that accurate when the batteries start freezing.


Me, I wouldn't worry either way, except to make sure I have a handful of both kinds

01-23-2009, 06:35 PM   #5
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A modern SLR with autoexposure requires an electronic shutter.

Chris
01-23-2009, 07:07 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by ChrisPlatt Quote
A modern SLR with autoexposure requires an electronic shutter.

Chris
True...sort of...

The Konica Autoreflex-T (the first auto-exposure SLR) was fully mechanical. (Konica Autoreflex - Camerapedia.org) My Father has a Fujica rangefinder with mechanical leaf shutter that also has shutter-priority automation. All of this prior to the advent of microprocessors or modern electronics.

Edit: I made a grievous omission...the legendary Pentax LX. While the LX had a sophisticated off-the-film metering system and aperture-priority exposure automation, it also had a mechanical shutter that used an electronic timer for times longer than 1/75s. Drop the batteries out and the LX was still functional at 1/75s and above.

While electronics are not required for auto-exposure, it is true is that all modern auto-exposure SLRs do use electronic shutters. This is because they are cheaper to manufacture, easier to integrate with the metering system, and provide more reliable automation than full-mechanical or electro-mechanical solutions.

Steve

Last edited by stevebrot; 01-23-2009 at 11:21 PM. Reason: Added reference to the LX
01-23-2009, 09:37 PM   #7
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Steve has it down pat for pros and cons of mechanical and electronic shutters. Personally, my thinking (and experience) is that electronics, while dead-on accurate, are much more prone to failure than systems that are mechanical, as well as harder to fix - a fried circuit board is certainly harder to source as time goes by as opposed to, say, a gear one could probably have someone fabricate for him/her.
01-24-2009, 01:16 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by ChrisPlatt Quote
A modern SLR with autoexposure requires an electronic shutter.

Chris
Why is that?

I understand that you clearly limited the statement to modern SLR cameras, but as I sat here mentally going over the AE cameras I have I was just about to conclude that they all have electronic shutters.....when I remembered my Canonet rangefinder, which has shutter-priority AE and a mechanical shutter.

So I thought maybe in order to have aperture-priority AE an electronic shutter would be required. But now that I think of it, I think some of the old Yashica Minister rangefinders may have managed it with mechanical shutters (they had the weird setup on the lens where you input the LV and then adjusting either the shutter speed or aperture would make the correct compensating adjustment on the other).


Last edited by Mike Cash; 01-24-2009 at 06:16 PM. Reason: typo
01-24-2009, 05:17 AM   #9
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Oh, I just thought of the parallels with watches:

think of a mechanical watch vs. an electronic one.
01-24-2009, 06:18 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Nesster Quote
Oh, I just thought of the parallels with watches:

think of a mechanical watch vs. an electronic one.
"I don't know whether to sh*t or wind my watch."

versus

"I don't know whether to sh*t or change the battery in my watch"
01-24-2009, 08:27 AM   #11
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A number of older cameras use a simple mechanical "trapped needle" system, most often for shutter-preferred AE.

The widespread use of the stepless electronic shutter coincides with the introduction of autoexposure SLRs
from Pentax, Nikon, Canon, Minolta, Leica et al from the mid-1970's on.

A hybrid electromechanical shutter was offered on a few mostly more expensive models,
including the Pentax LX and Nikon FM3a.

Chris

Last edited by ChrisPlatt; 01-24-2009 at 05:21 PM. Reason: Clarification
01-25-2009, 06:12 PM   #12
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Thanks for an interesting discussion. I guess I have my bases covered with my P3n and MX. I have to keep the P3n because it was my first camera. I feel like I have to keep and fix the MX, but so far all I have done is put it together incorrectly.

Now the question is, which is better, vertical or horizontal run?
01-25-2009, 06:38 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
BTW Dave...Is that a Auto-Rikenon 55/1.4 I see in your signature? You wouldn't care to part with it would you?

Steve
Maybe. I bought it about when the DA* 55mm was put on the roadmap. I knew I'd want the DA*, doubted I'd pay for it and figured this was as close as I was willing to get. Shortly after, I found the Mamiya for the same (cheap) price. The idea was to compare and keep the best, but that seems to never happen. I tend to reach for the Mamiya simply because my dad used to use a Mamiya TLR.

The Rikenon has different coatings (purple reflection, Mamiya is yellow), but I have always wondered if these are the same lenses or not. They weigh the same and have exactly the same distance markings.

I don't know what it's worth, only what I paid. PM me and we can talk.
01-26-2009, 04:49 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Just1MoreDave Quote
Now the question is, which is better, vertical or horizontal run?
Vertical allows for faster flash synch speeds. And since it makes use of metal blades it may be more durable than the rubberized silk shutter curtains typical of horizontal run shutters. That last bit is just speculation on my part.
01-26-2009, 03:07 PM   #15
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It is discussions such as these that is the reason why I love hanging out in this subforum. So much real information, and not just how one jpeg corner with Nikon compares to one from Pentax etc.


I think there is also something about electronic shutters being able to supply higher flash synch time, than mechanical shutters
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