How to put a barrel lens in a shutter

February 15, 2017  •  4 Comments

Shutters Options for Barrel LensesVarious Shutter Options for Barrel LensesLeft to Right: (1) Cut & Mount of 35" RDA in Compound #5, (2) Sinar Copal Shutter, (3) Packard Shutter

Many desirable lenses for large format, and especially ultra large format, never came with shutters or their shutters are so old they don't function. So how can you use them? Well there are a bunch of different options that vary in terms of price and efficiency:

Option 0. Don't buy the barrel!

Many barrel lenses seem very enticing but when you add in the cost of adapting them to a shutter (usually around $400 or more) then they aren't quite such a bargain. In fact, often for a few hundred more you could get a more modern lens that might be coated, apochromatic so you can use them with color film, and shuttered. Think hard about why you want to have that barrel, what are its properties that you couldn't find with a cheaper alternative.

Option 1. No shutter - no problem

You don't need a shutter if you have slow film (like paper or wet plate) or a small aperture. Just pop a lens cap or hat over the front element and make sure to reinsert the dark slide into you film holder. Of course this might not work in very bright light, or with a wide open aperture. Photography did just fine for decades without mechanical shutters!

Cost: Free

Best when: You have a slow lens or slow paper. When you don't need to use a flash, when the subject is stationary.

Option 2. No shutter - actually you're wrong there is one

Some lenses post-WWII were designed to fit a standard shutter size and thread pitch. It may be as simple as screwing in the lens elements to an older standard shutter like an Compound or Ilex or even a Copal. The key is finding a well functioning shutter preferably with the right aperture scale. But don't worry if you can't get the same aperture scale - SK Grimes and others can make them for you.

Cost: $50-$350 depending on the shutter. Many shutters are easier to buy with damaged lens elements that you can discard. $30 for custom aperture scales from SK Grimes.

Best when: Your lens elements simple screw into a standard shutter and are designed to sandwich a shutter.

Option 3. No shutter - cut and mount it in

This tends to be the most expensive option. First you need to source the right shutter to fit your barrel. Some shutters might constrain your maximum aperture size so you can loose a stop or two. It's really a trade off between max shutter speed, accuracy/age, and max aperture - looking at the largest sized shutters, the modern Copal 3 shutter is quite a bit smaller than the older Ilex 5 and even smaller than the older and much rarer Compound 5. SK Grimes has a list of commonly mounted barrels and what is their suggested shutter and whether that shutter will result in a loss of maximum aperture.

Cost: Total $400-$700: Shutter purchase $50-$350, Lens to Shutter mounting $300, Lensboard to Shutter mounting $30, Custom Aperture Scale $30, Lensboard $5-$40.

Best when: You have a barrel that isn't huge, when you need great accuracy and faster shutter speeds, or are using artificial strobe lighting, and when the barrel has elements that can be sandwiched around a barrel or front mounted on the shutter. You may want to give up your iris (if you have one) or keep it. Old irises tend to have more leaves and give better bokeh than modern shutters.

Option 4. No shutter - get one Copal Sinar Shutter for all your barrels!

The Sinar Copal shutter fits Sinar cameras (and some others that use the Sinar standard). The shutter sits between the camera front standard and a barrel lens which must be mounted entirely on the front side of the board. The great news is if you are planning to have a whole bunch of barrel lenses you can simply mount them on a Sinar board and then use the same shutter for all of them. Downside is the maximum shutter speed in 1/60 (which actually if quite fast compared to most of the other options).

Cost: Total: $400-$550 for the first lens, $30-$100 for each subsequent one: Sinar Copal shutter approximately $300-$400 used, Lensboard to Barrel mounting $30-$60, Flange if you don't have one around $50, Sinar style lensboard $5-$40 (if you want a genuine one).

Best when: You have multiple barrels to mount, and the barrels can all be mounted on the front of the lensboard.

Option 5. No shutter and huge lens - front mount a Packard

If you have an especially large barrel lens no Copal, Ilex or Compound shutter will work. You need a Packard shutter. They are still made today and are very simple pneumatic affairs that typically give you a max shutter speed of 1/25 sec. Usually they are mounted on the front of the barrel, and you can have filter threads made to sit between the lens and the shutter. Sometimes with older view cameras a Packard shutter is part of the front standard and works sort of like a Sinar Copal shutter. There are a number of similar simple mechanical shutters from defunct manufacturers like the ILEXPO but I'd stick with the Packard given the company is still in operation and a fair number of used ones come up for sale.

Cost: Varies: Packard shutters start with an opening of 1.5" all the way up to 9" and are priced from $150 to $1400 depending on features. I would suggest going for the regular No. 6 version with the "instantaneous" option included. Then you have to figure a way to attach it to the lens or fit it behind the front standard. Which can be as cheap as some cardboard tubing and tape, to a machined metal and rubber custom fitted option from SK Grimes.

Best when: You have a giant special barrel to shutter which will fit no other shutter, when that lens has a really nice iris that you want to keep, and when the barrel cannot be cut (e.g. Apo-Germinar 750mm f9) or the lens is very special and you don't want to cut it. The shutter works really well for longer exposures in "B" and "T" as well as the approximate 1/25 instant option.

Other considerations:

Filter rings: Barrel lenses, especially the older ones, don't always come with filter threads in the front element. If you are keen on using filters you may want to have a slip on filter ring custom made or some other fancy machining done. Try to keep to a "standard" filter size like 52mm, 67mm, 77mm, 95mm, 105mm, 122mm etc. Using step-up rings is a messy compromise best avoided.

Lens caps: Many barrel lenses had leather or some other style of lens caps. Often these are missing. Far better to find one from Schneider (they make about every size imaginable) or have one custom made during the shuttering process.

Some more resources:

Reinhold Schable's fast meniscus lenses for sale with shuttering options

14x17 ULF Lens Recommendations (some ideas from me on ULF lens options, many of which are barrel lens)

The Compound 5: a big shutter for big barrel lenses (a post by me on the biggest baddest shutter on the block)

Dan Fromm's list of large format lens resources that includes information on Apo-Artars, Apo-Nikkors, Apo-Ronars and G-Clarons etc.

Allen Rumme's extensive list of process lenses


Photo credits from top of post: Cut & Mount of 35" RDA by Angus Parker, Sinar Copal Shutter with barrel by Peter de Smidt, Front Mount Packard Shutter by Reinhold Schable


Michael Aubrey(non-registered)
I'm sort of inclined to push back on this bit in the "Option #1: No Shutter No Problem." section

<i>Best when: You have a slow lens or slow paper. When you don't need to use a flash, when the subject is stationary.</i>

If your ambient light is low enough (or conversely your strobes are powerful enough), you can shoot portraits quite easily. Remove cap, fire strobes, reattach cap. It can all be done in half a second or less with practice.

Angus Parker Photography
@Ivan: The Artar was custom mounted by SK Grimes onto the Compound 5. But definitely these were lenses that were made to fit into the Compound 5. For example, B&L made a 14"x17" lens that came in a Compound 5 - that's what I cannibalized for for the Artar. I'm sure a host of others were too.
Hi Angus,
I was wondering if you by any chance know of any lenses (modern or not) that are a direct fit into a Compound 5 shutter? I see your Artar is in one, but can't tell if it has an adapter or not. Thank you so much!
Angus Parker Photography
@Dan: First time linking to at https:// link. Didn't realize I needed to tweak something on the platform on my side. Link is fixed. Thank you.
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