View Full Version : Does anyone use the Studio Shutter on their 16" Wollensak Vitax?

Cameron Cornell
29-Nov-2016, 16:54

I recently acquired a 16" Wollensak Vitax with a Studio Shutter. Everything is in good condition except for the shutter, which is sticky and slow and won't even close all the way when the switch is on CLOSED. I haven't even tried firing the shutter with a release since it clearly won't work properly without a CLA.

I brought it by Camera Techs, about the last place in Seattle that works on LF shutters, but they've never worked on a Studio Shutter before, so they didn't want to touch it. I spoke with Carol at Flutot's in CA, and she said that she's pretty confident she can fix it. She charges $100 plus shipping, etc. for a CLA.

My question: Do any of you fellows use this shutter? I know several of you have a Vitax, but I'm wondering if most of you use alternative shutters and just use your Studio Shutters as diaphragms. If you do use this shutter, I would really appreciate it if you could reply with your impressions. What is the fastest speed you think you are able to get on a typical exposure? Does the shutter seem reliable?

I could have Reno Farinelli build a Packard Shutter for me, but it would have to be a 4.5 inch No. 6, which would total almost $600. The advantage of that would be a steady 1/30 exposure, versus the Studio Shutter, which is Bulb only. Of course, I could scour the used market for some other shutter that would work with a lens that has a diameter of over 4 inches, but I'm sick of shopping. I just want to make photographs.

For now, I'll probably go with the CLA from Flutot's, then try out the Studio Shutter. If it doesn't seem satisfactory, then I'll order a Packard Shutter in the Spring. But if any of you fellows have any input that might be helpful, I'd be glad to hear it, as ever.

Kind regards,

Cameron Cornell

30-Nov-2016, 15:23
hi cameron

studio shutters are wonderful when they work ...

while i haven't torn one down and fixed it, i almost did
this thread by fotoguy20d explains how to do it.


good luck

ps. from what i remember the aperture blades are some space age material that can't get wet ...
and i know degroff shutters are dry-lubricated, these old shutters might also be lubricated with
graphite dust ( like an old pencil sharpener ) ... if you can find a degroff air piston they work
extremely well with these shutters, lots of control and ways to expose a studio shutter with just a squeeze.

30-Nov-2016, 17:07
Maybe a standalone focal plane shutter is an option? Depends on the camera probably...

Jim Galli
30-Nov-2016, 18:26
Yes, someone actually uses the beast. I have an 18" Verito with this same size shutter mounted on my 7X11 camera which does not have Packard inside like the Kodak 2D does. So I rely on the Studio. They are primitive at best but you need to remind yourself that folks found ways to make more than viable photos with them in 1920 so there's no good reason you can't also. In good order it will give you about 1/5th second. So you'll be looking for shade with slow film. Or work indoors. I have some lovely shots with that camera / lens.

Cameron Cornell
30-Nov-2016, 18:55
I am really happy to hear that, Jim. Thank you fellows for your responses. I'd like to use it since it's built into the lens and that seems like the most elegant solution. I unscrewed the front and rear elements just now, so the shutter is all alone and ready to be packed and shipped to Flutot's. I have to say, I'm really grateful to be working in large format at a moment while there are still mechanics like Flutot's and Grimes, et al, who can work with this equipment.

30-Nov-2016, 20:28
you might also call mike at zacks photo repair on your list. he works on just about anything ...

Cameron Cornell
1-Dec-2016, 21:42
You guys won't believe this, but two hours ago I picked up a a second 16" Wollensak Vitax for peanuts from a fellow who was trying to sell a broken-down Century Studio with a no-name f10 lens on it for display, and he said that he also had another lens that came with the camera up in the attic. Well it was a dusty Vitax which he was happy to unload separate from the camera.

So this lens has a completely shot Studio Shutter with no aperture leaves whatsoever. The front element cleaned up really well. The trouble is the rear elements. The outer surfaces of the two rear elements had fungus that came right off. However, the inner surfaces of those two elements also have fungus spots, but I can't see that it's possible to disassemble these elements and clean those inner surfaces. Is it possible?

The lens does have a flange. I'd like to get it cleaned up and sell it to someone who doesn't mind shooting wide open. I don't need two of these.

2-Dec-2016, 08:50
Bill Moretz at Pro Camera (618 Forest St., Charlottesville, VA 22903, 434-979-1915) has repaired/rebuilt/CLA'd Aphax, Universal, Compound and Copal shutters for me. He's very skilled, has a full machine shop and lots of experience. He can fabricate just about any missing/damaged piece of photograhica.

Cameron, congrats on your Vitax. Think you'll really enjoy creating art with it.


2-Dec-2016, 09:08
the two I had..I just used the aperture part as the shutter was always 'sticky' - no problem as I have a sinar shutter

Cameron Cornell
2-Dec-2016, 09:15
Thank you, Russ, and thank you, John, for the suggestions for competent shutter mechanics.

I'm going to start a new thread with the question I posed above regarding the possibility of cleaning the inward-facing surfaces of the two elements at the rear of a Wollensak Vitax. My plan is to have the Studio Shutter repaired on the Vitax I bought from a forum member, and clean up this Vitax that I bought last night from a fellow's attic, make some test images with it, then sell it for a low price to someone who wants to shoot wide open, maybe for wet plate work. I like the idea of rescuing such a fine piece of equipment from obscurity.