View Full Version : barrel lenses - who uses 'em, and how?

Curtis Nelson
6-Jun-2005, 09:52
I'm interested to hear from those on this forum that use barrel lenses without any kind of shutter.

I imagine if I use a hat or some such item as a 'shutter' that I'd need to keep the exposure in the range of 1+ seconds. Does anybody on this forum expose film in this manner? If so, what is your technique (ND filters, slow film, restrict your shooting to times when the light is low) and how practical is this approach?



steve simmons
6-Jun-2005, 10:00
View Camera has an article on barrel lenses and their use in our May issue.

steve simmons

6-Jun-2005, 10:12
I've tried exposures with barrel lenses using slip on lens caps as a "shutter" (100 speed film & ND filters to try and keep exposure times >2 seconds) and have had some success. In the end I bought used Packard shutters (standard and instantaneous) to mount behind the lensboards which works much better. Cheers -

David A. Goldfarb
6-Jun-2005, 10:38
I've done the hat trick and used open flash technique in the studio.

Now I have a few barrel lenses that I use on a 5x7" Press Graflex.

I have two that I've had front mounted to an Ilex #5 shutter. This is a handy field setup for 8x10"--Kodak 10" WF Ektar, 12" Gold Dot Dagor (barrel), 19" Apo-Artar (barrel), all on the same shutter with consistent shutter speeds, and just one lensboard, so it keeps the weight and bulk down.

I have a few big barrel lenses that I use with a front-mounted shutter with one instantaneous speed like a "Luc" shutter, and I've just had flash sync added to this shutter for studio use.

Jim Galli
6-Jun-2005, 10:55
Guilty. Packard shutters are excellent. I also use 32 asa Panatomic X and Efke 25 asa to keep shutter speeds slow. Have used a lot of asa 3 ortho film in the past but success is iffy. It's very contrasty. With a good working Packard you can use asa 100 film in open shade. Using some of the big portrait lenses at f4 with no shutter out of doors can be challenging. I have some pics here. (http://tonopahpictures.0catch.com/Bokeh/Bausch&LombProjectionPetzval.html)

Dan Fromm
6-Jun-2005, 12:41
Um, er, ah, I probably shouldn't answer but I'm going to anyway. I've accumulated a small heap of lenses in barrel and use most of them.

I shoot most in front of a #1. This works for me because I shoot 2x3. On a larger format front mounting risks mechanical vignetting by the shutter.

To tell whether front-mounting is safe, I use a simple geometric model. If (shutter's diameter wide open) /(distance from shutter's blades to lens' exit pupil) > (diameter of circle to be covered)/(distance from lens' exit pupil to film plane), I'm in business. I used to use an ex-Polaroid MP-4 Copal #1. This is a press shutter with no diaphragm, and its aperture is 30 mm in diameter. I now use a cock-and-shoot #1, haven't measured but I believe it is a tiny bit larger.

I have a few barrel lenses that can't, for one reason or another, be front-mounted. I use them on a 2x3 Speed Graphic. If you're shooting 4x5 or 5x7 and don't need much in the way of movements, a Speed Graphic offers timed short exposures. But remember, if you go shopping for one, that Pacemaker Speed Graphics' longest timed exposure is 1/30; older ones will time down to 1/10.

6-Jun-2005, 13:35
I used the hat method for a while on an 8x10, but it was just too cumbersom to do often so I now use packards. I found trying to hold a cap in place while removing the dark slide wqas a real pain, espically with long lenses. I was always borrowing lenscaps off other lensesthat didnt fit, so I would tape the cap to the lens barrel while dealing with the dark slide.
I never really found timing exposures to hard. One thing I did for a while was use the little metranome I use for printing Azo to click the seconds off.

Tony Karnezis
6-Jun-2005, 13:57
Curtis, the approach is very practical for many shooting situations. Most of my shooting is with an 8x10 at relatively small apertures (typically f/32-f/90), often doing closeup work, resulting in shutter speeds that often exceed 1/4 sec. However, I do have a 3 stop ND filter that I bought to slow down faster shutter speeds, but I haven't had to use it yet.

My technique--I carry a spare dark slide for use as a shutter. I hold it flush with the front element before I pull the dark slide of the film holder. I then swing the "shutter" quickly out of the way and can get accurate exposures to 1/2 sec using a metronome. Slower exposures are obviously more forgiving. I like the idea of a dark hat or some other loose fitting, concave, nonreflective cloth for a cap/shutter. I know a guy who taped a black Tshirt to the inside of a small tupperware container and hung it loosely over the front element. Another alternative is a loose lens cap that can be removed without disturbing the lens. Be careful if you use a lens cap that properly fits the front element. Removing a snug cap will cause movement of the lens/front standard. If that's your only option, slide the cap to the point where it's about to fall off, then remove it for exposure.

Whatever you choose to use, you might want to try your technique out with a lens in a shutter, taking duplicate shots--one exposure using the mechanical shutter and the other exposure using B or T to lock open the diaphragm and then using a dark slide/cap/alternative shutter.

Happy shooting. -Tony

6-Jun-2005, 14:13
I use several barrel lenses. One of them comes with a nice, lined lens cap. I put the cap loosely on the lens, pull the dark slide, then remove the cap. It slides on and off smoothly.

With other lenses I use a device I made from a piece of mat board covered with felt. I used the self-adhesive stuff sold at the hardware store. The card is a bit wider than the diameter of the lens and about 4-inches long. With this method, I hold the cover over the lens while pulling the darkslide. It's a bit more cumbersome. Then I remove the cover for the needed time.

For timing, I carry my metronome into the field. I usually set it on 120bpm so that it's counting in half-seconds. If I need less than 1/2 second, I can increase the speed of the metronome. I don't think, though that my hand is quicker than 1/4 second.

Struan Gray
6-Jun-2005, 14:52
I regularly use a couple of process lenses in barrel. I usually am out photographing in the evening or nighttime, in which case a lenscap and counting elephants works as well as anything else I've tried. In stronger light I use a Sinar copal shutter, which has always struck me as a bit delicate to be hauling in and out of rucksacks, but which seems to rather enjoy it.

Alan Davenport
6-Jun-2005, 15:17
I shoot a lot of intimate landscapes in heavy forest, under overcast skies, with slow film and tiny f/stops. Exposures of 2 to 20 seconds are common. When you get up to 5 or 6 seconds, a 1 second error in timing is a very small change in exposure. Anything from 2 seconds on is pretty easy to do with a lenscap/hat/etc.

Alan Davenport
6-Jun-2005, 15:20
... of course, some people just use Speed Graphics with their barrel lenses (focal plane shutter.) :o)

Dave Moeller
6-Jun-2005, 16:38
I use barrel lenses almost exclusively on 8x10. I picked up a Packard shutter and mounted it into a board that mounts onto the front of my Calumet Green Monster, and that is set up to hold custom 5x5 boards that I build and mount the barrel lenses onto. One shutter, many lenses.

This works for me...but almost anything that gets a shutter either behind or in front of a lens works just fine. I'm too clumsy to trust myself with pulling a dark slide while I hold something in front of a lens...but I've been tempted to try the lens cap trick. Some day I'm sure I will.

Ernest Purdum
6-Jun-2005, 17:24
The nicest way to do this is to use a great big shutter behind the lens. It needs to be big , because otherwise it will vignette anything other than long, narrow angle lenses.

Sinar shutters are made for this purpose, but they are expensive and quite difficult to mount to other cameras.

Several big old shutters work quite well for many lenses. A number 4 Ilex or Wollensak may get the job done. Number 4 Compounds and number 5 Wollensaks or Ilexes accept more. The number 5 Compound is the biggest of all. I think Compounds are also the most convenient. The iris is not needed, of course, so it should be removed or blocked open. You will need adaptersto go between your lenses and the shutter, but these, unlike those used to mount lens cells to a shutter, don't need a specialist, they are within the capability of any competent machinist. The lens should be set back as close to the blades as possible to avoid vignetting.

The Japanese made a shutter for this sort of work, the Shanel 5A. It comes with several adapter rings and has, of course, no diaphragm. The rings were for several outdated Fujinar lenses. but fit some others. The Kum Kwang from China appears to be the same shutter.

If any of these thoughts are interesting to you. take a look at the S.K. |Grimes website, www.skgrimes.com.

Dave Savidge
6-Jun-2005, 23:49
I'm in the process of building a 10x8 and have got hold of a 240mm G-Claron. I've also got hold of a couple of very old Thornton Pickard shutters from which I hope to be able to make up one working unit. They may not have the ease of use of modern shutters but isn't that the 10x8 spirit anyway.

If anyone else has any experience of using Thornton Pickard shutters, I'd be very interested in getting some tips.

Struan Gray
7-Jun-2005, 00:25
A couple of notes on the Sinar shutters. The green Norma era ones are not that expensive, at least not in Europe. They give you a big hole, a range of shutter speeds and flash sync. They go off with a bang, and reqire the use of the special long, strong throw Sinar cable release, but all the detonation and shaking occur after the picture has been taken.

The simplest way to mount them on a non-sinar camera is to get an orphaned format frame or intermediate standard (look for F models with broken rail attachments) and mount that onto a lensboard for your camera. You can then mount the lens directly, or with the shutter behind it. You have to turn the shutter round, but all the controls can be read and accessed from both sides so that's no big deal.

There's some inspiration here (http://homepage2.nifty.com/akiyanroom/redbook-e/collection/moriya.html).

Ernest Purdum
7-Jun-2005, 08:16
Dave, if one of your T-P shutters has a good curtain that's great (and somewhat unusual). If you have to replace the curtain. lit's not all that hard to do, once you have obtained the material. Offhand, I don't know a source, but someone on the Forum probably does. You'll need some stiffeners and I think bamboo slivers are best if you can't salvage and reuse the original ones.

As you are probably aware, T-P speed markings don't have much relationship to actual elapsed time. A lot of testing will be in order.

Watch out for anything that the cocking string might snag on and prevent the shutter from closing. It has been over forty years since I have used a T-P type shutter, but I still remember the shock of seeing that happening.

Unlike modern shutters which only shake thinjgs after they close, there is a little recoil to the T-P as it starts opening. This is rarely any problem, but I did run into it when shooting high magnification shots from the vertical position. All I had to do to get rid of the problem was to shim the lensboard tight.

If you care to send me your mailing address, I'll donate a cable release made for T-P shutters to the good cause.

The G-Claron is a great lens and one of the great things about it is that the cells screw right into a number one shutter. It doesn't have to be a brand new and expensive Copal, there are several others that will work fine. Seikos, some Compurs, and particularly some Prontor and Copal shutters made for Polaroid with 127mm Tominon lenses show up on eBay frequently and sell for small to moderate prices. I think the Polaroid shutters are great. They are self-cocking, which I think is an advantage on any camera which will never be hand-held. They have two release sockets. One of these opens the shutter like Bulb mode regardless of what is selected. Very convenient.

Michael Kadillak
7-Jun-2005, 11:40
I tried the black hat over the lens technique and found it to be not for me. I have a 35" Red Dot in barrel and the weight of the lens and the constant worry about lens shake back and forth between the film holders and the lens was going to drive me nuts. I went to a front mounted Packard shutter with a four foot air hose and bulb and had installed a slot system where I could slip colored polyester square filters in front of the shutter and I can make perfect negatives. Even the second tripod under the front exension board for additional support is not a big deal.

Whatever works for you!


Jon Wilson
7-Jun-2005, 22:33
Barrel lens can be lots of fun, albeit very challenging if you use the "hat trick" approach. Attached is from a photograph taken with a Nikkor-APO 480mm @ f64 taken with an old Kodak D2 with a 4x5 reducing back. The barrels lens can be picked up little. I so like my 480mm, I could not help myself and picked up a Nikkor 360mm and another 480mm Nikkor APO lens for minimal expense. The quality is so nice....especially when the barrels go for a song on ebay. But, I must confess, the estimated exposures on velvia can produce frustrating results...thus, I am in the process of having my 45cm goerz red dot artar installed in a shutter and looking at the possibility of doing the same with my Nikkor 480mm.


6-Jul-2005, 12:12
On my calumet 8x10 i use Sinar Copal shutter ($320 used) for all of my 6 lenses (i am going to buy some more...) ranging from 210mm to 600mm.
Except the G-Claron 270mm which is of a symmetrical designing so the nodal point and the diaphragm blades is too far front from the shutter blades (vigneting) and you don't have movements at all, i have an accurate ONE shutter for all of my lenses.
You have to have friends at a machining shop to be able to design and mount the shutter and lenses and it is not cheap, but the reduced price of the lenses and accuracy of shooting compensate for all that. The lenses are all process lens and top of the line. Not a lens cost more than $ 150 on eBay even the Nikon 480mm.