View Full Version : Studio Shutter

Dave Willison
18-Mar-2001, 09:25
Does anyone have information on "studio" shutters? I often see them sold with older Wollensak portrait lenses, particularly soft-focus models. Was the shutter made by Wollensak? Is it mounted in the lens barrel or behind like a Packard? Does the shutter function on T, B, or both? Is it air-driven with a bulb apparatus or with a standard cable release? Finally, are there any typical mechanical defects that I should look for when buying used? Thanks.


Sean Billy Bob Boy yates
18-Mar-2001, 14:38

The only one I have been fortunate to see was at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago in a display on Pictorial Photography circa 1933.

It was at least as big as a #5 Ilex, and probably bigger. It was marked Wollensak. It was air activated (piston on the left side as you look at the camera from the front) and had at least 3 speeds, T, B, and 1/30th or something. I doubt it could function much faster than that anyway, given it's size.

I cannot honestly recall now if the lens was mounted in the usual way (shutter between two halves of the lens) or it was "front mounted" - i.e. shutter mounted to outside of board, lens mounted to front of shutter. But I seem to recall the former rather than the latter.

Maybe someone who has one of the monsters will chime in?

C.W. Dean
18-Mar-2001, 14:42
Wollensak manufactured Studio Shutters into the 1920's. Following is summarized from a 1919 Wollensak consumer catalog:

Practically noiseless in operation, the Studio Shutter is an efficient outfit for both studio and home portraiture. The studio Shutter is operated by a three-foot wire release supplied with each shutter, or if desired with bulb and tube, can be furnished at slight cost with a "bulb attachment" which readily screws into the wire release socket. The Studio is a "between-the-lens" type, having ten leaves which constitute both diaphragm and shutter. Exposure is made by opening and closing at the center. Since the Studio Shutter is designed primarily for studio use, it is not equipped with automatic exposures, but allows exposure with bulb or wire release for about 1/5th of a second to any desired duration by continuous pressure of the bulb or release. It can also be opened for focusing or for time exposure by moving a lever.

Unfortunately, Studio Shutters found today in old lenses tend to be worn out from heavy use and may be uneconomically repairable. Good ones may be finicky and prone to fail at any time. Check that the iris/shutter blades make a reasonably round opening when the f stop is set. Check to see that you can get repeatable settings on f stops and that the shutter opens and closes smoothly. I use several with a Packard shutter where I have abandoned the Studio Shutter but still use the iris blades for f stops.

David A. Goldfarb
18-Mar-2001, 16:37
I asked Steve Grimes about the possibility of using a Studio Shutter for a very large 360mm/f:4.5 Heliar, which is a tad too big for even an Ilex 5 (it can be adapted at the cost of a half stop, but I might just do it anyway for convenience). He said they are very difficult to find and are almost always in irreparable condition.

David A. Goldfarb
10-Nov-2003, 11:09
So it's two-and-a-half years later, and I now own a 14.5"/4.0 Verito with a Studio #4 shutter. I can imagine that some of these may be worn from years of use, but I just repaired one, and I suspect that they might not all be lost causes. Mechanically they are quite simple, since they only have two settings--Open (T) and Closed (B).

Mine has the air release fitting, and the problem was that the shutter was inoperable and the blades were stiff. It turned out that the air release fitting which had been crudely soldered in place was bent out of position, and the channel in the metal tube that contains the piston was obstructing the aperture linkage. It only needed to be bent back into position, and now it works perfectly.

Unfortunately I didn't take pictures of the mechanism, and I'm not inclined to take it apart again while I have it working just right, but while it's fresh in my mind, I thought I'd post a few hints for dealing with these. The design is fairly simple, and it won't explode under spring pressure sending tiny screws rolling under heavy pieces of furniture.

First unscrew the front and rear lens cells.

Place the shutter on a some newspaper or other surface you don't mind getting dirty, because the blades are lubricated with graphite powder.

To open the shutter, set it in the closed position to avoid problems in sorting out the diaphragm blades and to expose the screws that will let you remove the diaphragm. Remove the dial with the aperture markings and the metal ring that controls the aperture setting. Both of these are held in by the pressure of the front lens cell. There were no screws on mine.

There was old dried grease between the aperture control ring and the body of the shutter in my case, so I cleaned that off with naphtha. When I reassembled the shutter, I greased it with a thin coat of fine lithium grease.

To get inside remove the five screws of the cover, and lift it off. Inside the case there should only be dry powdered lubricant. If there is grease inside, it's probably migrated from the aperture control ring and should be cleaned.

If the aperture is in the closed position, you should see five smaller screws to remove the diaphragm. Unscrew the diaphragm and lift it out carefully, noting the way the leaves overlap. I think they are riveted in place, so they won't fall apart. Notice that two adjacent leaves are double leaves. If you have the diaphragm oriented with these two double leaves on the bottom of the circle, the one on the right should wrap around the single leaf to its right, and the one on the left should wrap around the top leaf of the double leaf on its right, and the single leaf on its left should nest inside it. If the aperture isn't closing completely, then the leaves are not overlapping properly (I tried several different methods before I got it right).

When you've removed the diaphragm, you'll see two brass half-moon shaped arms coming down on either side. One connects to the open/closed lever and the other connects to the aperture setting lever. Each one is under spring tension, and the two should overlap, such that when the o/c lever is set to "closed" the other arm moves to close the aperture. I suspect that one of the most likely problems one could have with a Studio shutter is that these arms might not overlap properly, either because they have been forced out of whack somehow or because the pins cause one arm to pull against the other have worn out.

To put the diaphragm back in, be sure the switch is in the closed position, the two brass arms overlap such that the pins are properly engaged, and that the leaves of the diaphragm overlap properly and are in the closed position. You can jiggle the diaphragm ring a bit as you put it back in to locate all the diaphragm pins in their slots, manually moving the diaphragm control lever at the top to see that everything is moving smoothly before replacing the screws. It is somewhat easier to do this if you screw two or three of the screws in about halfway, and then tighten all five when all the leaves are engaged.

At this point you can move the o/c lever to "Open."

Now replace the cover, apply a thin layer of grease to the aperture control ring and be sure the metal follower for the aperture control lever is engaging the ring. Replace the cover plate so that the aperture numbers are oriented properly and the plate settles into position (there is a locator pin to keep it from moving). Replace the lens cells.