View Full Version : Shutters in the cold

17-Dec-2008, 12:18
I have a Copal No.1 shutter that has worked flawlessly since I got into LF about 5 months ago. I was out yesterday afternoon when it was about 10 degrees out. The shutter worked OK for a couple of shots but then it started jamming up. After it warmed up it seemed to be OK. Is this a common problem? Is there a way to lubricate things?

Glenn Thoreson
17-Dec-2008, 12:42
You need to get rid of some lube, not add more. It almost surely could use servicing anyway, so if you do that, either have it lubed with arctic grade oils or leave it dry. Shutters, by their very nature, slow down in some unpredictable ways when they get cold. The lube turns to sticky goo. I run mine dry.

17-Dec-2008, 14:46
Would a residue free cleaner work? I could use brake cleaner or non-lube electronics cleaner. (triclorathane I think)

Drew Wiley
17-Dec-2008, 15:48
This sounds odd. I've never had temperature problems with my Copal shutters, even though I've been in temp swings so extreme they separated the elements in the lens itself. I've known of view lenses being taken to the Arctic and Antarctic without any "winterization". Maybe the shutter was dirty? Or some condensation affecting things? ??

Glenn Thoreson
17-Dec-2008, 16:14
That's why I said it probably needs to be serviced. I live where the cold is extreme for months. I can assure you, shutters tend to slow down or even quit working in below zero temps when they aren't in their prime. Pros who work in a polar atmosphere often have all lube removed from their shutters.

17-Dec-2008, 16:20
Any recommendations for servicing? This doesn't sound like something I should try myself.

Glenn Thoreson
17-Dec-2008, 16:32
If you do a search on this site you will find references to good service people. I would not recommend doing it yourself if your shutter is a nice Copal. One trick that is used for extreme conditions is to keep the shutter in a warm place until the moment of exposure. Set up, focus, put the shutter back in the warm for a few while setting your time, put it on the camera and shoot. Insulated lunch bags and chemical hand warmers are good to have. Don't take an ice cold shutter into a warm place without first putting it in a tight plastic bag. Leave it in there until it warms up. Condensation is not good. Warm shutter into the cold is okay. There's tricks to coping with extreme cold. Mostly common sense. I would have gladly traded for your ten degrees this morning. It would seem like springtime.

17-Dec-2008, 18:34
I had Carol at www.flutotscamerarepair.com CLA a couple of my shutters this fall. I let her know I expected to be using them in cold weather this winter. I have a Calumet shutter tester, so she suggested I check the speeds after the shutter was in the freezer for an hour (remove the elements and set the aperture wide open before putting in the freezer) and then let the shutter sit overnight to warm up, and check the speeds again. If there is a significant difference, a cleaning should help.

If you do have the shutter cleaned, be sure to let the person who does it know you plan to use the shutter in cold weather.

22-Dec-2008, 01:13
I second the idea of a cleaning and relube, using low temperature lubricants. I'm not a fan of flood cleaning, as shutters need specific kinds of lubricants a specific places to perform to their optimum. Freezing is a severe test of a shutter and will promptly show up and bad lubrication or tolerance issues.
When I service a shutter for low temperature use (And I mean low - it something like -25C here this evening!) I then freeze the shutter overnight in a sealed, clear plastic bag. On bringing it in from outside or out of the freezer I recheck the speeds with the shutter right in the bag. This prevents moisture from condensing on the shutter during the test.
Most shutters can be made to perform well in very low temperatures. On occasion it takes a second trip through service just to make sure everything is free enough and lubricated appropriately, but that 's what the 'freeze test' is designed to discover.
Working a view camera is extreme temperatures is enough of a demand without having to keep a lens warm to the last minutes. Heavy winter clothing and snow slows down the process so a lens may even sit on a camera longer before the actual frame is taken. Dry firing the lens a couple of times when the dark slide is still in is a good idea to limber up the shutter and verify it works just before pulling the dark slide and making the actual exposure.
Bill Peters
Calgary, Canada

Turner Reich
22-Dec-2008, 02:42
Glenn is right, run it dry for the best function, SK Grimes is the best, maybe not the most inexpensive, place for a CLA. I have done some older shutters with Ronsonal lighter fluid but if the blades are paper you could be in for some trouble. Being a Copal that is not the case, it most probably is a very nice shutter worth the effort of an experienced shop. Good luck, stop way down if possible and use a longer time.

Have you ever opened a shutter or watch? It get complicated when the parts don't fit or you have extras at end. :eek:

23-Dec-2008, 10:55
If go with carol Flutots service you may have a 5 week wait but its worth it :

29-Dec-2008, 14:13
Hi, All,

I don't mean to hijack the post...but may I ask...

QUESTION: Is there a way to simply keep a LF camera somewhat cool for use in a cold climate? Or is that a good way to invite disaster from condensation?

REASON: In early February, I hope to head to the Rockies for some 617 snow shots...

CONCERN: If I climb in and out of a vehicle to setup a camera and shoot, am I risking a lot of condensation that may damage my LF lenses? :(

Thanks in advance,


Turner Reich
29-Dec-2008, 16:06
CONCERN: If I climb in and out of a vehicle to setup a camera and shoot, am I risking a lot of condensation that may damage my LF lenses?


Drew Wiley
29-Dec-2008, 16:11
Since I carry my view camera inside a waterproof backpack, to prevent condensation I simply leave the pack outside the tent or truck at night. Of course, if
you're staying at a motel or somewhere theft might be an issue, you will need a slightly different strategy which allows the camera case or whatever to reach
temperature equilbrium with the outside air. I drive a pickup with a covered back,
and can keep the cab warm while the back of the truck remains cold.

Glenn Thoreson
30-Dec-2008, 12:25
A cold camera entering a warm place = condensation.
A cold camera kept cold = no condensation.
A warm camera entering a cold place = no condensation.
The best solutions are either keep the camera cold or tightly wrap it in a plastic bag (suck out as much air as you can) before bringing it into the warmth. Let it warm to ambient temperature before unwrapping it. I prefer to carry the camera in some sort of case or wrap, and leave it in the cold. The real hazard from condensation is to your lens/shutter and the film. Use the same precautions for your film holders.

Steve M Hostetter
30-Dec-2008, 13:21
I've never had a small shutter work well in the cold... Only lens I take in sub zero weather is one with a #3 Copal... works everytime no matter what

Bernard Kaye
1-Jan-2009, 22:26
Long time ago, in Alaska, U. S. Navy "winterized" 4 x 5 speed graphics and reflex graphics stopped functioning, both front and rear on Speeds, rear on reflex: we used my plain old 120 roll film Zeiss Ikon Ikonta B (no rangefinder) whose compur shutter worked flawlessly; old uncoated Tessar (75mm. f 3.5) also worked because it was tight enough to not gather moisture; been a Zeiss nut ever since. Also, at Cape Canaveral, only Leica lenses did not fog up prior to early morning shoots of launches. Take B & W night street lamps lit pictures with 35mm. cameras using 45-50-55mm. Nikon, Canon, Leitz and Zeiss coated lenses, even Tessars. You may be surprised. Bernie

2-Jan-2009, 04:47
How about just wait until it gets warm again? No gain, but a lot less pain. Shoot still life pics of the sofa indoors for the next few months.

Glenn Thoreson
2-Jan-2009, 12:20
How about just wait until it gets warm again? No gain, but a lot less pain. Shoot still life pics of the sofa indoors for the next few months.

Yup, that's my way of thinking these days. If I do go nuts and want to take snow pictures, I can always stick a Speed Graphic out the car window. I'm not too keen on floundering around in the snow these days, either. Old age - it ain't for sissies. :D