Cloth Shutter vs. Metal Shutter

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by FilmOnly, Feb 20, 2011.

  1. FilmOnly

    FilmOnly Member

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    When discussing 35mm shutters, a long-time camera repairman once told me that any metal shutter is superior to a cloth shutter. This would seem quite reasonable, but what about those cameras with "lesser," i.e. cloth, shutters? I once owned a Canon A-1, and I currently own a Minolta XG-M, both which feature a cloth shutter design. Especially since 35mm prices are so reasonable, are the bodies with cloth shutters worth owning? I welcome your input.
     
  2. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    A cloth shutter as is present in many cameras is very easy to repair. Can't say the same for metal ones which may expalin why a repairman likes them. He can charge more. One can buy shutter curtains for older model Leicas and copies. Anyone with a modest amount of dexterity can relace one. From my own experience I would say that either cloth or metal have about the same reliability.
     
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  3. lxdude

    lxdude Member

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    Assuming the same type of shutter, i.e., focal plane. Metal shutters have some advantages and cloth have some advantages. Metal won't burn through if the lens is left pointed at the sun at infinity in a rangefinder camera, or in an SLR with the mirror locked up. Titanium has long been regarded as more durable, that is, can go more cycles, though I don't know why that is the case, if so. It could simply be that the titanium shutter is a part of the more durable mechanisms in pro level cameras. Metal is necessary to form the blades in vertical shutters, as they work differently from horizontal shutters.

    Cloth has a couple of advantages. If you accidentally poke a metal shutter while changing film, damage is very likely; less so with a cloth shutter. If the cloth shutter is harmed, repair is likely simpler, consisting of putting parts "back on track", where with metal it means replacement. Getting new replacement metal curtains or blades for older shutters may be impossible, so scrounging used shutters becomes the method of repair. New cloth is easy to acquire.

    Finally, I find that cloth shutters tend to be significantly quieter than metal horizontal shutters, and somewhat quieter than vertical shutters, and when the cloth shutter opens, there is usually very little vibration, useful at slower speeds on a tripod.
     
  4. Les Sarile

    Les Sarile Member

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    All Leicas - up to M7 that I know of, use cloth shutters. The renowned OM's - 1 through 4, do too. None of these are known to have any more failures then their metal counterparts. Their biggest limitation is the slow sync speed associated with this configuration. The Nikons with metal (titanium/aluminum) had sync speeds to 1/250 as well as 1/4000 shutter speed. However, with 1/8000 shutter speeds and higher in the latest and greatest - Canon 1V, Nikon F6, Minolta 9Xi, all are back to non-metallic - carbon fiber shutters, to attain these speeds. Just like their previous cloth counterparts, these all have a disclaimer when using mirror lockup of not exposing the shutter to the sun too much as, "sun’s heat can scorch and damage the shutter curtains."
     
  5. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    Gee, Leica rangefinder use the lesser cloth shutters, I don't recall the SLR's though. Canon F1, F1n, F1N, Others. Pentax K series, 1000,M,X and MX
    Metal vertical travel= higher sync speed & fast speed.

    Oh, oh, What about theNikon F & F2 with a horizontal travel metal shutter w/rubberized coating. Wonder how that stacks up?
    I think your repair guy just likes vertical shutters
     
  6. dnjl

    dnjl Member

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    I heard from a repair guy that cloth shutters tend to stop working at very low temperatures. He told me that an Everest expedition had packed only the best of the best, but their awfully expensive Leicas didn't work at the top so they only shot pictures with an old russian camera someone brought along. Don't know if this is true, but if it is, it would certainly be worth considering if you live somewhere it can get really cold.
     
  7. lxdude

    lxdude Member

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    Well not the Canon F1's! Those have titanium shutters.
     
  8. lxdude

    lxdude Member

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    Except the earlier horizontal run ones. The F3 went to 1/80th. It is notable that later titanium horizontal shutters did have somewhat higher sync speeds than cloth shutters, so I assume had faster traverse times. Nikon F2/F3 @ 1/80th, Pentax LX @ 1/75th, Canon F1N @ 1/90th.
     
  9. Les Sarile

    Les Sarile Member

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  10. Rol_Lei Nut

    Rol_Lei Nut Member

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    About Soviet shutters working better in subzero temperatures: they are also horizontal cloth shutters. If the "awfully expensive Leicas" were the R-series, then they had vertical metal shutters (and many are battery-dependant electronic cameras, which could easily explain cold-weather failures better than the shutter configuration).

    Generally, rather than shutter material, I find shutter and mirror damping (if applicable) much more important. Exceptions are of course if one *really* needs the fster speed & sync speeds vertical shutters offer.
    Also true, with rangefinders, one must be aware of the danger of burning cloth shutters with direct sunlight, but that becomes an almost automatic part of the useage process...
     
  11. lxdude

    lxdude Member

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    Oops, forgot the Minolta! It had a 1/100th X sync, IIRC.
     
  12. IloveTLRs

    IloveTLRs Member

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    I would have to respectfully disagree with this. If I remember correctly, Nikon RFs (the M and S?) claim to fame was their ability to work in the freezing cold winters of the Korean War (along with their high-quality lenses.) I believe a few war photographers discovered this when (their) Leicas stopped functioning in the cold.

    Perhaps it was a function of camera lubrication. Leica used organic lubricants for a long time, did Nikon use synthetics in the 1940s/early 50s?
     
  13. lxdude

    lxdude Member

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    I remember an ad in the 70's by Fuji which said a Japanese Everest expedition used the Fujica ST801, the cloth shutter of which runs on oil-impregnated sintered bronze bushings, the point they were making being that the bushings allowed it to function normally, without being "winterized". Winterizing was the removal of normal lubricants and replacement with lighter lubes, or running mechanisms "dry". Dissimilar metal combinations, like brass/steel, could be used unlubricated and work well, though generally with shorter service life if used extensively that way. Winterized equipment was sometimes reserved for use only in cold conditions, or just de-winterized for normal conditions.
    So I think it has nothing to do with cloth per se, just the way it's made, which would include type of lube.
     
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  14. Les Sarile

    Les Sarile Member

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  15. erikg

    erikg Member

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    Thanks for that. What a brutal test! Although I didn't care for the "poor man's Nikon" bit. Never heard that, and I would (and did) take the Oly over any Nikon I've ever owned. No knock on Nikons though.
     
  16. Mackinaw

    Mackinaw Member

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    This repair guy really doesn't know what he's talking about.

    The chap in the article below spent 60 days last year exploring the Arctic with a Leica MP. Temperatures were as low as minus 30 to minus 40 Celsius. The cloth shutter functioned perfectly.

    http://www.photographyblog.com/news/leica_mp_arctic_photos/

    Jim B.
     
  17. Les Sarile

    Les Sarile Member

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    It seems that most modern cameras - film and digital, have since reverted back to cloth curtains albeit with modern material such as carbon fiber and kevlar. However with this switch, they now list a warning when operating mirror lockup stating not to expose the curtains too long to the sun as it can damage them. It seems that these cameras with very fast shutter speeds require none metal curtains to achieve these speeds. For instance the Canon EOS pro cameras (1, 3 & 1V) as well as Nikon F6 all list this warning.
     
  18. John Hermanson

    John Hermanson Member

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    I saw brand new Nikon F2 titanium shutter curtains pull right off the drum (worked at Nikon in GC mid 70s). Copal shutters (metal, plastic blades), with broken rivets, so blades fall out. Cloth shutters pull off the drum or are pulled out bu customers because they "block the film". John
     
  19. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    In northern Greenland I used nearly new Leica M4 and Nikon F cameras at about -60F or -50C with factory lubrication and no problems except occasional static marks on film and very brittle film.
     
  20. ZorkiKat

    ZorkiKat Member

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    It is said that the most famous photo from Mt Everest, of Tenzig Norgay, was photographed by Sir Edmund Hillary with a Kodak Retina. The Retina used an iris (leaf) shutter.

    Kiev RF cameras (the Soviet Contax) always claim in their manuals that they can work in temperatures far beyond the freezing point. These had metal slat focal plane shutters. The Leica derived ones with cloth shutters don't seem to claim the same abilities.

    Cloth shutters are indeed easy to fix. Mechanically, the procedure is simple. And in case the material needs to be replaced, finding light proof cloth stock is easier than finding suitable metal leaves.
     
  21. Andrew K

    Andrew K Subscriber

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    I'm not that old, but have been a camera technician on and off for over 20 years...

    The only advantage I've seen in a metal focal plane shutter is on a rangefinder camera, where if you left the camera pointing at the sun you couldn't normally burn a pin hole through the shutter blind...

    From my experience any shutter can fail for any reason - and always at the most inopportune moment...
     
  22. John Hermanson

    John Hermanson Member

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    Leaf shutter are nice because they'll x sync at all speeds. Problem with this type of shutter shows up as they get old. Lubrication from the shutter or focus threads migrates out onto the blades or into the mech causing slow shutter speeds or a total jam up. There doesn't seem to be any type of shutter (except pin hole where you take cap off lens to expose film) that doesn't have some sort of eventual breakdown. John