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08/28/13 Supply of Copal Shutters is drying up and no real replacement solution has been developed

Copal shutter 0 for use with Rodenstock and Schneider lenses

Copal Shutter 0 for use with Rodenstock and Schneider lenses

A while back I wrote a entry about the fact that Copal was no longer going to make the Copal 0 shutter.  For many photographers, the idea of a manual shutter is more than likely beyond comprehension as they are used to the modern electronic shutters that work in all DSLR cameras and Medium format cameras like the Phase One DF+ and Pentax 645 Digital cameras.  Here all you have to do is set the shutter from the camera controls, and take the shot.  The lens and camera communicate and the aperture is automatically stopped down a micro-second before the shutter opens.  Of course this is the way all modern cameras work unless you are working with a Large format camera or a tech camera.  Large format cameras can take either a film back or digital back, and most tech cameras are designed to work with a Medium format digital back.  In both situations, you are using a lens that has no communication electronically to the camera body, instead you have to manually set both the shutter and aperture.  The aperture is controlled by the aperture ring on the lens and this is controlled by the lens manufacturer i.e. Rodenstock or Schneider.   However neither of these companies manufacture a shutter.

Rodenstock and Schneider both have a very modern line-up of lenses that have been optimized for the higher end Medium Format Digital backs, like the Phase One P65+, IQ160 and IQ180.  However all of these lenses are still dependent on the Copal shutter 0.  (Both Schneider and Rodenstock make electronic shutters but as I explain below in most cases these shutters are not very practical).

The shutter in this case, is fitted between the lens elements during the creation of the lens.  By far the most common shutter in use today is the Copal shutter 0.  This shutter is used with every Rodenstock and Schneider lens that is being made currently and will also be installed in any of the older lenses made by both of these companies.  The Copal shutter is made in Japan and as far as I know has been the standard shutter for these lenses for years.  These shutters are also called leaf shutters by their design as they are placed inside the lens and thus the camera is not dependent on having a shutter installed.

About 4 months ago, Copal announced that they would no longer be making their manual shutters.  Apparently this part of their business model is not a large one and they are moving on with other products.  Copal is quite a large Japanese electronic company and they have many other products that are still being made.  So what does this mean?

For most photographers, nothing.  They are using cameras with focal plane shutters, ones that are built into the camera body, not the lens.  However for a small group of photographers, this is a huge deal.  These are the photographers using either large format cameras or tech cameras.  There are three tech camera companies, Alpa, Cambo and Arca and all of these companies design pancake cameras that are designed to use a medium format digital back and a Rodenstock or Schneider lens.  In this case the tech camera is basically just a platform that holds the digital back and lens for the photographer.  All tech cameras are totally dependent on the Copal shutter 0 since they are using lenses that require this shutter.

Eventually Rodenstock and Schneider will have to come up with a replacement shutter solution as they can no longer manufacture their lenses without a shutter solution.  I am curious as to just how many Copal shutters that each of these companies have in stock as it’s impossible to find a Copal shutter to purchase.  Companies like B&H photo have been back ordered for months and I am pretty sure that they will not be getting anymore stock.  When the original announcement came out on Copal discontinuing the Copal shutter 0, it was implied that there would be one last batch made.  As far as I can tell, no new shipments of these shutters has occurred.

If you have a tech camera or large format camera, this might not seem like a big deal.  But it will turn into one eventually for these reasons:

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