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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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03/23/13 Copal no longer to be in the manual leaf shutter business–possible bad news for Tech Camera users

On the Luminous Landscape website, I ran across a posting about Copal and the possibility that they will no longer be manufacturing leaf shutters.  Copal is a large company and appears to still be involved with many other aspects of electronics and cameras.  The leaf shutter that is in question, is commonly called a Copal Shutter 0.  This shutter is a leaf design and manually operated.  The main area for the use of this type of shutter is with large format cameras (view cameras), and the emerging tech camera market.  All of the lenses that are made by Rodenstock and Schneider use this type of shutter.

Copal shutter mounted to a Rodenstock 28mm HR lens

Copal shutter mounted to a Rodenstock 28mm HR lens

The Copal shutter like the one shown in the picture above is a very critical component to a tech camera solution as currently Rodenstock and Schneider both don’t make a shutter.  The shutter is placed in between the lens elements during the manufacturing process of the lens.This type of shutter is called a “leaf” shutter and is totally independent of the camera body.  The leaf shutter is fired by a manual cable release that screws into to the shutter.    I have never seen a Rodenstock or Schneider  lens that is sold without a leaf shutter installed.  The process of placing the shutter in the lens, should be done by the lens manufacturer to ensure the optics maintain the best alignment.

For out of warranty repair I know of only one location in the U.S that can work on a lens like this is Precision Camera Works, in Niles IL.  They are specialists in the entire Arca line of cameras and also can work on a lens like the Rodenstock 28mm with a Copal Shutter installed.  Outside of this you would have to contact the lens manufactures to see how they would handle a repair.   Of course Precision Camera works is a non-warranty type of service, but they might be able to save a shutter that has broken or has become misaligned in the camera lens.

Copal Shutter mounted on a Rodenstock 28mm HR lens

Copal Shutter mounted on a Rodenstock 28mm HR lens

As this issue starts to hit the various large format camera forums, I am going to try and get a better handle on just what the scope of this announcement will mean.   Currently I don’t know of any other solution other than the Copal shutter for all of these lenses.  I have seen old Nikon large format lenses with a Nikon leaf shutter, however I have been told that this type of shutter was actually made by Copal.  Copal has a electronic shutter that can be used on these lenses, but it requires power and it has a very limited shutter speed range.  I don’t feel that this type of shutter will work in the field.

For now Copal really is it and I am going to try and find a used Copal 0 and keep it as a spare.  I noticed that B&H photo is out of stock of these currently, and plans to get more in sometime in early April.  I am also going to call Schneider in NY some time soon to see what their solution will be since without a leaf shutter, Schneider and Rodenstock both will not be able to produce a workable lens. I am hopeful that Copal may revisit this issue and continue to make this style of shutter, but it also shows just how few of the Schnieder and Rodenstock lenses are being sold currently.

I emailed some questions about this issue with Copal to Rod Klukas, the U.S. Arca Rep.  Rod is much closer to this type of concern since he is talking to Schneider, Rodenstock and other similar companies on a daily basis.  Here is Rod’s answer and it does illivate some of my immediate concerns, but I am still going to purchase a spare Copal in the near future.

“Currently, Rodenstock is still refining their Electronic shutter, though it is hard to use on recessed board-actually impossible and has a
top shutter speed of only 125.  Unacceptable to many portrait fashion shooters.  
Schneider has the SES, which is not so portable so great for studio but…   I believe they are working with Mamiya on a replacement mechanical shutter using some parts of the current Mamiya shutters in the LS lenses on the Mamiya/Schneider lenses.
The HartBlei is really not very precise.
There are some others working on things right now as well.
Copal is currently manufacturing what they say is a 2 year plus supply, by the end of the year, when they will stop.  So there should be at least a year or so of shutters.  And by then some of these new shutters should be available.”

Here is a link to the post on the  Luminous Landscape forum.