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Build a Camera Shutter Speed Timer

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If you're into film photography using vintage mechanical cameras, you might expect that after 50 years of existence they don't often work as well as they might have originally.  Lubricant dries out, dirt seeps into the mechanisms and eventually things start to go wrong. 

When the delicate timing mechanisms of the shutter begin to deteriorate, the shutter times can change, and this results in incorrect image exposures.  Sometimes  the inaccuracy iis substantial and clearly noticeable, but at higher shutter speeds, it is difficult to tell the difference between 1/500th of a second and 1/1000th of a second.  However, to the film that difference is substantial.

When doing camera shutter repair, having a way to measure the timings can help give you insight into what might be wrong, and also lets you test as you tinker with things to see if you're making things better or worse, and how close you are getting to your desired shutter accuracy.  It's an invaluable tool for any aspiring camera repair tinkerer to have.

This project is based on the PIC18F2525 microcontroller, and an HD44780 16x2 character LCD.  It uses an OPT101 photodiode with integrated trans-impedance amplifier for the sensor, and a 1 watt red LED for the light source.
 
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giocad1 year ago
hello ... very nice and well done. I also thought I build something like that, but I have no time.
How much did it cost?
you want to sell it?
Thank you.
mattthegamer463 (author)  giocad1 year ago
It didn't cost me much since I had a lot of the parts on hand, it might cost $60 if you had to buy everything. I don't want to sell it as I use it all the time. The design would need some improvements if it was to be commercialized. It is not accurate for faster than 2ms (1/500) shutter speed.
ok ... thank you.
very interesting.
KenHunter1 year ago
Why did you use such a bright LED?
diy-ftw1 year ago
Nice project!

I thought I'd ask about a discrepancy between the parts list and the schem that's confusing me:

Is the cap that goes from the Ready switch to ground supposed to be 1 nF or 100 nF? The parts list calls for three 100nF (0.1uF) caps, but the schematic only uses two of them, and the 1 nF cap in the schem isn't in the parts list.

I'm wondering whether the parts list or the schem is correct.

Thanks!
mattthegamer463 (author)  diy-ftw1 year ago
Sorry about that. Its a 100nF.
Any recommendations on a suitable PIC18F programmer, C compiler, and IDE environment? I'm a total PIC-newb. I'm going to miniaturize my build, using an 8x2 display to make the device pocket-sized. That means I'll have to make some changes to the code and re-compile before burning a hex file to the pic.

I spent the day trying to get the Microchip XPLAB X IDE up and running, but it's C18 compiler for the PIC18F seems to be quite finicky -- it's throwing all sorts of errors with the supplied code, and the build keeps failing. I'm wondering whether this IDE might just be buggy.

Would you mind discussing what type of environment you used to develop & implement the supplied code, as well as what sort of hardware you used for debugging and burning to the PIC?

thanks again!
mattthegamer463 (author)  diy-ftw1 year ago
Sorry about that, its not going to work in MPLAB. I wrote the code in CCS and it is not directly compatible with MPLAB.  If you feel up to the task you can rework it to get it to run, but I am not a very good programmer and can't offer much help.  I use CCS because it spares most of the setting up of the chip's resources, or at least makes it easy and more plain-text than MPLAB does. 

I've learned quite a bit about RTC circuits and timekeeping since this project was done, there are some pretty easy ways to make it way more accurate.
Konican2 years ago
This looks like a very interesting project and will be worth trying for all film camera users. I have attempted to make electronic timers based on infrared diodes as emitters and detectors, but without any success so I resorted to making a purely mechanical set-up based on the famous Leica Drum Tester. It uses a slotted drum rotating at a constant speed, and is still a quick method of spotting shutter bounce and fade.
mattthegamer463 (author)  Konican2 years ago
A quick google finds some interesting information on that method of testing, it's quite similar to a method I saw using the scanning electron gun of a CRT television for the same effect. Quite interesting, thanks for sharing.
This is absolutely amazing, great work. I created a far simpler version that uses a flashlight or laser pointer, phototransistor, 1.5 volt battery, a resister, and a mini-stereo audio plug to connect to a computer via the line input port. Then I use audio recording software to record the signal generated by the light hitting the phototransistor as a wave file that is very accurate. It's not nearly as good as this design because computer audio ports are not designed to read DC current so the signal gets dropped if it is too long, but it is accurate for most shutter speeds above 1/20 second. I should post an instructable for my simple version anyway because even though your design is far better, it may be a bit much in the way of electronics and programming for most people to tackle (including me).
mattthegamer463 (author)  seerixprojex2 years ago
I read a number of guides doing it your way, it's about the only other reasonable way to do it. I built this thing because I felt nothing available cut it for me.
Yes, I know the guides you are referring to, and most of them are pretty thin on instruction or even misleading. Besides, the whole computer / audio method is very weak compared to your design. If I find the time I may even try to build your design because I think I have the skills to pull it off and I'm way, way, way into using old cameras, I have several of them. In addition, if you saw my instructable, you know that I made a home made camera so a shutter speed tester is a "must have" for me. Best, Rick
mattthegamer463 (author)  seerixprojex2 years ago
Thank you very much :)
alanstarkie2 years ago
This is really good. I used to be a camera repairer and the Kyoritsu shutter testers were in the thousands of $$$. Well done!
Nyanman2 years ago
will this device be able to check the timing for opening, full open, and closing on an iris shutter?
mattthegamer463 (author)  Nyanman2 years ago
It will measure the time the camera takes for opening, full open, and closing, and display the total time. It cannot measure the time it takes to open, the time spent open, and the time it takes to close. You could measure that possibly by connecting the sensor to a digital acquisition oscilloscope and recording the pulse in an analog form. This pulse is only recorded in digital form, but the sensor delivers it as an analog voltage.
nomadigin2 years ago
The shutters not fully opening isn't an error. Mechanically shutters can only move so fast so to get "faster" shutter speeds, only a portion of the frame is exposed at a time simulating a faster shutter speed. Read more here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Focal-plane_shutter
mattthegamer463 (author)  nomadigin2 years ago
I have taken the camera and looked through the shutter at a bright white wall in sunlight, when the shutter fires at all other speeds it is clear the entire frame lights up, but at 1/500 only 80% lights up and at 1/1000 it is clear that about 20% lights up. Even with this "scanning" exposure method, I should still see the entire frame light up.

This is a common problem with old shutters, it is a result of dried lubricant in the mechanism preventing faster motion. The first shutter is slow due to a malfunction, so the second shutter overtakes it mid-exposure, resulting in a partially-exposed image.
Nano_Burger2 years ago
Wow, this beats the crap out of the shutter speed tester I cobbled together (the plug into your soundcard variety). You should go into business building and selling these things on Esty.com. I get the sense that photography with vintage SLR's is getting trendy with the young hipster crowd and there are enough DIYers to make this a high demand item. Reserve one of your first production runs for me!
mattthegamer463 (author)  Nano_Burger2 years ago
Thanks. I would but the build time is too long, I wouldn't make any money and still sell it for a price that someone would actually pay, and wouldn't have time to build anything else. Plus it would be pretty expensive. Most of the stuff here I had lying around.
Phil B2 years ago
This is very impressive. I believe the Pentax K1000 has a cloth focal plane shutter. I have a camera repair manual a guy published privately in the early 1970s. His method for testing shutter speeds was to photograph the screen of a cathode ray tube television set. It scans 528 lines per second. The user had to have the film developed to evaluate the test, but the percentage of the screen visible in the frame compared to how much was still black gave a pretty good idea of the speed of the shutter. It was low tech, but it worked. A lot depends on the requirements of the user. I had a Zenit SLR and did some work on its shutter. I was able to get it well enough adjusted by means of this television test that I got good exposures with Kodachrome II (ASA 64).
mattthegamer463 (author)  Phil B2 years ago
Thanks, I'm glad you like it.

I have read that and tried it myself once, didn't seem to work, all I saw was a blur of screen, not as it was demonstrated on the internet.

This method also works for any shutter type, such as leaf shutters.
colin3532 years ago
This is too amazing, well done.
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