The Copal Company in Tokyo, Japan began manufacturing Copal leaf shutters in 1946. The Copal shutter quickly became the standard mechanical photographic shutter for large format lenses used by popular brands like Rodenstock, Schneider, Fuji, and Nikon. While the Copal Company discontinued production of their mechanical shutter in 2016, the supply of existing shutters remained available for several years. Currently, a used lens with a Copal shutter is the most economical option for large format photographers. These shutters can still be reliable if maintained properly during transport and operation.
If a Copal shutter on your large format lens needs to be replaced, it can be retrofitted with another shutter or repaired at a reliable repair facility. The aperture scales from the old shutter can be transferred to the new one, or new aperture scales can be made for an additional charge.
Rodenstock's inventory of remaining Copal shutters was exhausted in early 2019. As a result, Rodenstock no longer produces lenses with a Copal shutter option. In 2019, Rodenstock replaced the shuttered lenses with a new shutterless Aperture-Only (AO or Aperture-Stop mount) for use with digital backs and mirrorless cameras using an electronic shutter. For more information about AO lenses, visit the Rodenstock Professional Lens page.
Another option for Phase One photographers using IQ4 150 digital backs is the Phase One electronic X-Shutter. ARCA-SWISS is now providing new Rodenstock lenses mounted in X-Shutter and also retrofitting existing lenses with X-Shutter. A cable is required to power and control the lens from the X-Shutter housing to the IQ4 digital back. For more information about X-Shutter, visit the Phase One X-Shutter page.
Caring for Copal, leaf or central point shutters
Proper care and maintenance of your Copal and other leaf or central point shutters is crucial to ensure their longevity and consistency in capturing high-quality photographs. The following tips will guide you on how to care for your shutter and keep it in excellent condition for years to come.
- Never change shutter speeds on a cocked shutter. Always set the shutter speed first, cock the shutter second, and trip the shutter last.
- Keep the shutter uncocked until you are ready to use it to avoid tension on the mainspring.
- When transporting or storing, do not leave the shutter cocked or tensioned.
- Ensure that the shutter is closed when storing your lenses.
- Periodically exercise all the shutter speeds on your lenses. Cock and trip the shutter at each shutter speed three to five times. This practice helps maintain the lubricants' viscosity and ensures consistent shutter speeds.
- The highest shutter speed on a mechanical leaf or central shutter is always slow. While most large format photographers won't use the highest shutter speed setting, compensate by stopping the aperture down 1/3 to 1/2 stop when needed.
- Trip the shutter several times after changing the shutter speed and before making the exposure. This will ensure the shutter speed is consistent on the shutter speed setting you have chosen.
- Don't travel with or pack the camera with the lens attached. It's good practice to unmount and pack your large format lenses separately from your camera for transport or storage.
- Don't pack a Copal shuttered lens too tightly in your camera bag as any stress on the front or rear element can decenter your lens and ruin the shutter.
- Avoid hiking with the camera/lens attached to a tripod and cantilevered over your shoulder. Vibration and shock can be stressful on the shutter, especially for lenses with large front elements like the Rodenstock 32mm HR W Digaron lens as the weight of it's large front element on the small Copal 0 shutter can gradually decenter the lens over time. This is also a common problem for large format lenses mounted in Copal 1 and Copal 3 shutters, especially for 5x7, 8x10 and larger film formats.
- For the same reason as above, take care when moving your camera/lens while mounted on a tripod, especially when setting the equipment down on hard surfaces. Take care to set your equipment down gently.