I’ve been stuck in my house filling orders for my Kickstarter campaign for the CAMERADACTYL 4×5 Field Camera, mostly just babysitting printers, changing filaments and adjusting extruders every few hours. This has left me with some rare time for tinkering.

Recently I built a cheap, quick and dirty tool to calibrate a project that I was working on. I was adding manual shutter speed adjustment to my Yashica Electro 35 GSN and needed to figure out what resistor values correlated to standard shutter speeds when added to the analog circuit inside my camera. I made a video and wrote about on 35mmc.

Adding manual shutter speeds to Yashica Electro 35 series cameras - 35mmc
Adding manual shutter speeds to Yashica Electro 35 series cameras – 35mmc

I built the shutter speed tester entirely out of parts that I had on hand, but if you had to buy them new, I think you could do it for well less than $10 (assuming you have enough patience to wait on 60-day shipping from China on Ali-express*).

Here’s the kit list – I am not sponsored by Ali-express or anything like that, and you can find these pieces from different sellers, and also on Amazon or Digikey, these are just examples of what pieces I am using:

You’ll also need my code: visit Github for my tester control code.

* I have adapted and adopted a new holiday, which I call Chinese Chanukah. Here’s how it works: order a bunch of electronics parts from Ali-express, all unbelievably cheap (lasers for 35 cents, sensors for 93¢, microcontrollers for a few bucks) with free shipping across the oceans. Then, you wait about 25 days and there will be well more than 8 days of presents that USPS Santa (in my case, my mailman, Don) drops in your mailbox. No frying in grease or cookie preparations needed. Available year round.

Here’s the finished article:

The shutter speed tester worked well for my purposes but is probably way more useful to all those people out there suffering from camerabedies – the need to collect old cameras. Those old cameras often with gummy shutters.

I found that my Yashicas (I’ve tested four by now), which were supposed to fire at 1/500 of a second at top speed, all max out at about 1/325th of a second. My Nikon F is much closer to its dial speeds, but is about half a stop too slow at the top end. Even if you don’t calibrate camera shutters as a result of using this tool, its useful to know which settings are off and by how much.

To help out with the build, I made an instructional video that assumes no prior knowledge of electronics or programming so that anyone could follow along. It makes the video a little long and boring, so if you have even a beginner level of experience programming Arduino, skip the video, download the code that I put on Github (which is annotated for extreme beginners, basically every line), plug your modules in and rock out.

In case you fall into the first group, here it is.

If this project generates a surprising amount of interest, maybe I’ll design a 3D printable file for some sort of jig, rather than simply taping the sensors to the camera or a beer can or the like. I’m not sure yet if the jig should be like a one-piece alignment base, like an optics bench, or a two-piece set of mounts for the front of a lens and the back of a film plane. Something to think about.


Eventually, I’d like to build a two-LASER setup for calibrating dual curtain focal plane shutters, so that you could make sure that the first curtain and the rear curtain are moving at the same speeds. The program I wrote takes advantage of some simplicity and shortness of code, which allowed me to do some things not by the book, and without external pulse clock components. Maybe in the future, I’ll build a more robust and precise timer. This one does the job for now but I’d appreciate your feedback.

Funny how even a successful project can lead to five more problems that need solving. I guess that’s what happens “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie”.

I’ve got camerabedies, and I’ve got it bad.

Once again, here’s a link to the article I wrote on 35mmc about adding manual shutter speeds to a Yashica Electro 35 GSN, the project that spawned this project.

Feel free to ask any question in the comments below or on the Youtube video.

Until next time,

~ Ethan

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15 COMMENTS

  1. Many thanks for this, Ethan! My components arrived yesterday, and it was simple to follow your instructions to have the tester up- and running. I’d previously seen the android app needing a light sensor to be plugged in to the phone’s audio socket, but as my phone doesn’t have an analogue audio connector that isn’t an option! Also appears very clunky and unreliable to use a sound device to measure light – especially when all modern smart phones have a built-in light sensor (i.e. a camera!) that surely could be monitored to measure against a light-level threshold. Anyway, without an app available and not wanting to spend lots of money on something I rarely will need to use, your solution is perfect and very cheap. Awesome!

    I did away with the breadboard this morning and simply connected both the laser emitter’s and receivers +ve wires to one wire connected to the Uno +5v -as I found that with the 20cm wires I purchased that makes for a physically more flexible, lighter, set of connections.

  2. The final package rocked up today after ten weeks or so, and I’m going to nail it all together at the weekend. In the meantime, I bought a simple device from Romania that converts light into a sound wave that can be viewed in programs such as Audacity on a PC. It will be interesting to compare the both.

    Using the Romanian tester on my Contax RX (a camera I know to expose accurately), it produced perfect results at 1/125 and 1/1000. going faster than 1/1000 introduces too much scope for error and it is not recommended past 1/1000.

    Here is a link to the tester; https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Camera-shutter-tester-for-shutter-speed-up-to-1-1000th-for-PCs-and-laptops/153172456357?hash=item23a9ca33a5:g:Ys0AAOSwVL1WEWxR

    • Thanks! You might want to see the comment below re: fast shutter speeds, from Peter, and my reply. Readings past 1/1000th may be unreliable, I am guessing that this is an artifact of using a slow arduino UNO, rather than a faster processor like a MEGA or an ESP8266/nodemcu module. If anything, I would guess that the F2 would go slower rather than faster over time. I might not trust the tester at such high speeds for now.

  3. I’ve found your video on youtube and ordered the parts right away, thank you very much for the tutorial. Now that I’ve put everything together I found the readings for 1/1000th of a second pretty inaccurate (tested multiple cameras, all indicate around 700μs), any ideas if that’s due to the laser sensor being to slow to respond?

    • Hey, really cool you built one of these. This is a quick and dirty tester, and relies on processor interrupts to flag open and shut times. The laser/sensor should be near instantaneous, but I assume that the processor is not. I might try loading the firmware onto a much faster processor (like an esp8266 on a nodemcu board) to measure really fast speeds. I didn’t use one of these in the tutorial, in order to keep it really simple, but maybe in the next version, I will build one with a faster processor along with dual sensors for focal plane shutters. If you try a processor swap, please let me know how it works out!

      thanks!

      • Thanks for your reply. I’m a professional software developer but I never had the time to play around with Arduinos and stuff. I googled a bit and I had the impression that the PINs are somewhat sampled at the clock speed of the CPU (16 Mhz), so in theory this should be more than enough to measure 1ms or shorter. I also changed your code to use polling on the PIN using a direct pin port mapping without using the interrupt, but it was even slower, so the interrupt is probably the fastest way as the overhead of calling the ISR is just a few μs. On another thread I read that somebody was able to measure 1/2000th with the UNO using a photo transistor, so I was thinking that the problem is somewhere in the electronics.

        • Hmmm, I’ll give it another look soon. Polling is DEFINITELY not the way to go. I don’t think that the problem would be the laser receiver, I have seen other projects where the laser receiver is used to receive PWM data transmission over laser, I cant remember how many bps, but It was fast enough to play continuous music stream. Maybe a standard phototransistor would have a little less latency? I’ll fiddle around with swapping some things around (code and hardware) before I release the next version of the tester, and break out a faster shutter than the yashica electro to test it out.

          • It’s already a big help the way it is, I’m really happy about that. Playing around with the Arduino is also a lot of fun. So thanks again for the inspiration. And please report back when you find something out.

          • I’m watching this conversation with interest as I have now received all the parts except the Arduino. Once I’ve built mine, I’ll take it to my camera repair guy and test it against the device he uses.

  4. I did something similar with a photo transistor and a USB oscilloscope. Your solution is obviously more accessible to people who don’t have a ‘scope but the photo-transistor idea is a bit simpler than the laser and detector and could work with an arduino.

  5. Very interesting. I was looking for such a set up. I ordered components and will try that next week ! 🙂 Thank you for sharing !

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