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History on Pneumatic Shutters


The Cadett Shutter–The Lightning Shutter

The     Garland Shutter–The Invisible Shutter.


This device for making exposures in the photographic studio has proved to be so useful and popular as to have secured almost general recognition and adoption among the photographers of America.

The possibility of making exposures in the studio, unknown to the subject, placed a very decided advantage in the hands of the operator, who, standing at any point, could watch the expression of the subject and seize the right moment to secure the impression desired; so that the pneumatic shutter seemed to be the proper complement to the lightning dry plate.

There is a great variety of these shutters exhibited and for sale, and the number continually increases.

The earliest example of this style of shutter that we know of is the Cadett, an English invention, which, in its introduction into this country, served as a stimulus to the inventive genius of Americans, and, as a consequence, we have the great variety that now may be selected from. An effort was made to apply electricity to use in working a shutter, but it did not succeed, and so the rubber tube and bulb became the accepted means for applying the force necessary to open and shut the slides or doors constituting the shutter.

An attempt has been made to apply a time regulator to the pneumatic exposer that shall keep the lens uncovered for a period of time at the will of the operator, which shall be regulated by an index pointing at a figure representing a definite period of time. By turning the index to any figure, from 1 to 20 or more, representing seconds, the shutter is held open for that time and then closes automatically. This shutter is opened, in the first instance, by pressure upon a bulb,  in the same manner as any of the pneumatic devices. We may enumerate, among the various shutters, those giving the most satisfaction in use,


It has often been remarked by eminent photographers that the arrangement is a most useful one which enables persons to be photographed without being aware of it. The efforts in this direction necessitated the operator being close to the camera; here we have an instrument which permits him to be at any part of the studio he pleases.

Many have experienced the difficulty of taking children’s portraits with the proper amount of profile; with the above device all difficulty vanishes—the operator may be by the side of the child and attract its attention to any direction, and he has the means of exposing and capping the lens with far greater rapidity than with the usual method.

Directions.—After the day’s work is done the rubber tubing should be taken off the instrument; this will prevent a partial vacuum in the bellows and tube, which would otherwise ultimately occur. These instruments are now constructed for application either inside or outside the camera. Its use is very simple—squeeze the ball end of the tube and the shutter opens.

This instrument no sooner made its appearance than Yankee ingenuity set to work to improve on it, or at least to produce something similar that might not infringe on the patent.

The first effort was to bring electricity into use to move a shutter inside the camera box, and a very good device was perfected and sold to numbers who were convinced of the usefulness of the idea but were unwilling to pay the price demanded for the English instrument. This electrical apparatus, however, soon played out, and few operators had the time or knowledge necessary to keep the battery in order; and in many instances after the sittings had been made it was found, on attempting to develop the plate, that no exposure had taken place, hence these electrical shutters were soon relegated to the limbo of played-out photographic apparatus, of which every gallery of any standing has one.


For simplicity of construction and operation, for reliability and good results obtained with it, the “Eclipse” Shutter has gained an enviable reputation. It is safe to say that no shutter is better or more favorably known.

The “Eclipse” is made wholly of metal and is finely finished. It attaches over the hood of the lens by a velvet-lined collar and has a clamp to securely hold it in place. It is made in five standard sizes, collars for hoods of lenses being attached to a shutter of the most suitable size.

When the shutter is in a locked position ready for exposure, the right-hand leaf of fly covers the aperture of the lens. When released, the fly revolves, uncovering the aperture, which is again covered by the left-hand leaf.

When the shutter is in the position shown in cut, less illumination is given to the foreground; but by adjusting the shutter in different positions any part of the view may be favored.

The hair trigger release may be operated either by hand, by a cord, or by a pneumatic device.

The speed of the shutter is perfectly controlled by moving the spring on back of shutter from notch to notch on the curved arm.



With this shutter, the latest production of the inventor of the very popular “Eclipse” shutter, exposures can be made of any desired duration. It is equal to any requirement for the most rapid work, and as a time shutter, exposures can be made as quick as two pulsations can be given to air bulb (about one-tenth of a second) or of minutes’ duration.

“Duplex” Shutters work perfectly, with even the very largest lenses, up to their full capacity; and several lenses can be used with the same shutter. The shutter gives a full opening; but yet, by the peculiar opening in the exposure slides, any part of the picture can be favored with more or less illumination by turning the shutter, sometimes even inverting it.

The illustration gives a front view of the shutter, one-half size of No. 2, which is suitable for an 8×10 lens, or even larger, as it has an opening at the diaphragm of 118inches.

Inclosed in metal casing are two pivoted slides, which move, in unison, in opposite directions, and make the exposure in one continuous movement without the slightest jar, even when worked at its greatest rapidity. The motive spring is on the back of the shutter, and is of coiled wire; a perfectly reliable spring. Its tension is regulated by moving it along a series of notches. The exposure slides are moved by a stud on the lever shown on the front, which passes through the shutter and a slot in each slide and engages with the spring on the back. On the end of the lever are two notches hidden by the secondary lever. When the lever is fully depressed, the release catches in the upper notch and locks the slides closed. A slight pressure on the air bulb or a trip to the projecting end of the release frees the slides, and they make an instantaneous movement or exposure. If the secondary lever has been brought into play, by a turn or two of a milled-head nut, the release will catch in the second or lower notch and hold the slides at a full opening, in which position they remain until a second pressure is given to the bulb, or the release is tripped by hand.

The shutters are made in standard sizes, having narrow threaded collars on each side, to which can be adapted tubes to receive lenses, which are to be transferred from regular lens tubes. Any intelligent instrument maker or machinist can adapt such tubes to lenses; the original tube is not used.

Source: Public open library the project Gutenberg & Images: Pixabay


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