Accurate shutter speeds

I just shot my first roll of slide film.  More on that later, but here’s a little refresher on color reversal film: you either expose it properly or you don’t; it has very little latitude.  I used my Canon AE-1 because it has the most accurate shutter speeds (that’s the cheap way out: why pay $100 to have someone readjust your camera’s shutter when you can just keep accepting free cameras from people and hope for the best?) and I’ve come across a good number of lenses.  So if you’re going to use slide film, it’ll be easier if you don’t have to remember things like having to expose half a stop under what your light meter says because your fast shutter speeds are half a stop slow (or more).

When getting used cameras, as all mine have been and what the majority of people buying a film camera will get as well, one thing to take in mind is that it probably needs a tuneup to be in perfect working order.  I’ve never really cared, myself.  When I took the photography course last semester, I brought in the camera I intended on using to the local camera store so they could test its shutter speeds and light meter.  And then I had to bring in more cameras, because that one didn’t pass (fast speeds a full stop slow, slow speeds half a stop slow).  I ended up bringing in six different manual cameras and none of them were good enough, even the Minolta X-700 with an electronically-controlled shutter.

Again, it’s not like such things ever bothered me; with color negative film you can overexpose it so many stops before ruining your shot.  With Tri-X, it also didn’t matter, but it was suggested that with some assignments relating to shutter speed and exposure, I’d want something as accurate as possible.  I used my Minolta SRT MCII because it was the most dead-on, with only the fastest speed being half a stop slow (1/750 of a second instead of 1/1000?  I can live with that) and it served me well.

Now of course, the local camera store did repairs as well as selling used equipment.  I’ve considered having them do repairs to one of my cameras, if I could choose one system to use from now on.  The repairs cost almost as much as just buying a camera off them that’s already been gone through.  That’s why I don’t ever plan on spending more than about $25 for a camera (and that’s pushing it).  Any more, and it just wouldn’t be cost-effective to fix – I might as well buy one from the camera store that will have completely accurate speeds (plus a warranty).

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8 thoughts on “Accurate shutter speeds

    • Yeah, that’s pretty much been my attitude. However, I don’t think that’ll work as well with slide film, or at least I’m not willing to test that assumption yet…

  1. Test the assumption. i shot a ton of slide without a meter, and deved myself (badly) i still got some amazing stuff, i’m just glad i knew what could happen going in, so that when i got some irreversible shift, i wasn’t too heart-broken.

  2. Shutter speed aside, slide film requires a lot of experience and sharpest attention to detail. Getting it right is a matter of 1/4 or 1/8 stops.

    It’s too demanding and expensive as well.

    • getting it right in terms of what, exactly? i understand that slide film is basically 1/2 a stop either way, but negative film has high latitude. 4-6 stops of tolerance. Same with some black and white films. Sure, you set any camera to auto, and you let the camera meter you’re going to have some issues, but what has been your experience with slide film that it didn’t live up to your expectations?

  3. Pingback: An update on the Alternative Processes photography class | The Resurrected Camera

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