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I've recently noticed an issue with my dslr regarding exposures. Most of my time is spent using shutter speeds under 1/100s for landscape photography but the other day I was trying to under expose a shot early on a sunny morning and found I could not do so using shutter speeds. As I am an Olympus four thirds user I'm restricted to low ISO's (due to noise), and larger apertures (due to diffraction and depth of field) than other larger formats.
My initial experiments showed that shutter speeds faster than the camera's flash sync speed weren't working. The exposure didn't change as I took shots in shutter priority mode from about 1/160s to max at 1/4000s, and I wondered if the sync speed setting was somehow stuck on despite the built in flash being set off and the display showing fast shutter speeds.
I took the camera out again recently when snow had fallen and as the light increased I started to struggle again, being forced to use small apertures and eventually ND filters to get images in the strong light.

I found that in burst mode the camera would take a sequence of four or five pictures as follows (all at f/18 1/160s ISO 100 19mm):

  1. Totally over exposed.image 1 f/18 1/160s ISO 100 19mm
  2. Correctly exposed but with an overexposed strip at the bottom of the frame.image 2 f/18 1/160s ISO 100 19mm
  3. Correctly exposed.image 3 f/18 1/160s ISO 100 19mm

Is this a sticky second curtain? It has been cold recently but I suspect this is the end for my much loved, 12 year old Olympus E-520. Are there any possible fixes I can try before finally put my hand in my pocket to replace this now defunct system (Oly gave up support before selling the imaging division to JIP)?

EDIT: Some more images to answer the points raised in comments.

All the following images were shot in shutter priority mode in whole E.V. steps with auto iso on to help achieve the various shutter speeds.
This set have been taken as single shots through a window, handheld and very shaky but that might be of help later on I think.. enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here

To me they appear to show that exposure is failing on the 1/60s image which is slightly brighter than the previous image at 1/30s.

The following set (which I don't seem to be allowed to upload) have been shot vertically in burst mode. The bright strip occurs on the right of the image, again the bottom of the sensor, showing I think the direction of shutter travel. One thing I did notice though is that the bursts all featured image 1 overexposed, images in the middle of the sequence properly exposed excepting a bright strip, and the final image of the sequence correctly exposed with no bright strip. This happened no matter what the length of burst I fired off. Also one of the middle images was reasonably steady and sharp except for the bright strip which was horribly wobbly, this to me indicates a longer exposure time for this area.

EDIT: Those vertical images - there were three shot at f/4 1/250 ISO 100. For some reason one of these will not load though it was created in exactly the same way..

enter image description here enter image description here detail from the above enter image description here enter image description here

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    It seems like you may have set the camera in a bracketing mode. – Bob Macaroni McStevens Apr 17 at 5:56
  • @BobMacaroniMcStevens You've made me think - it's the sort of dumb thing I'd do, but I don't think so. This was a burst of 4 or five images, the camera can only bracket 3 times, and I did a camera soft reset after the first episode. I will double check later though! – dmkonlinux Apr 17 at 5:59
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    Mine can only bracket in threes, but if I take more it will just cycle round the brackets; it's easy to get out of sync if you forget to stay in threes. – Tetsujin Apr 17 at 7:14
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    Bracketing does not explain the differences between image #2 and image #3. Most of the two frames are exposed identically. The lower edge is not. – Michael C Apr 17 at 18:18
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    The water changing brightness that much between frames seems even lower probability... – Michael C Apr 18 at 6:44
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The symptoms would indicate a sticking second curtain (if the shutter travels from top to bottom across the sensor).

The symptoms also seem to indicate that it works itself free... i.e. first image second curtain stuck for a long time affecting entire image, second image the second curtain stuck for a moment affecting only bottom edge of image, third image it didn't stick notably.

Edit: second/third series of images confirm sticking second shutter IMO (banding rotates along with image orientation).

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  • That's my gut feeling, is there any hope for my old friend? Any diy fixes? – dmkonlinux Apr 18 at 12:32
  • I really don't think so. And even if repair was possible IDT it would be cost effective. – Steven Kersting Apr 18 at 12:35
  • Oh ?@{$%. That's what I was expecting, but hoping not to see. Looks like I've got some saving up to do. I'll probably accept this - I'll just give others a chance to chime in first – dmkonlinux Apr 18 at 12:44
  • @dmkonlinux I think you probably need another camera or to get by with the problems with your current one. If you are patient you can probably find a working e-520 for less than $100 usd if you are in the US. If you are impatient you can certainly find a different camera system with a kit lens and at least 10 megapixels for about $200 usd. The 4/3 system is legacy for several years now since micro 4/3 was introduced. – Bob Macaroni McStevens Apr 18 at 15:23
  • re: 2nd curtain top-to-bottom travel: what I can't get my head around is if the 2nd curtain stuck for a brief period of time covering part of the exposure (2nd image), that would have made the water in the bottom of the scene darker, not lighter. This is because top-to-bottom curtain travel means the image (which is inverted, i.e., upside-down, on the sensor) is exposed starting from the logical bottom of the scene first. Most vertical-travel focal plane shutters operate top-to-bottom (I haven't heard of one that doesn't). So I can't square the over-developed water in the 2nd pic w/ that. – scottbb Apr 18 at 21:57

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