I recently bought my first large format lens, a Fuji 180mm with Copal No. 1 Press Shutter, for about $180. The lens is great, but the timing mechanism of the shutter can be heard seizing up for speeds between 1/8 and 1/1 second.

From other discussions online, this doesn't seem terribly unusual. What I'm not sure of is if I should expect these kinds of issues when buying a used lens. If I were to return the lens/shutter and purchase a new one, is it reasonable to expect a fully working shutter? Or are the shutters so old at this point that I should expect to perform some maintenance, no matter which one I end up with?


2 Answers 2


A reputable source will accurately describe the condition of photographic gear and there will usually not be unpleasant surprises when it arrives.

Basically reputable sources will tend to evaluate and test what they intend to sell and will prioritize their reputation over monetizing junk.

If a reputable source says it works, barring an honest mistake, it will.

Mechanical shutters can go a long time between service, if they are reasonably cared for. If it works before it goes in the shipping box, it usually works upon arrival at the other end.


Since this is said to be your first lens, it is worth pointing out that the slow speeds of a leaf shutter typically make a hissing noise as the low speed escapement does its work.

The hissing sound is the clockwork mechanism unwinding to time the shutter.

The reason to CLA a shutter is inaccurate speed or other operational faults.

If the speeds are accurate enough and the controls operate freely, it’s ready to make pictures.


Short answer, yes, this issue is expected.

That Copal No. 1 is probably between thirty and sixty years old, and in professional service would have been expected to receive a CLA (Clean, Lube, Adjust) service every two to five years. Amateurs like us don't use a shutter anything like as much as a commercial photographer would have done before the digital era, but time can also cause oxidation of lubricants, even surface oxidation of metal parts, so I'd still suggest having a shutter serviced after purchasing unless the seller offers it as "just serviced" or similar, and all function is 100%.

That said, I have a couple old dial-set Compur shutters that are more than 90 years old, and all they needed after I got them was a simple cleaning, a couple micro-drops of light machine oil, and closed back up. Having this done by a professional will cost close to what you paid for the lens and shutter together, but it's also something that an amateur can DIY if you're reasonably handy and confident in working with small parts. Manuals are available to download, with some searching, tool sets are reasonably priced, and there's nothing magical inside the case -- and I have no direct experience with Copals, but most large format shutters avoided "jack in the box" springs; nothing is likely to jump across the room as soon as the last thread on a tiny screw disengages.


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