I work in an optics lab, where we need to block and unblock lasers rapidly. For this we currently use custom built shutters with razor blades that move ~1mm. These are annoying to build and tricky to align. I thought it would be much better to use a shutter assembly from a DSLR since these have huge apertures and can be bought in a unit.

I therefore bought a Nikon D800 shutter unit from eBay, but it's unsurprisingly more complex than I'd hoped. It looks like this:

Nikon D800 shutter assembly

There are 8 pins on the left ribbon connector and 4 on the right one. My suspicion is that only the left one is needed for my purposes, but this is just a guess.

Does anyone know details about how these pins are used in the camera? Or what voltage cameras (or this particular camera?) tend to use as a supply line? I probably don't need to use both curtains, although if it's easy then I'd probably like the option to use both.

Also, if you have any ideas about better tags or a better location for this question then please let me know in the comments!

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    \$\begingroup\$ This question belongs to Electronics.SE. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 24, 2016 at 10:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is about using camera parts for something other than photography. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Jun 24, 2016 at 11:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @EuriPinhollow I wasn't sure if it did or not. In the end I figured that if anyone has in depth knowledge of camera components they'd be on this SE. \$\endgroup\$
    – CharlieB
    Commented Jun 24, 2016 at 11:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mattdm if the laser is captured by some sensor (or film), this could be photography. Whether off-topic or not on this site, Electrical Engineering is likely going to provide much better answers on the subject. \$\endgroup\$
    – null
    Commented Jun 24, 2016 at 11:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ Cheers Russel. Actually the appeal of these shutters for me is the ease of alignment: for our time-critical beams we use piezoelectric shutters that can switch at the microsecond level \$\endgroup\$
    – CharlieB
    Commented Jun 25, 2016 at 1:48

1 Answer 1


Different Camera manufacturers rarely follow a common standard for communication protocols. Neither for those components that you have access to regularly nor to internal ones.

  • The pins of a Canon TTL hot shoe (that's what you attach the flash to on top of the camera) will not talk to the pins of a Nikon TTL flash.
  • The pins on a Sony Lens mount will not make a Canon lens focus.
  • etc.

Now for internal components, they have to take care even less. If there's an advantage in creating an entirely new shutter unit for a new camera model, so be it. It's not like shutter units have to be back compatible with previous camera models like lenses do.

Sure, from a manufacturing standpoint it makes sense to have certain aspects in common to reduce costs, but keep in mind that the shutter is also a feature to differentiate camera models. Some are rated for more and some for less operations.

They likely use some existing bus system. They probably have some custom protocol to operate the shutter. You can try to reverse engineer the protocol if you connect the shutter to a camera and operate it while monitoring all the contacts.

For more information on that, check electronics.stackexchange

From an engineering standpoint, the idea looks good on surface: reusing an existing module. But there's no guarantee for supplies and you are relying on the availability of spare parts for a camera model that is not in production any more. Good luck if your unit breaks.

This is not rocket science. All you have to do is close a gap of a few centimeters.

custom built shutters with razor blades that move ~1mm

You should be able to improve this. Use an electromechanical solenoid or a rotary disk shutter for example.

If you need help designing a shutter, try asking at engineering.stackexchange but make sure you include all your requirements to ask a proper question.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Cheers @null, I think I'll do just that \$\endgroup\$
    – CharlieB
    Commented Jun 24, 2016 at 14:35

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