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Using flash at high shutter speeds with focal plane shutter

JC Uknz , Feb 17, 2011; 08:33 p.m.

Recently I was rubbished for endeavouring to help a newbie by suggesting that if he used a higher shutter speed than perhaps 1/200 he was only going to get part of his picture exposed ... a 'fact of life' since I started to use electronic flash with Leicas with a sync speed of 1/30 and 1/20 depending on model. With a contact braised to the speed wheel and the other contact mounted in the accessory shoe. Later to my boss's horror I took the top off one of his Leicas and organised an internal fitting ... it worked so I was not sacked :-) I was then able to mount my flashgun in the accessory shoe and still have a 'plug-in' socket for the sync lead. [ Leica's of those days had removable bottoms to change film rather than opening backs of later SLRs. If you had a flashgun on a bar attached to the camera bottom it was rather cumbersome changing film.
Whatever .....
I have been aware that newer flash guns can pulse their output to cover the shutter movement time at a reduced output level and my DSLR will do this with the 550EX speedlight ... if I had one..
But my reading of the 'rubbisher' is that if I had Nikon rather than Canon I could just set the camera to a special setting and use my old flashguns at high shutter speeds, all of which are a good three or four decades in age :-)
Can somebody confirm or denign?

Responses

Ilkka , Feb 17, 2011; 09:19 p.m.

I did not understand one word of your Leica description, even though I have three Leica cameras, one that opens from the bottom.

But I think the fact of the matter in flash lights is really very simple. Focal plane shutter takes time to cross the film gate. The fastest speed that can be acheived with the gate fully open is about 1/250s at best, with most cameras at 1/125s and older ones at 1/60s (or 1/50s for Leica) while many medium format focal plane shutter cameras can be as miserable as 1/30s. For any exposure shorter than this, the film or sensor is only partially exposed to light at any given time, ie. the second curtain follows the first one so that a narrow open band sweeps across the sensor. This works well with continuous light, whether from lamps or sunlight. Flash of light is a very fast burst, typically less than 1/1000s, if subject is close or aperture is wide, it can be 1/30 000s. So practically instantaneous, when compared with the shutter speed. There are only two ways you can combine the two: 1-you must use a shutter speed that opens the sensor gate compoletely to light before firing the flash (ie. 1/125s or so shutter speed), or 2-you must make the flash last longer. This is where the modern pulsing flash systems come from. Nikon may have made them a few years before Canon, not sure of that, but there is no way to get an old flash to operate this way without major internal rebuild. Some old flash units were able to shoot some 5 frames per second, at lowest power setting, but that is not enough to cover the film gate with a 1/2000s exposure. The whole internals of the flash would need to be changed so that it does not store and release the power in the original way but becomes a stroboscope of sorts.

Dieter Schaefer , Feb 17, 2011; 10:57 p.m.

Some Nikon DSLRs (D70, D50, D40) have electronic shutters that sync with flash at any shutter speed. More precisely, for shutter speeds longer than and including the sync speed, the mechanical shutter is controlling the speed - for speeds faster, the mechanical shutter is fully open and the CCD is gated. If I remember correctly, than you have to tape one contact when using this with any of the SB-X00 flashes - but it works without modification for older flashes.

Edward Ingold , Feb 18, 2011; 12:38 a.m.

Focal plane shutters work under the same principles today as 50 years ago. There is a slit in the shutter which traverses the film. At speeds higher than a certain value (1/50 for a Leica M3), that slit is narrower than the width of the film gate. If you use an electronic flash at speeds higher than that value, part of the film will be in the shadow of the shutter.

It doesn't matter how you synchronize the flash - with an hot shoe or the separate contacts of earlier Leicas.

Some digital cameras, notably the Nikon D1x, have an electronic shutter which operates on the sensor itself. The mechanical shutter opens fully at all set speeds. There is an electronic interlock which blocks the signal to a Nikon "SB" flash unit. This is easily defeated by using the PC port on the camera, an adapter which passes only the central contact, or a non-Nikon flash unit.

Frank Skomial , Feb 18, 2011; 02:05 a.m.

First of all you should not have been rubished on photo.net. It is more of a mutual admiration society, well above the rubish that you encounter elsewhere on the Internet.

Nikon's High Sync Speed is known as FP fast sync, and HSS in Canon's world. The new FP technology that is compatible with Nikon Creative Lighting System (CLS), as implemented in latest DSLR and flashes, is not compatible with a bit older FP sync implemented in film cameras and flashes.

So, the statement regarding Nikon flashes: " use my old flashguns at high shutter speeds, all of which are a good three or four decades in age :-)" - cannot be confirmed, since it is wrong.

With making obseolete SB800, SB600 flashes, Nikon currently does not have any flash that would be compatible with old and new technology in one unit.

JC Uknz , Feb 18, 2011; 04:15 a.m.

Thank you gentlemen and I think I have my answer. :-) It was all so simpler way back.
Illka ... I'm sorry my description of how the Leicas being used by myself and fellow photographers in the early 1950s baffles you ..... they had no internal syncronisation but some cunning type came up with the idea of braising a short length of brass radially to the shutter speed wheel. In those days the speed wheel was attached to the first shutter and at the completion of its rotation the film gate was fully open and the second shutter had not started to close off the gate. The cameras involved were IIIC IIIB but at this length of time I don't know which one of them took 1/20 second for the first shutter to clear the film gate while others took 1/30. My early Pentax was a 'major advance' with 1/50th sync speed. The other camera I had used in that period was a Speed Graphic 5x4 with a cumbersome system where one had to cock the compur shutter and also cock the flashgun which then triggered the shutter with a sort of cable release.
Around this time sync sunlight became a desirable shooting style for weddings and I gave away my Leica for a Topcon [ not the SLR model but an earlier fixed lens camera ... 35-S ] To the derision of fellow workers who said it would never last ... but it did and I didn't starve.
While some used CeeBee flash units which worked off mains voltage with an umbilical cord to the nearest power plug I had one of the first batch of Mecablitz portable units using 4 volt wet cell batteries ... still have the bits though the plastic case was early to go. It had a pair of large capacitors and I rigged a double pole double throw switch which enabled me to double the number of flashes but at half the strength ... Guide Number 40 instead of 56 with 100 ASA film.

JC Uknz , Feb 18, 2011; 04:16 a.m.

Thank you gentlemen and I think I have my answer. :-) It was all so simpler way back.
Illka ... I'm sorry my description of how the Leicas being used by myself and fellow photographers in the early 1950s baffles you ..... they had no internal syncronisation but some cunning type came up with the idea of braising a short length of brass radially to the shutter speed wheel. In those days the speed wheel was attached to the first shutter and at the completion of its rotation the film gate was fully open and the second shutter had not started to close off the gate. The cameras involved were IIIC IIIB but at this length of time I don't know which one of them took 1/20 second for the first shutter to clear the film gate while others took 1/30. My early Pentax was a 'major advance' with 1/50th sync speed. The other camera I had used in that period was a Speed Graphic 5x4 with a cumbersome system where one had to cock the compur shutter and also cock the flashgun which then triggered the shutter with a sort of cable release.
Around this time sync sunlight became a desirable shooting style for weddings and I gave away my Leica for a Topcon [ not the SLR model but an earlier fixed lens camera ... 35-S ] To the derision of fellow workers who said it would never last ... but it did and I didn't starve.
While some used CeeBee flash units which worked off mains voltage with an umbilical cord to the nearest power plug I had one of the first batch of Mecablitz portable units using 4 volt wet cell batteries ... still have the bits though the plastic case was early to go. It had a pair of large capacitors and I rigged a double pole double throw switch which enabled me to double the number of flashes but at half the strength ... Guide Number 40 instead of 56 with 100 ASA film.


Flash sync device for early Leica cameras

JC Uknz , Feb 18, 2011; 04:21 a.m.

Sorry for double posting .. site refused my gif file ... also in drawing I forgot the rangefinder housing.

Mukul Dube , Feb 18, 2011; 12:25 p.m.

I have successfully used a Geiss Kontakt on a Leica IIIa; and I believe the Hakosyn attachment works in the same way.

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