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High Speed Shutter System


The High Speed Shutter will reduce the shutter lag of your DSLR system to 9.4mS. Having a fast shutter response time is critical when trying to capture fast subjects with irregular flight paths like insects. If you can imagine how little time a flying insect is in your field of view when you are shooting a 1:1 macro shot of an insect in flight it becomes easy to understand why system response time is so important. The camera shutter is left open - usually in bulb mode - and the high speed shutter is mounted to the front of the lens. The camera, high speed shutter, sensors and flashes are then coordinated by a high speed controller like StopShot.

The high speed shutter system includes the following:

1 x High Speed Shutter with Integrated Shutter
1 x 37mm Camera Filter Threaded Adapter Ring
1 x Ring Clamp
1 x 3.5mm to RCA breakout cable
1 x 9/64 Allen Key for the Ring Clamp (not shown)

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Cognisys High Speed Shutter - V2

New and Improved

The high speed shutter has just been put through a full redesign. The new version is smaller, lighter and features an integrated controller and improved durability. It also uses a bladed shutter instead of a solid shutter so it creates less vibration. The new shutter is still fully compatible with the Insect Rig and StopShot and uses the same adapter ring and filter sizes. It also operates on 12VDC for ease of use in the field away from AC power.

Why Use a High Speed Shutter
Shutter with Shutter Support

Most often high speed photography is done in a darkened room, the camera is in bulb mode with the camera shutter held open and a short duration of light from a high speed flash is used to expose the photograph. There are two significant reasons for shooting this way. The first is that a flash has a much shorter duration than your camera shutter is capable of. This allows you to freeze fast motion with less blur. The second reason is shutter lag. While flashes respond instantaneously to a trigger, cameras do not. If you try to trigger your camera to capture a high speed event it is very often the case that by the time the camera gets around to taking the image the event you were trying to photograph is over or out of frame. A good example of this is photographing insects in flight. The higher the magnification the smaller the field of view the more severe the issue. The high speed shutter offers a solution to the shutter lag problem.

If you have ever tried to capture a macro shot of an insect in flight you have probably fought against shutter lag. Shutter lag is the amount of time it takes between pushing the shutter button on your camera and when the camera actually captures the image. Modern DSLR and mirror-less cameras have a shutter lag between 35 and 300mS. This is way too long if you are trying to capture a close up shot of an insect in flight, by the time your camera gets around to taking the image your subject has moved out of frame. Enter the Cognisys High Speed Shutter. This shutter has less than a 10mS response time. It will allow you to capture even the fastest events without your subject moving out of frame.

When using the high speed shutter it is important to understand that it is used to get around the slow response time of the camera and improve the x-sync speed of the camera. The high speed shutter has an effective open time (x-sync speed) of about 1/300, most modern DSLRs have an x-sync speed of 1/200 or 1/250 best case. When using the high speed shutter it is important that your scene be completely illuminated by flash. When working in bright ambient light you will need to stop down significantly and use a low ISO to minimize the effect of the ambient light. The brighter the ambient light the more likely you are to see ghosting in your image. The reason for using the flash to freeze the motion is that you can achieve an effective shutter speed much faster than is possible with the camera shutter alone. The key to being able to illuminate your entire scene with flash is that camera sensor must be completely exposed all at once (with as fast an x-sync speed as possible). If the ambient light is too bright you may be better off using the fastest shutter speed your camera can deliver (usually around 1/8000) - the downside of this approach is the shutter lag is long and often the insect has left the frame by the time camera captures the image. 1/8000 s is often not fast enough to stop the wings of an insect in flight and is generally the max shutter speed that can used by the camera. It is all a trade off - the high speed shutter is another tool to give you more options.

Shown above is an image of the High Speed Shutter mounted to a 65mm MP E-65 macro lens extended to 2X. The shutter and controller are mounted on our Shutter Support System This whole assembly can be mounted on a tripod or on our Insect Rig.

High Speed Shutter Features
  • Fast 9.4mS response time (time from trigger to flash sync).
  • 25 mm open diameter
  • Runs on 12VDC so it can be battery powered for field use.
  • One Li-Ion Battery Kit will power the high speed shutter, StopShot and the necessary sensors.
  • Adjustable Open time - Open time is fully programmable via StopShot for longer exposures
  • Status LED indicates state of shutter - Charging, Ready and Error
  • Warranted for 100,000 cycles, the shutter element can be replaced in case of wear out.
  • Housing constructed from anodized aluminum with stainless steel fasteners
  • Button to hold open shutter for focusing and setup.
  • Allows high speed photography in the light of day - See Joe McDonald's Rattlesnake Image below.
  • Attaches to 37 mm filter threads. Adapters readily available for most lens thread sizes.
  • High speed shutter controller has flash sync port for easy connection.
  • Integrated Threads for 34 mm Screw on UV filter to keep debris (and insects) out of shutter.

Specifications and Dimensions
  • Shutter dimensions - controller integrated: 114 mm(L) x 64 mm(W) x 29 mm(H)
  • Optical Path Dimensions: 25 mm diameter x 19.4 mm long (28mm long with adapters).
  • Shutter Weight: 160 g
  • Operating Voltage: 10 to 16VDC
  • Current Consumption: 2ADC pk
  • Time from Trigger to full open: 9.4mS
  • Exposure Time: Configurable with StopShot

Vignetting Considerations

The shutter has an optical opening that is 25 mm in diameter. This is much smaller than the front opening of most lenses - for this reason careful attention needs to be paid to vignetting (the darkening of the edges of a photograph). The high speed shutter will exhibit less vignetting when used with a smaller sensor (APS-C or smaller) or a very close focal distance. If you plan to use a camera with a full frame sensor you will very likely need to crop the image to remove the dark edges. You can see some vignetting tests here.

Eastern Diamond Back Rattlesnake Copyright Joe McDonald
Copyright Joe McDonald
Eastern Diamond Back Rattlesnake Strike

Wasp in Flight - Copyright John Abbott
Copyright John Abbott
Wasp in Flight Captured with the High Speed Shutter
Shutter Mounting and Filter Details
Shutter with Filter
Shutter Mounted to MP-E65

The High Speed Shutter is attached to the lens with the supplied lens adapter that has 37 mm x 0.75 mm threads on it. You can see the pieces required to mount it in the diagram above. The step down ring is not included and will need to be sized to the lens you are planning to attach the shutter to. We stock all of the common sizes and even some uncommon sizes. You can find them here.

Above you can see how it looks all put together. The clamp can be tightened to the point that no rotation is possible between the shutter and the adapter ring or it can be left just loose enough to allow rotation. The images show a V1 shutter but the V2 shutter has an identical mounting scheme and all mounting parts are backwards compatible.

Protective Filter
Shutter with UV Filter

The High Speed Shutter has 34 mm x 0.75 mm filter threads for a clear UV filter. The filter keeps insects and other debris out of the shutter. If you use lights to attract insects installing this filter is highly recommended.

The V2 Shutter is very light (about 160g) so generally no additional support is required to hold up the shutter on the front of a lens. If you want to use this shutter with the insect rig it can be mounted on the shutter support system (similar to the V1 shutter). This will also allow you carry a Li-Ion battery on the same platform. We have a tripod mountable Shutter Support System for this purpose. The 1/4-20 threaded hole is provided to mount the shutter to the support system.

Controller Interface
Shutter Controller Connections

The image on the left shows the shutter controller interface. Starting from the left of the shutter is the power jack, the shutter runs from low voltage DC (12 to 16VDC). This allows the shutter to be powered up by battery. A single Li-Ion battery will run both the shutter and StopShot.

The 3.5mm connector is next, it has both the trigger in and flash sync connections on it. When using a 3.5mm to RCA splitter the white RCA is flash sync and the red RCA is trigger in. Connect the trigger input to StopShot and the flash sync to your flash system. Both are active low outputs

Next is the power / function button. Tap the button to turn on the shutter. Once it is on and the status LED is green tap the button to hold open the shutter so you can focus your camera and align your sensors. Tap it again to close the shutter and the shutter is ready to fire. Press and hold to activate at full speed (exposure check with your flash).

Using the High Speed Shutter to Capture Insects in Flight

As shown below the High Speed Shutter is mounted on the end of the camera lens to be used. It is then necessary to coordinate the insects position, the camera shutter, the high speed shutter and the flash to capture a successful image. Fortunately StopShot (our high speed controller) is capable of keeping all of this in order. In keeping with our insect in flight example above the sequence of events that needs to happen is described below. For this example StopShot will need to be connected to a cross beam sensor to detect the object (it will be our trigger). Here is the high level process that needs to happen to capture an image:

1. The camera shutter needs to be held open (and refreshed every so often to prevent digital noise on the sensor).
2. Open the external shutter when the subject is detected by the StopShot Cross Beam Sensor.
3. Fire the flash to expose the image after the high speed shutter has opened.
4. Once the flash has been fired the high speed shutter will close
5. After the high speed shutter closes the camera shutter will close and refresh the camera frame to be ready for the next event.

Visit here for a complete walk through of programming StopShot to use with the high speed shutter.

Linden Gledhill - Multiple Exposure

The image above was captured by Linden Gledhill using the Cognisys High Speed Shutter System. To capture this image Linden used the long exposure feature of the shutter and the strobe mode on his flash. This image was captured on a single frame using the flash to make multiple exposures of the insect at different moments in time. The shutter open time can be controlled by StopShot allowing for this type of work. Notice the different position of the wings in each frame.

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Top Customer Questions and Answers (FAQ)

Will the High Speed Shutter Cause vignetting?
The short answer is yes. But it depends on the focal distance, lens, aperture, and sensor size of the camera - the high speed shutter can cause vignetting under certain conditions. We have tested several different lenses with the V1 shutter under different conditions and share the results here. Generally for the lenses and focal distances used to capture insects the vignetting is very manageable.  Keep the focal distances short, the aperture small, and the sensor size small - all these factors will make a significant difference.
How do I sync my flashes with the High Speed Shutter?
The high speed shutter has a shutter sync output on it. This output will fire when the shutter is fully open. The output is capable of driving several flashes.
What mode should my camera be in when using the high speed shutter?
Most often the camera is in bulb mode when using the high speed shutter. This mode will allow StopShot to hold the shutter open when waiting for a trigger, it also allows StopShot to refresh the frame when an image is captured or when noise in the sensor has been accumulated due to an extended period of time with no trigger.
Have additional questions about ordering and shipping?
Visit our general FAQ page.
Specifications MIN NOM MAX UNITS
Input Voltage 10 14.8 16.8 Vdc
Input Current(Charging) - 2000 - mAdc
Input Current (non-charging) - 5 - mAdc
Shutter Open Time (Sync time) - 9.4 - ms
Output Current Sink(Flash sync) - - 1 Adc
Max Voltage on Flash Sync Port (Steady State) - - 40 VDC
Operating Temperature 5 25 60 C
Weight (shutter and integrated controller) - 160 - g
Open Diameter - 25 - mm
Shutter Life 100,000 - - Cycles
Filter threads - 34x0.75 - mm
Adapter Ring threads - 37x0.75 - mm

High Speed Shutter Resources

Downloads and Setup

Owner's Manual (PDF) Configure StopShot for the High Speed Shutter
How To

Insects in Flight

How To Capture Insects in Flight

Nest Monitor

Photographing Yellow Jackets

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