When did film get fast enough to allow fast enough shutter speeds to "freeze" motion?

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by bobpeters, Apr 8, 2017.

  1. When did film get fast enough to allow fast enough shutter speeds to "freeze" motion, and not have objects that moved "disappear"? I have a couple really old pictures of a horse and buggy or carriage with a couple people next to it, and the horse is missing his head because it moved.
  2. 1870s - Muybridge... IDK what he exposed (in that age of homebrew plates). - Even the first Kodak seems to have been handholdable?
  3. Would also have to take lens speed into consideration since faster lenses can be opened wider to allow faster shutter speeds.
  4. The ambrotype or tintype process would have had a natural speed advantage since it was essentially a thinly exposed negative viewed as a positive against a black background. Even so I estimate the wet plate collodion process probably reached a speed of no more than 10 - 25 ISO in today's terms. About fast enough for an "instantaneous" exposure with an f/4 lens in good sunlight.

    Dry plates and film probably doubled that speed by the early 1900s with a fully exposed and developed negative.

    The famous picture of a racing car with "oval" wheels and other shots of speeding vehicles by Jacques Henri Lartigue show that "freezing" action was possible with amateur gear in the first decades of the C20th.

    The 1925 groundbreaking Ernemann Ernostar f/1.8 lens and Ermanox camera made handheld snapshot photography possible even in low light.
  5. Interesting question. As well as I know, the wet plates were plenty fast enough, but you had to coat, shoot, and process before they dried. It was contact prints only, so grain size wasn't much of a problem.

    Of course, stopped motion depends on how fast something is moving. But okay, if you say 1/30 for the shutter, and maybe f/8 for the lens, with sunny 16 you need ASA 8. Not so bad.

    I have the book: "The History of Photography from 1839 to the Present Day", where the present day is presumably 1949, when it was copyrighted.

    One of my favorite stories from the book is about the 20x24 inch glass plate negatives from Yellowstone in 1872 that convinced congress to create the first national park.
    Old faithful isn't completely stopped, but enough that you can see what a geyser looks like.

    The Muybridge horse pictures were in 1877, the book claims at 1/5000 of a second. He used rock salt as a reflector from behind to get enough light.
  6. 1/5000th second? With a drop shutter? I don't think so!

    Modern focal plane shutters have only been able to exceed 1/2000th s since the mid 1980s, and Muybridge was well known as a braggart and a liar. Edweard Muybridge wasn't even his real name.

    That doesn't lessen his achievement of course. But his shutters had to be consistent across a dozen cameras all sequentially tripped and before the bladed shutter had been invented. Somewhere in the region of 1/1000th second is believable, much faster than that is truly incredible. Maybe there was an extra zero added as a typo in the book.
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2017
  7. It also says electronically controlled shutter.

    Seems to me that it shouldn't be so hard to figure out how fast they need to be to stop motion of the horse.

    Eadweard Muybridge and the bet that led to moving pictures

    says that he first got to 1/500, and then finally to 1/2000.

    I suspect that it wasn't very easy to measure the shutter time, but one would
    have to measure the speed of the moving parts.

    One web site inflation adjusts the $25,000 that Muybridge was offered to about $470,000 today.
    He had a lot of incentive to get a fast shutter working!
  8. It seems that stereo pairs were made in the 1840's. The necessarily smaller image allowed for a shorter exposure than the more normal 8x10 for a single exposure. Fast enough to stop motion of people walking, though not a horse at full speed, in the 1850's.

    And in 1851, Talbot had an electric flash fast enough to photograph a rapidly spinning page of the London Times on an albumen plate. I suspect that mean air gap electric spark.
  9. The "electronically controlled" description is a bit of an exaggeration. From what I've read; the system used electromagnets to hold a drop shutter. The horse's hooves broke a thin wire carrying the magnet current, causing the shutter to be released. Hardly electronic control!
  10. The one I saw says a string to control the switch for the electromagnet, but yes it is electromagnet release, and not electrical timing.

    I still don't know if it is gravity or spring.

    It seems that to get the speed, it needs two moving blocks, but I don't see much about how he did that.

    It might be that the first ones were directly string triggered, and that later ones were electromagnets triggered by a clock. They would fire in sequence once started.

    It wouldn't be electronic in the sense today, that is way before even vacuum tube amplifiers.
    But electrically sequenced using a rotating switch system to release electromagnets still seems pretty good for the time.
  11. I'm pretty sure a shutter would have to be spring assisted to get the claimed times. A straightforward drop shutter only accelerates at 32 ft/s/s. So it would have to drop a considerable distance before reaching a decent speed, and this would create a delay between release and exposure. Maybe that wasn't a problem - who knows?

    I'm surprised there isn't more accurate documentation of exactly what apparatus was used. OTOH Muybridge seems to have been a secretive person, not prone to leaving a paper trail. Astonishing that none of his apparatus was physically preserved though.

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