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A quick and accurate handheld camera shutter speed tester that displays both numerical timing and a scope-like waveform.
A quick and accurate handheld camera shutter speed tester that displays both numerical timing and a scope-like waveform.
135 backers pledged $16,998 to help bring this project to life.
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Phochron XA Film Camera Shutter Speed Tester

$16,998

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What is a prototype?

A prototype is a preliminary model of something. Projects that offer physical products need to show backers documentation of a working prototype. This gallery features photos, videos, and other visual documentation that will give backers a sense of what’s been accomplished so far and what’s left to do. Though the development process can vary for each project, these are the stages we typically see:

Proof of Concept

Explorations that test ideas and functionality.

Functional Prototype

Demonstrates the functionality of the final product, but looks different.

Appearance Prototype

Looks like the final product, but is not functional.

Design Prototype

Appearance and function match the final product, but is made with different manufacturing methods.

Production Prototype

Appearance, function, and manufacturing methods match the final product.

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Prototype Gallery

These photos and videos provide a detailed look at this project’s development.

Camera testing made simple

In the last few years, there has been a surge in popularity of older, film based camera equipment. Many photographers have been making a move back to film, or experimenting with film to broaden their creativity.

A folding camera from the 30's
A folding camera from the 30's

Vintage and classic cameras are more popular than ever, and almost every one that is offered for sale on the big auction sites is quickly snatched up by collectors and users alike. Prices are actually starting to rise as demand is outpacing the supply. Many times, neither the buyer or seller has any idea whether the camera is working, and will advertise that it is sold as "untested". 

I feel that there is a need for the camera collector, user, or dealer to be able to test a key component of the camera: the shutter. Let's face it, a camera is simply a light tight box that has a sophisticated mechanical shutter inside. The shutter is the second most important part of making a proper exposure, next to the lens. 

This is why I decided to design and build the Phochron XA shutter speed tester. I wanted a quick and simple handheld device that within minutes could tell me whether the shutter is operating up to spec, or if it is time for repair. Many times you can compensate for a slow shutter (most older shutters run slow) by changing the film type or the aperture settings. Consistency of shutter timing is critical too. So many I've tested show very inconsistent shutter times. 

Here's a 1950's Bessa folding camera being tested
Here's a 1950's Bessa folding camera being tested

 What kind of cameras can be tested?

If your camera has access to both sides of the shutter, it can be tested. Unfortunately, most modern digital (DSLR) cameras have no access to the back side of the shutter as that is where the sensor is located. Because of this, they cannot be tested with my product. Box cameras, view cameras, toy cameras, large format, and "point and shoot" cameras can be tested easily with the Phochron XA. Polaroid cameras can be tested as long as you can get to both sides of the shutter. Shutter speeds as fast as 1/8000th can be measured. 

Yes, this tester is designed for a limited audience, since digital cameras are now the norm. Analog photography is definitely a big part of the art, as evidenced by the popularity of Lomography, the Impossible project, and many film making manufacturers starting to run their film lines again. Big names like Leica, Voigtlander, and Nikon are still producing and selling film cameras.

It is not the goal of this kickstarter campaign to get everyone to throw away their digital equipment and buy a 70's era Canon AE1, but for those of you that have caught the film bug, this tester is one gadget you really need

 Check out this quick video showing how you can test a box camera shutter in two minutes:

What is the difference between the basic tester and the deluxe tester?

The basic tester has a single built in light sensor on the front panel. It can test EVERY type of shutter, even curtain types found in SLR cameras.  The deluxe tester adds an external plug-in module that has two sensors and allows for taking measurements at both edges of the film plane of a 35mm single lens reflex. This is an easy way to check for consistent and even travel of both the opening and closing curtains. This gives you more detailed analysis of a more modern curtain type shutter than the simple tester. However, both the basic and the deluxe kit can test 35mm SLR type shutter systems.

Here's an image of the front panel and the built in sensor in the center. The jack to the left is for connecting the external sensor module.
Here's an image of the front panel and the built in sensor in the center. The jack to the left is for connecting the external sensor module.

 

here's a front and back view of the dual sensor module showing the selector switch to select which pair of sensors is used in the testing
here's a front and back view of the dual sensor module showing the selector switch to select which pair of sensors is used in the testing

With the basic tester you can quickly  test all sorts of cameras:

  • Simple cameras such as Holga, Agfa, Lomo and old box cameras,
  • Kodak instamatics, folders, miniatures, HIT and toy cameras
  •  Any SLR camera such as Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Contax, and Minolta, 
  •  Any TLR camera such as Rollei, Yashica, Argus, and Mamiya, 
  •  Any rangefinder camera such as Retinas, Yashicas, and Canonet 
  •  All medium format camera like Hasselblad, Bronica, Mamiya, Rolleiflex, Pentacon Six, etc.,
  •  And even shutters from Large Format cameras.
  • Some Leica and Russian cameras, as long as you can access both sides of the shutter.
  • Point and shoot, and APX cameras
  • This is just a partial list... many, many more can be tested.

Also measures flash duration

This tester can also measure the duration of a flash pulse. After trying it with various electronic flashes, I can see huge differences in the "light time" of  each of  the flash units. The sensor design can resolve pulses as short as 1/10,000 sec (100 micro-seconds long) as evident by the calibration check mode, so flash pulses this short can be viewed and recorded.

Here's another video showing a quick test on a Ricoh SLR camera using the built-in sensor.

And here's my latest video showing testing of a medium format Bronica SQ A model

To learn more

I'm not going to fill up this space explaining all that the Phochron XA can do. For a full description, FAQ, and many photos, go to my website: www.phochronxa.com  If you are convinced that this test set will meet all of your testing needs, please return to back my project.

I have fully working prototypes and I'm ready to launch production. That's where I need your help. I'd like to raise enough funds to build the first couple hundred of these testers. As a reward for helping me bring this to production I can offer a generous discount. I do plan to offer the Phochron XA after the kickstarter project is over, but not at this discounted price. 

sample screen of single sensor testing
sample screen of single sensor testing

 

Sample screens showing dual sensor testing
Sample screens showing dual sensor testing

Features:

  • built-in single sensor measures speeds up to 1/8000th sec
  • built-in LED light source
  • AA battery powered with auto power down
  • 2.2" color LCD
  • displays an oscilloscope style waveform of sensor signal
  • gives average time as well as min/max times
  • optional external sensor for measuring SLR curtain shutters
  • reports curtain times as measured at both ends of film plane
  • built-in user manual with photos
  • pocket size

Risks and challenges

As I have done two rounds of prototyping, I feel that the design is very stable and the software is bug free. This project has been in development for a year and a half now, and I am happy to present it to the photography community.

**If any reviewers would like to borrow one to give it a test spin, I can arrange that. I would truly appreciate any feedback on the design. **

I have experience in bringing products to market and I have years of work behind me as an electrical engineer carrying designs into the manufacturing environment. My team of co-designers is by far the best I have worked with, and I have full confidence in their design efforts.

That being said, there are always some risks in either parts availability or in tooling of the components that can delay the project. I have given it a generous time frame and I feel I can deliver it ahead of schedule.

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 1 or more About US$ 1

    Friends of Phochron

    Pledge $1 or more and you can help me to make this little product real

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  2. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 10 or more About US$ 10

    I need film

    Pledge this amount and I will send you a 36 exposure roll of Kodak Gold 400 35mm color film. Yes, you can buy this film for much less, but you will be helping fund this fun project.

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  3. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 109 or more About US$ 109

    Basic Phochron tester

    Pledge $109 and receive one Phochron XA tester with light source. Batteries included! This is a $10 savings over the MSRP of $119

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    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    23 backers
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  4. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 129 or more About US$ 129

    Deluxe Phochron XA tester

    Pledge this amount and get one Phochron XA tester, a light source and one external dual sensor module. This is a $10 saving over the MSRP of $139. Batteries included.

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  5. Reward no longer available

    Pledge US$ 99 or more About US$ 99

    Early Bird Special

    Early backers receive the reward of one Phochron XA tester with light source. This is a $20 savings over the MSRP of $119.

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    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Reward no longer available 25 backers
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  6. Reward no longer available

    Pledge US$ 119 or more About US$ 119

    Early Bird Deluxe model

    Pledge $119 and receive the Phochron XA tester, the light source, and one external dual sensor module. This is a $20 saving over the MSRP of $139. Batteries included.

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    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Reward no longer available 25 backers
    $

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Funding period

- (30 days)