“Flash Sync Speed” and Other Mysteries Explained

My “Nikon D3 Shutter Release in Super Slow Motion” post from two weeks ago, in which I offered a nice presentation of the ingenious work by Marianne Oelund, garnered quite a lot of attention, quickly becoming the most popular post on my blog (which perhaps doesn't say much, but in any case, it's still – two weeks later – getting many thousands of views a day).

A lot of people have commented that they had no idea that a camera shutter was so complex, and for the most part, that's okay because, for the most part, photographers really don't need to be concerned with how the shutter works.

For the most part.

There are two situations in which knowledge of how a shutter works can really benefit a photographer:

  1. when the subject being photographed is moving very quickly (e.g. the prop of a plane)
  2. when using a flash

If you are a photographer who might ever face either situation, you owe it to yourself to read Derek Miller's most excellent:

Camera Works: shutters, flashes, and sync speed

It's a really excellent writeup about how the shutter design and operation is deeply related to how flash photography can be done. For example, it explains in a clear, concise manner “flash sync speed” and other mysteries.

Even if you never intend to use a flash, or to photograph something moving really quickly, if you're at all a camera geek, you'll love his writeup.

I can't believe it hasn't been mentioned on Strobist yet. I'm sure it's only a matter of time.

All 3 comments so far, oldest first...

I agree, that’s the best writeup I’ve seen of what many find to be a difficult subject. Have you sent the link to David Hobby, or are you taking bets on how long it’ll take him to discover it on his own?

— comment by Mark Sirota on September 18th, 2008 at 3:40am JST (15 years, 10 months ago) comment permalink

Thanks, Jeffrey. I’m a long-time fan of “Mastering Regular Expressions,” so I’m pleased you like my little blog piece. Maybe I should mention it at Strobist myself.

Ah, thanks for the kind words. I did mention your post privately to David Hobby (who runs Strobist) at the same time I wrote this post, so he’s at least been told about it. He hasn’t posted anything in ages, so he’s probably busy with something. Hopefully, it’ll at least make Speed Links the next time around… —Jeffrey

— comment by Derek K. Miller on September 22nd, 2008 at 2:46pm JST (15 years, 10 months ago) comment permalink

Thats a pretty complete description of what’s going on with the shutter.

I did a post on my blog a while back with animations that you might find interesting.


— comment by Paulo Rodrigues on September 25th, 2008 at 7:42am JST (15 years, 10 months ago) comment permalink
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