The Benefit of Having a Mechanical Shutter?

| June 7, 2013 | 114 Replies

8ef43098-3a89-469a-963d-469c8a7c4185With the latest series of leaks we’ve learnt a lot more about the upcoming EOS (yet we still don’t have an exact Megapixel count); the latest of these leaks showed off a video of the EOS’s mechanical shutter in action. So I thought I’d take a plunge into the world of imaging and see why a mechanical shutter is a better option than an electronic shutter (of course I just read up on this so my facts aren’t 100% but I thought it was worth a share).

First off some background info, most phones such as 920, 820 and others have electronic/digital shutters which rather than physically closing when an image is captured instead just “turn off” the sensor. On the other hand most SLRs/DSLRs and some camera phones such as the N8 and 808 have mechanical shutters; which physically close and block the light from reaching the sensor while capturing an image. As you can see in the cinemagraph above the 808′s shutter visibly opens and closes when capturing an image, the 920 on the other hand has no “shutter lens” meaning that the camera is visible “open” as seen below.

920 Camera closeup

EDIT: Camera Guru Damien Dinning was kind enough to chip in a comment down below here it is:

Hi everyone, there are so few factually correct statements in the original piece or related comments (no disrespect intended)  I felt compelled to help explain. :)

Please note, my comments are ONLY addressing the general topic of mechanical shutters – no more.

Keeping it simple, the main reason for fitting mechanical shutters is for use with xenon flash. Typically CMOS sensors read light across the sensor from left to right and top to bottom. The time each pixel is ‘read’ is the effective shutter speed. This is OK in most cases and OK with LED flash as the light is effectively constant/continuous. LED flash in most cases being the equivalent of turning on a torch before the exposure and turning it off after the exposure has been made, effectively increasing the amount of light in the scene more or less for the duration of the picture.

In the case of xenon, the flash fires a very short ‘pulse’ of light. This pulse can be as short as approximately 1/25,000 (hence why xenon can freeze high speed movement). With a typical CMOS sensor the time difference between the 1st pixel being ‘read’ and the last is greater than this time. The result would be some pixels would be correctly exposed whilst others would be dark or even potentially black. To overcome this, the pixels are effectively read all at the same time. But to achieve this all pixels are turned on, the shutter opens, the flash fires, the shutter closes and the pixels turned off. And that’s why typically mechanical shutters have been needed in products such as n8, n82, n808. In some cases some latest generation sensors can read all their pixels at very high speed (note: again don’t ask me to comment on speculation or rumour) allowing xenon to be used. In some cases e.g. Nikon 1 series these later generation sensors are allowing for electronic shutters whi
ch can provide potential advantages in high frame rate scenarios which mechanical shutters would not be suitable for.

In some cases a hybrid approach maybe used e.g. a SE product of a few years back which featured xenon only used the mechanical shutter for flash but not other situations, which meant in that case it didn’t provide the following potential advantage….

With mechanical shutters, because the pixels are effectively read all at the same time it overcomes the motion skew effect which can typically occur with CMOS sensors due to the time difference between the first and last pixels being read. As the read time from CMOS sensors is increasing (shorter read times) this is becoming less of an issue in some cases.

Mechanical shutters do require additional space, there are no space advantages to them.

As for dust protection there is some theoretical advantage to them but in practice (at least in my experience) I have seen dust penetration in all cameras, there is a fundamental limit to what can be done to prevent dust penetration.

Hope that clarifies things.

 

So what does this all mean in terms of performance in a camera? and more importantly a camera phone? Well first off there’s the undeniably cool effect of having your shutter pop open and close ; I think this engadget comment captures it perfectly:

Screen Shot 2013-06-07 at 5.36.49 PM

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On a more serious note the main advantage of having a mechanical shutter on a camera (not a phone) is the ability to use it with an optical viewfinder (rather than a live feed/viewfinder on screen); the benefit of this is a more realistic look at what you’re capturing, plus saving on battery life (because you’re not using the screen – or really anything else). The second benefit comes in terms of production, although using a mechanical shutter is more expensive than just switching off the sensor it does allow for the usage of cheaper less complicated sensors (that can focus on doing their job), further more mechanical shutters take up less space inside a camera module than electronic sensors (for reasons I can’t understand); this is kind of important when trying to keep a camera phone as compact as possible (although I doubt the difference between the two can be *that* great).

In terms of actual photographic results mechanical shutters provide slightly better results by completely blocking off any light to the sensor; preventing any overexposure of pixels and ghosting of images while the first one is being processed:

Once the mechanical shutter is closed, circuitry is then used to shift the charge from each pixel into a storage area. Since the pixels on the sensor remain “live” during readout, if the shutter remained open, light would continue to alter the charge accumulated by each pixel during the shifting operation which could result in blur or ghosting.

Of course mechanical shutters also have the added benefit of providing a “dust barrier” to the lens, protecting it from scratches and other nasty stuff.

On the other hand Mechanical shutters are slower to react than electronic ones, meaning they limit your shutter speed, as well as throw off the synchronized timing of the flash firing and the image being captured.

Honestly the topic is pretty complicated, and I’m an imaging newbie, but I thought it would be an interesting read; for a more detailed explanation check out this great article over here:

http://www.steves-digicams.com/knowledge-center/why-digital-cameras-have-mechanical-shutters.html#b

If anyone would like to add something to this please feel free to chip in down below :)

And of course who wouldn’t his camera to look like this?

tumblr_mh59yyQIoq1rdwt3zo1_500

Edit:

Here’re some useful points/corrections that Werner Ruotsalainen pointed out in the comments:

Why not? :) See below.

“Honestly the topic is pretty complicated, and I’m an imaging newbie, but I thought it would be an interesting read; for a more detailed explanation check out this great article over here: http://www.steves-digicams.com/knowledge-center/why-digital-cameras-have-mechanical-shutters.html#b

Well, this article doesn’t mention a LOT of things: blooming and, also very importantly, rolling shutter. Both affect electronic shutters in most cases really bad.

“On a more serious note the main advantage of having a mechanical shutter on a camera (not a phone) is the ability to use it with an optical viewfinder (rather than a live feed/viewfinder on screen); the benefit of this is a more realistic look at what you’re capturing, plus saving on battery life (because you’re not using the screen – or really anything else).”

??? Are you sure you did mean “if you have a mechanical shutter, you don’t need to power / sample sensor at all because you can also use the optical viewfinder?” This isn’t really true.

1, if you use live view on mirror cameras, the sensor will be sampled all the time.
2, if you don’t, the system may decide to entirely power down the sensor to save power / keep the sensor cool.
3, nevertheless, mechanical shutters – and this is the most important part! – are always open even on DSLR’s with true mirrors, that is, an alternate way of light. They only close immediately before taking an image and AFTER setting exposure, based on the previous sensor readout (the optical way of light can only be used for PDAF, not for exposure / ISO setting). That is, there’s no difference between purely electronic and mechanical systems at all in this respect.

“Of course mechanical shutters also have the added benefit of providing a “dust barrier” to the lens, protecting it from scratches and other nasty stuff.”

VERY few mechanical shutters double as retractable / automatic lens protectors. Most of them are either in the lens (most P&S models) or directly in front of the sensor (all current ILC’s). The reason for this is simple: retractable / automatic lens protectors are prone to stuck (because of liquids / dust) / damaged by the user AND, in general, there are points in the line of light where a much smaller shutter can do, while the front lens, generally, is of much higher diameter than some of the inner lens.

If the lens protectors get stuck, the camera itself can still take images. However, if they also double as mechanical shutters, the camera itself becomes useless as it won’t be able to take pics at all.

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Category: Lumia, Nokia, Symbian, Windows Phone

About the Author ()

Hey, my name's Ali- Currently a fifth (and final) year Dental Student from Chicago; studying in Jordan. I love all sorts of gadgets almost as much as I love my cookies! Be sure to follow my Twitter handle @AliQudsi and Subcribe to my Youtube for the latest videos - no pressure. Thanks.
  • Janne

    How did we ever get by before cinemagraphs. :)

  • nabkawe

    BTW on the last cinemagraph have it bounce instead of repeat (Go to the Loop+speed settings for that . :)

    • http://aligonemobile.blogspot.com/ Aliqudsi

      That wasn’t my doing; that was a gif I found, popular scene from the Hobbit, where Smaug opens his eyes

      • nabkawe

        I guess I should have noticed from the aspect ratio alone. :)

  • ramirogz

    Its a bit more complicated and a few facts here are confusing… Typically in DSLRs the shutter is BEHIND the lens (sensor-shutter-mirror-lens-cap), the N8/808 has the shutter in front of all the glass elements, BUT behind the Gorilla Glass protective glass, so it does nothing protecting the lens in either way. What you are referring to is not like an integrated lens cap or something like that. The N82 for example had a cover to protect the lens, but thats not a shutter by any means.
    Electronic shutters are more precise and provide more consistent output, since they immediately block ALL light, the sensor cannot to that that fast.

    • nabkawe

      I just hope Nokia created a mix&match of the two techs, I had no issues taking picture with the 808 and I don’t see why I would do so with an even better hardware.

      • ramirogz

        My only concerns are:
        -no removable battery, kind of a deal breaker for me.
        -no removable storage… come on!
        -I can live without any kind of video with… buts a meh…
        -The flash looks weaker! :(
        -I have really low expectations on the camera UI :(

        I would not bet this unit is 41mpx and OIS… that would the too much of a miracle, and still looks to think for that.

        I expect the processor / ram to match those on 920s, people expecting MORE are waaaaaaaaaaay out of mind, the sensor/optics alone of this thing are too pricey, put all high end and we will be having a 999dls device. There is a reason people buy 999dls lens, or 2000dls body only cameras, this phone is going after that niche and we understand how pricey real good glass and big sensors are.

        • http://bongotricks.com hemedans

          you hate it before anouncement

        • dss

          No removable battery and no sd card slot are the two main drawbacks

          • xconomicron

            Indeed, but if this is a direct port or a phase 3 sensor…then I can live without them.

          • Bazil

            Iphones has none of them and noone seems to bother. You are asking for something that would add more bulk to an already big phone.

            • Werner Ruotsalainen

              “Iphones has none of them and noone seems to bother. ”

              That’s not really true. Tech literate people do bother. Particularly now that the iPhone 5 has turned out to be having a pretty weak and short-lived battery – even weaker than previous iPhone models (see my posts at http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1587134&page=2 (under the nickname “menneisyys2″) for more info if interest. I particularly recommend my 3GS battery gallery on Flicker: http://www.flickr.com/photos/33448355@N07/sets/72157633931601917/ . Yes, those ARE Apple’s own batteries in two iPhone 3GS’es…)

            • Douglas

              The iPhone was never designed for someone who asked a lot of their phone. Nokia’s audience here is slightly different.

              • Werner Ruotsalainen

                Definitely. Nokia’s top-end camera phones, particularly the 808, have always targeted us tech literate “geeks”. The target of the iPhone is exactly the opposite. This is why they try to keep it as simple as possible, even by losing geeks and tech literate people, who gradually switch to more configurable / open systems like Android or WP.

                • Marc Aurel

                  WP is hardly much more configurable or open than iOS from end user perspective. WP 7.x was basically a clone of iOS in that regard. WP8 has been opened up just a little bit (SD card support and MTP for file transfers), but really not much at all.

                  • Janne

                    Well I think a configurable home screen (as opposed to just icons) is a big configurability differentiator for WP compared to iOS.

                    • Janne

                      (But of course it is true Microsoft chose for WP ecosystem many of the same closed principles as iOS.)

                  • Werner Ruotsalainen

                    Yup, WP isn’t particularly open (yet), but I think it’s going to the right direction and there has been much more development in recent year than with iOS.

                    Also, while I don’t particularly like the current Surface RT _hardware_ (it’s just too low-res for me), the OS itself (the software) is definitely better, more thought-out and capable than iOS 6, multitasking-wise (I’ve explained this at length at http://forums.macrumors.com/showpost.php?p=17202307&postcount=120 if anyone interested).

                    Also, Nokia definitely makes sure Microsoft is actively developing WP.

                    iOS has become pretty stale now – iOS 6 is a disaster not introducing almost anything new. While I still use the iPad 3 and 4 because of their screen, I’m seriously contemplating getting a high-end Android tablet. Or a Surface Pro, if Haswell indeed makes them absolutely quiet (no active cooling) and the battery life will also be great. I’m just sick of being in continuous fear of losing my jailbreak and becoming unable to use some essential tweaks like f.lux or symlinks. (Symlinks are essential, given that the current file sharing mechanism in iOS is laughably pathetic. My writeup on iOS symlinks btw: http://www.iphonelife.com/blog/87/tutorial-how-you-can-use-your-memory-card-appstore-apps-external-ipad-storage-memory )

          • Fritz Pinguin

            How do you know about the battery? Did it ever come to your mind to open the rear-side cover? You have free sight to a removable battery, and once you take it out there you see the mSDCard-Holder next to the SIMCard holder.

            Si tacuisses …

        • Diazene

          seriously, the BOM of the SGS IV is like 200 and something USD, phones don’t cost that much to make, and just look at the price of the 808, a SD 600 costs like $20 BTW

          removable battery is quite useless, a backup microUSB battery is much more practical (can be used with many phones, and charged independantly, doesn’t require a restart…), and safer

          • Marc Aurel

            Well, a backup microUSB battery is handy to have (I have one), but using the phone with it is usually less than ideal, especially if you have one of those bigger batteries. So removable battery is still far from useless.

            Other reasons for a removable battery is longevity (if you plan to give the phone to relatives after you get a new one for example) and resale value. The non-removable battery does not seem to affect iPhone’s resale value, but that’s just the reality distortion field working. For any other phones non-removable battery is going to hurt it.

        • nabkawe

          I think just like the 808 , a dedicated camera chip will process images and ease up on your rams.

    • drexter

      Slrs can change lenses thats why the shutter is behind it.
      But a visible shutter after the lens is so badass to look at :-)

    • Werner Ruotsalainen

      “Electronic shutters are more precise and provide more consistent output, since they immediately block ALL light, the sensor cannot to that that fast.”

      With cameras with global shutter (e.g., many CCD ones), yes – then, there will be no rolling shutter effects. Otherwise, not – with most CMOS cameras / sensors without a global shutter, mechanical shutter delivers far better IQ (much less pronounced rolling shutter, less blooming).

    • http://twitter.com/haranguemnb Harangue

      There is oen big problem here, many people here compare a phone camera with a (D)SLR as if both work the same. In principle it might be so, but a (D)SLR is a totally different beast from a compact or phone camera.

      The DSLR stems from the days of physical film. The only change for a DSLR is that it isn’t the film that gets exposed but the sensor. How does it work you say? Well, there is a mirror inside the camera body that sits just in front of the sensor (or film in the old days) when you look through the viewfinder you see what is reflected by the mirror. When you go to snap the picture the mirror flips upward and exposes the sensor (or film) and thus lets the camera take a picture. That is the SHHHTIIICK! sound you hear.

      When you set a longer exposure time you can hear the time it takes between when the mirror tips up and exposes the sensor and flips back down when the exposure time is expired.

      Compact camera’s and phones don’t have this kind of mirror action and just rely on a rather simple slide that goed in front of the lens. The difference is that most compacts and definitly phones don’t have viewfinders and thus have to use the screen as a viewfinder. The shutter is always open to give the user that preview. It only really shuts when you are about to snap a picture. The exact working I don’t know as I’m more familiar with SLR’s than the workings of the smaller phone lenses.

      And yes, a DSLR always has the shutter behing the lens. Always! The mirror is the shutter and that is always in the body and not in the lens. Only really weird and fancy models might have it different, but mainstream models definitely not.

      Not really a reply this actually, more a random comment :P

      • http://twitter.com/haranguemnb Harangue

        Missed a little step there, it is lens, mirror, shutter, sensor.
        Omitted the shutter part, nevertheless the sound a camera makes is the mirror folding away. Not so much the shutter.

        • Werner Ruotsalainen

          “nevertheless the sound a camera makes is the mirror folding away. Not so much the shutter.”

          Depends on the model. Particularly focal-plane shutters can be VERY noisy. You can make the mirror’s switching up / down much slower to greatly decrease the noise this generates. (Or completely eliminate it by using Live View – with all its associated problems, for example, the slowness of CDAF on most non-Sony DSRL’s.) However, as the shutter can’t be “slowed down”, it’ll always be noisy, even if you don’t use the mirror at all.

          One of the solutions is not closing the shutter before opening it again and taking the shot – this is called the electronic first shutter. This, effectively, reduces the noise by half and also greatly reduces the vibration effecting taking the shot itself. However, it’s only available on some models (e.g., the Sony NEX 5R and 6).

          Fully electronic shutters (when mechanical shutter isn’t used at all), as I’ve explained below, may suffer from rolling shutter and, particularly on Fuji’s cameras, blooming. These aren’t issues when using mechanical shutters.

      • Werner Ruotsalainen

        “And yes, a DSLR always has the shutter behing the lens. Always! The mirror is the shutter and that is always in the body and not in the lens. Only really weird and fancy models might have it different, but mainstream models definitely not.”

        Nope. The mirror doesn’t (it cannot) double as the shutter. The reason for this is simple: you couldn’t make it sufficiently fast. I’d say it’d be impossible to make a completely mirror-based shutter faster than 1/30s. Focal shutters can easily be faster than two orders of magnitude (some even deliver 1/8000 second)!

        On top of it, it’d result in VERY bad rolling shutter effect as, effectively, it’d move upwards, expose the sensor’s surface line-by-line.

        • http://twitter.com/haranguemnb Harangue

          Right on, missed a few steps there as I was typing. Mind was further ahead than the fingers on the keyboard were. Need to read back my comments more often :P

          Anyway, the comparison between DSLR’s and the tiny cameraphone lens assemblies is moot IMHO. The difference are too large.

        • Marc Aurel

          You can also get a rolling shutter effect from any curtain-type focal plane shutter*, because different parts of the sensor/film are exposed at slightly different times. That is also the reason why DSLR’s can’t sync the flash at higher shutter speeds.

          * Yes, there has been some leaf focal plane shutters in history, but not in modern cameras.

          • Werner Ruotsalainen

            Yup, you can; this is why I recommended the GH3 article below, which shows the non-infinitely small effects of the horizontal-moving curtain.

            Fortunately, with Nokia’s high-end cameras (808 and EOS) the fully electronic full sensor readout (important in videos) isn’t as prone to skewing as in, say, the GH3. After all, Damian has only stated the main reason to build in a mechanical shutter was to support the Xenon flash. This implicitly means the sensor has no readout speed problems making the usage of a mechanical shutter mandatory, unlike the above-mentioned GH3.

            This was to be expected, though – after all, the 808 also had a sensor that could be read REALLY fast.

  • I HAVE OCD

    Sorry but I just wanna wipe that 808 Camera gif. So much fingerprints and scratches! haha

  • eli

    There is no such thing as an external shutter thats used it pratice… A shutter is a very delicate and sensitive mechanism…. we are talking about speeds that range from 1/sec to 1/4000 sec in high end applications. Having an exposed shutter would be far more careless and breakable than having an exposed frontal lens.

  • http://r twig

    Hope they do some cross merchandising with Xbox one, special apps, contest with Xbox One, rewards and join advertising campaign for both and we will need a Nokia bag for this and a Nokia tablet. Leather with Nokia on the side.

  • Ady

    Doesn’t xenon flash require a mechanical shutter with it?

    • dss

      Yes.

      • Ady

        There you go, my theory solved the massive problem… relatively. Now what’s the matter?

      • Werner Ruotsalainen

        Basically, the reason for this is simply that when your flash duration is shorter than the length of time it takes to sample the image, then, the flash output will have ceased by the time part of the image is sampled and thus it will appear dark.

        The same thing occurs when using a mechanical shutter once you go above the sync speed (usually 1/250s). Beyond this point the shutter starts to close before it is fully open so there is no point in time where the entire sensor is exposed to the light flash so some of the image will be dark.

        Advancements (vast speed increase) in the sensor readout technology may, some time, eliminate this problem.

        • Marc Aurel

          The sync speed problem only applies to curtain type shutters used in DSLR’s and (most) other interchangeable lens cameras. In-lens “leaf” shutters can sync at any speed the shutter is capable of, typically at least 1/2000 seconds in modern compact cameras (but longer for larger formats with in-lens shutter option like Hasselblads due to larger lens, typically 1/500 s).

    • MdN

      Exactly. I remember when Damian Dinning said that the N8 had to have a mechanical shutter because of Xenon. I don’t know the technical explanation, though.

      • Grazy

        does this mean the 928 has a mechanical shutter too?

        • Werner Ruotsalainen

          All camera-oriented Nokia handsets, as I’ve pointed out in the comment section of the other article, have had mechanical shutter, regardless of whether they have a Xenon flash or not.

          Electronic shutters simply can’t deliver the same IQ as mechanical ones because of the blooming effect.

          • Werner Ruotsalainen

            Note: the Nokia 92x series has fully el. shutters. Nevertheless, the daylight outdoors IQ of the 920 isn’t as good as that of, say, the iPhone5. The latter uses mechanical shutters.

            Probably the 920′s outdoors IQ inferiority to even the iPhone 5 is at least partly caused by the el. shutter – dunno.

            • http://twitter.com/haranguemnb Harangue

              iP5 uses mechanical shutter? Really, can’t find any proof of that and also find it hard to believe that it does as most tiny (thin) camera modules don’t have mechanical shutters.

              • Werner Ruotsalainen

                IIRC, it does. (Can’t check it now as it’s being repaired. The battery has died – after no more than half a year… of course, some of this was in -30C (I took a LOT of pano pics in the Finnish winter) but still… I would have expected MUCH more.)

    • Andreas

      Most point & shoot cameras come with a xenon flash and a electronic shutter. Not sure why it would be any different for a phone.

      • Werner Ruotsalainen

        Those are low-IQ cameras; hence the electronic shutter. There’s a reason NO DSLR’s / ILC’s have purely electronic shutter. They, in higher-quality / priced (over $500) cameras, if at all exist, are optional.

        Also see my Nikon System 1-specific comments under other article:

        1, if you do use its optional fully electronic shutter, there will be blooming in the image

        2, there’s a reason Sony haven’t added full electronic shutter to their enthusiast cameras (5r, 6), “only” first curtain electronic shutters. Again, the current state of sensor technology just doesn’t make it possible to deliver the same IQ with purely electronic shutters as with at least partly mechanical ones.

  • dss

    The pixels stay true to their size. The digital shutters eat away from the pixel size, mechanical does not.

    • tiyo xi

      +1

    • Werner Ruotsalainen

      Not only that – the IQ is sometimes severely degraded because of oversaturation / blooming.

  • http://twitter.com/alvetica Al

    It would be nice if the wireless charging cover comes with a lens cap.

    • Viipottaja

      Oh no, no more bulk please. If the charging cover makes the back almost flush then its great.

      Sure, they could make couple of options.

      • Werner Ruotsalainen

        Yup, for example, using a scratch-resistant material on the outermost lens’ surface. Then, it could be just wiped in any kind of clothes before using without having to fear it gets scratched.

        Now that the iPhone 5 has a rigid (zaphire) lens, I’ve been doing this – that is, before taking a pic (which I frequently do on my iPhone5, given that its camera is pretty decent, particularly in pano mode), I just wipe it on my coat / shirt / anything. No scratches so far. With a less rigid material (e.g., plastic or, I think, even ordinary glass), it would already be full of scratches.

        • Viipottaja

          I would think Gorilla Glass would be suffiently scratch resistant as probably 99.9% of people don’t wipe the lens every time like you do. Perhaps it would be ok even in your use case scenario.

          Btw, I recall an AAS story from couple of years ago about the impact of scratches on the lens cover glass and it basically showed that it is much less than one would perhaps intuitively imagine.

          • Marc Aurel

            Yes, that is true. Even scratches in the front element of the lens typically are not very serious. I have seen a comparison between a non-scratched and very visibly scratched front element of the same lens and basically the latter had just slightly less contrast. It’s the back element where you don’t want absolutely any scratches and minimum dust (not a problem in fixed lens cameras, of course).

            Still, caution is advised with lenses. I usually carry a small microfiber cloth for cleaning the lens. €3.95 at Clas Ohlson, more at your local camera store…

  • D Harries

    Does the 928 have mechanical shutter with it’s xenon flash?

    The latest Lumias record information before and after taking the picture, for instance, to remove an unwanted person. Could you do this with a mechanical shutter? Or will EOS leave out some of these latest features?

    • torcida

      !?

      The only thing that removes e.g. one person on a Lumia is the SW!!

      • Diazene

        yes, it needs many pictures to do that, including ones before pressing the camera button

    • Bazil

      SmartCam takes many pictures instead of just one. The type of the shutter has nothing to do with that.

      • Janne

        I guess a mechanical shutter might affect how fast those pictures can be taken, though?

  • Andreas

    For a point & shoot I don’t really see the point with a mechanical shutter which is more likely to break. Having used a Nikon V2 for a while I very much prefer the super accurate, extremely fast, and totaly quiet electronic shutter.

    I’m not sure which is cheaper to produce, but I would rather see they provided a lens cover to avoid scratches and smudges on the protecive glass.

    • Werner Ruotsalainen

      “Having used a Nikon V2 for a while I very much prefer the super accurate, extremely fast, and totaly quiet electronic shutter.”

      Has the 1 System’s V2 fixed the V1′s rolling shutter and blooming problems?

      • Andreas

        I’m just a hobby photographer so I’m not the right person to answer this question. All I know is that it’s a great camera for it’s size :-) It’s not like every other picture will be useless becasue of blooming (under exposure and RAW is always an option to produce high quality stuff). A V2 using a electronic shutter is producing better images than a 808 using a mechanical shutter for other reasons.

        I don’t think a mechanical shutter would make any difference in a phone camera as there are other limits in quality. But hey, why not if it’s not a huge difference in price. But I rather see they spend their time and money developing an automatic lens cover. Because In the end, scratches and smudges on the glass will be the biggest reason for images looking bad.

        Also, Thank you for your answer on the other topic!

        • Werner Ruotsalainen

          “A V2 using a electronic shutter is producing better images than a 808 using a mechanical shutter for other reasons.”

          Yup, it’s not really fair to compare a (currently, pretty expensive – it’ll only go down in price when V3 is released) ICL system to a phone. Both the lens and pixel size are waaay bigger in the System 1 cameras; no wonder they deliver, among other things, considerably better dynamic range.

          “I don’t think a mechanical shutter would make any difference in a phone camera as there are other limits in quality.”

          Yup, if the lens is crappy, the blooming / rolling shutter won’t make things much worse. No wonder lower-end phones may have exclusively el. shutters.

          Nevertheless, top phones with pretty usable cameras (e.g., the iPhone 5) use mechanical shutters even today. Surely they would have gone the fully electronic way if they delivered comparable IQ with the sensor technology Apple has. (This doesn’t mean all el. shutters are the same. Fuji’s el. shutter technology is far inferior to that of, say, Nikon. I bet even Sony has inferior el. shutter technology; this is why they still don’t have enabled / implemented it fully.)

          • Andreas

            I found this example of the GH3 showing some heavy rolling even for still images. http://m43photo.blogspot.se/2012/12/gh3-has-less-rolling-shutter-artifacts.html

            I suppose the Nikon 1 sensor is considered better when it comes to handling a electronic shutter as these kind of extreme rolling are rarely visible. Especially not on still photos where people even use this system with the FT1 adapter to take some great sport photography with shutter speeds down to 1/16000.

            Searchng the internet it seems most user of the 1 system prefer the electronic shutter and perhaps that’s why I questioned the use of a mechanical shutter in a phone.

            But, knowing the limits of some camera sensors, as you explained, I now fully understand why phones and other “cheap” sensors may need a mechanical shutter. Thank you for clearing that up.

            • Werner Ruotsalainen

              Yup, Nikon seems to have the best electronic shutter technology now. Not flawless but certainly usable.

              Pana has been trying to implement el. shutter for years – they have even spoken of this back in 2008 or 2009. Back in 2011, the photo & video folks were truly disappointed the GH2 didn’t offer any kind of el. shutter – something we had been waiting for for two years, after the release of the GH1.

              It’s probably ONLY because of the huge demand that they added a certainly half-baked el. shutter to their GH3. It’s in no way as good as that of Nikon but they had to put it in their flagship to avoid people getting angry with them.

  • Werner Ruotsalainen

    “If anyone would like to add something to this please feel free to chip in down below :)

    Why not? :) See below.

    “Honestly the topic is pretty complicated, and I’m n imaging newbie, but I thought it would be an interesting read; for a more detailed explanation check out this great article over here: http://www.steves-digicams.com/knowledge-center/why-digital-cameras-have-mechanical-shutters.html#b

    Well, this article doesn’t mention a LOT of things: blooming and, also very importantly, rolling shutter. Both affect electronic shutters in most cases really bad.

    “On a more serious note the main advantage of having a mechanical shutter on a camera (not a phone) is the ability to use it with an optical viewfinder (rather than a live feed/viewfinder on screen); the benefit of this is a more realistic look at what you’re capturing, plus saving on battery life (because you’re not using the screen – or really anything else).”

    ??? Are you sure you did mean “if you have a mechanical shutter, you don’t need to power / sample sensor at all because you can also use the optical viewfinder?” This isn’t really true.

    1, if you use live view on mirror cameras, the sensor will be sampled all the time.
    2, if you don’t, the system may decide to entirely power down the sensor to save power / keep the sensor cool.
    3, nevertheless, mechanical shutters – and this is the most important part! – are always open even on DSLR’s with true mirrors, that is, an alternate way of light. They only close immediately before taking an image and AFTER setting exposure, based on the previous sensor readout (the optical way of light can only be used for PDAF, not for exposure / ISO setting). That is, there’s no difference between purely electronic and mechanical systems at all in this respect.

    “Of course mechanical shutters also have the added benefit of providing a “dust barrier” to the lens, protecting it from scratches and other nasty stuff.”

    VERY few mechanical shutters double as retractable / automatic lens protectors. Most of them are either in the lens (most P&S models) or directly in front of the sensor (all current ILC’s). The reason for this is simple: retractable / automatic lens protectors are prone to stuck (because of liquids / dust) / damaged by the user AND, in general, there are points in the line of light where a much smaller shutter can do, while the front lens, generally, is of much higher diameter than some of the inner lens.

    If the lens protectors get stuck, the camera itself can still take images. However, if they also double as mechanical shutters, the camera itself becomes useless as it won’t be able to take pics at all.

    • http://aligonemobile.blogspot.com/ Aliqudsi

      Thanks for clearing those up, I’ll add that in an edit to the original post.

      Mind explaining a bit more about “rolling shutters?” I was under the impression that was the same thing as an electronic shutter?

      • Werner Ruotsalainen

        “Mind explaining a bit more about “rolling shutters?” I was under the impression that was the same thing as an electronic shutter?”

        Nope, it’s just that the rolling shutter effect is much more visible / evident when using the relatively slow electronic shutter (and without a global shutter, of course).

        This is why videos are, generally, much more prone to show rolling shutter effects than still shots. With the former, you can’t use mechanical shutters because it’d need to open/close 30 times a second, resulting in some major noise / vibration and pre-mature weardown on the shutter (100-200 000 activations are the most mechanical shutters can endure before breaking down) and, therfore, can only use electronic shutters. This also explains why, generally, the dynamic range of videos recorded with consumer cameras is considerably worse than those of stills.

        With still shots on the other hand, the camera can use the much faster mechanical shutter with, because of the speed, much less visible rolling shutter effect.

        Some rolling shutter effect examples (pictures):

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rolling_shutter

  • torcida

    Here for all – this is a camera module from a 808 (in this module amongst the others you see the lenses):

    http://abload.de/img/808-camera-module1du7t.png

    …and the big one here is the 808′s sensor (next to a common 5 and 8/13MP sensor):

    http://nokiarules.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/nokia-808-41mp-sensor-in-comparision.jpg?w=1500

    @ MNB:
    Please share this with a little comment because I think that many, many people doesn’t know how a (smartphone) camera is been constructed.

  • Werner Ruotsalainen

    BTW, at http://m43photo.blogspot.be/2012/12/gh3-electronic-shutter.html , there are some excellent comparison images.

    For example, the one at http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-xkhYf3Jdp9M/UNyfyZdkZ4I/AAAAAAAAEOU/QZa7GIeEBSk/s1600/gh3%2Belectronic%2Bshutter%2Btest%2Bresult%2Bmechanical.jpg (the one immediately under the text ” To illustrate what an “ideal” picture would look like, I take an exposure using the mechanical shutter first. It turns out like this, 1/1000s, ISO 6400:”) clearly shows the GH3 uses a horizontal-travel shutter, as do most other ILC’s. This is why the blade is somewhat skewed to the right: while the mechanical shutter is much-much closer to the ideal global shutter, at such high movement speeds, one can already see it isn’t truly a global one.

    The GH3′s electronic shutter, on the other hand, delivers absolutely bad results with the effective readout speed of 1/10s. The pics shot using the electronic shutter are really worth checking out in the article – they’re plain awful when it comes to rolling shutter.

  • jason

    I know its lesser known, but I have yet to see anybody mention the forgotten N86. That had a mechanical shutter AND variable aperture. Its great seeing Nokia’s camera technology all come together on one device. Can’t wait to see what EOS has in store!

  • Viipottaja

    There are humps and then there are humps…

    http://wmpoweruser.com/samsung-galaxy-s4-zoom-is-laughably-chubby-poor-competition-for-the-nokia-eos/

    the Nokia EOS is like a firm B cup compared to this protruding Triple E! :D

    • xconomicron

      Lol quasimodo failed clone…xD

  • shallow ocean shoal

    HEY! Am I the old fart here?

    The shutter is there because you can’t slide all your bits off the high-res CCD fast enough, so you snap the light source shut while you get the data to march off your CCD so you don’t have new electrons sticking to the CCD while you’re still trying to march off your data

    Or am I too old?

    • Werner Ruotsalainen

      You may want to use “CMOS” in your post :) CCD’s can be operated in global shutter mode much easier than CMOS’es.

      Albeit CMOS does not necessarily mean rolling shutter and CCD does not necessarily mean global shutter. Predominantly that is the case.

      See http://blog.abelcine.com/2009/04/15/the-difference-between-a-global-shutter-and-a-rolling-shutter/ for more info.

      • Marc Aurel

        I’d just like add that CCDs have never been used in camera phones due to higher power consumption and extra circuitry needed as opposed to CMOS.

        • shallow ocean shoal

          Hey guys, it’s like the lyrics to that old song:

          “You say CMOS, and I say BIOS…”

  • Andy

    Re the flash sync comment in the article. It depends on what kind of shutter you’re using. Most SLRs use a focal plane shutter. Which is a curtain that moves infront of the sensor/film. At high shutter speeds (e.g 1/1000s) you can’t have that curtain fully open for 1/1000th so instead it just opens a small slit and slides that slit across the frame thus exposing each area for 1/1000 of second. The issue with a flash is it’s a relatively short pulse (especially with a real flash tube) so the result at high shutter speeds with a flash is that you end up with a dark band across the frame because the flash pulse had finished before the slit had got to that part of the frame.

    Although saying that (and I’m no expert) I believe this is a leaf shutter which can sync to higher shutter speeds because they always fully open and shut rather than passing a slit across the frame. They have trouble maintaining high shutter speeds at wide apertures (longer distance to travel – less time to do it), but as this is a small lens I wouldn’t have thought that to be such an issue.

    The animation at the top is also a little off I think. The full shutter cycle would be – fully open for composing your shot, just before the picture is taken it fully closes, sensor is ready to read, shutter blips open for a fraction of a second, then fully closes, the sensor is read, then then the shutter fully opens again ready to compose the next frame.

    Although mechanical shutters are better for overall picture quality, being a moving part they are prone to wear and tear.

    Re the rolling shutter comments. It’s an artefact of reading the sensor in a serial manor. I.e reading pixels top to bottom. If you have something moving across your frame quickly, lets say a bus. When you start reading the sensor for a frame the bus is at the right hand edge, the bus keeps moving on and by the time you’ve read the last row from your sensor the bus is now at the left hand edge. The result being a single frame with a screwed version of the lines of the bus. Ideally you want to dump the entire contents of the sensor all at once so all of the pixels ‘see’ the same image. If you have s slow shutter speed the image could very well be blurred but it’ll be blurred consistently across the frame.

    • Werner Ruotsalainen

      ” They have trouble maintaining high shutter speeds at wide apertures (longer distance to travel – less time to do it), but as this is a small lens I wouldn’t have thought that to be such an issue.”

      Yup, in non-ILC’s, leaf shutters are preferred because they are orders of magnitude more quiet. This is why, for example, the Fujifilm X100, the Canon G1X and the Sony RX100 (prosumer large-sensor compact cameras) all have leaf shutters.

      The speed problem, particularly at wide open apertures, is indeed a huge problem with these leaf shutters. This is why, for example, the X100 limits 1/4000 sec to F8 or smaller aperture and, in manual mode, you can only use IIRC 1/500s with the brightest (widest) aperture setting (F2).

      Another common problem of particularly large(r), that is, ones used in larger lens, leaf shutter is their getting stuck. This is also a known problem with the X100.

      • Marc Aurel

        Leaf shutters are also smaller and less expensive than focal plane shutters. However, size is also a problem for speed. Yashica Lynx could do 1/1000 s at F/1.8 (F=45 mm) back in freakin’ 1960. With springs, even (the shutter is mechanical).

        With modern tech it would be possible to make a leaf shutter with 1/4000 s speed at full aperture, but they would have to use stronger magnets and mechanism, so it wouldn’t fit in the lens of the relatively small cameras like X100 (the 1960s rangefinders were huge by modern standards).

  • Janne

    It seems that Samsung is planning seriously to out-do Nokia in the hump department! :)

    http://www.engadget.com/2013/06/07/purported-galaxy-s-4-zoom-leaks/

    • Bassman

      That is truly hideous!

      • Werner Ruotsalainen

        And, I assume, it’ll be as cr@ppy, IQ-wise, as was the previous Galaxy camera.

        (Nevertheless, the S4 itself is a great handset – MUCH better than the iPhone 5. I plan to purchase its water / dustproof, just-announced version.)

        • Viipottaja

          Do you think you will by the Nokia EOS as well?

          Btw, I for the first time tried the G S4 in a store and was surprised how _relatively_ slow it seemed to be at opening its built in basic apps such as the phone, messaging etc. compared to my 920.. part of it may well be the clever graphical transitions of WP that add to the illusion of speed. So it may be more perception than reality, but only perception matters. :P

          • Werner Ruotsalainen

            I definitely will purchase the EOS, unless it has a fatal flaw (e.g., lack of OIS).

            • Viipottaja

              Why would lack of OIS be fatal? 808 doesn’t and it takes best pics,on any phone to date and possibly even for some time to come.

  • sholen143

    Want to see CMOS sensor in mobile camera..;-);-)
    And why you people are comparing Mobile camera with DSLRs.. it’s the different territory..

  • sholen143

    Drawback of the hump too much scratches

    • Viipottaja

      Scratches on what?

      • sholen143

        On hump of 808..see that gif at start of article..

        • Viipottaja

          Ah. Well, at least the proto of the EOS seems less scratch prone in both material and design.

  • sholen143

    I wish Nokia will provide nice back cover for EOS like the 808 had and which itself will support wireless charging..no more extra weight..

  • sholen143

    Make a tile of this bookmark..
    http://vizileaks.blogspot.in/?m=1

  • twig

    I have the 920. I want that white 925 and now the EOS. Don’t you really hate this company? This is insane !!

    • Janne

      Yes, we hate Nokia here! That’s what we do… ;)

  • Damian Dinning

    Hi everyone, there are so few factually correct statements in the original piece or related comments (no disrespect intended) I felt compelled to help explain. :)

    Please note, my comments are ONLY addressing the general topic of mechanical shutters – no more.

    Keeping it simple, the main reason for fitting mechanical shutters is for use with xenon flash. Typically CMOS sensors read light across the sensor from left to right and top to bottom. The time each pixel is ‘read’ is the effective shutter speed. This is OK in most cases and OK with LED flash as the light is effectively constant/continuous. LED flash in most cases being the equivalent of turning on a torch before the exposure and turning it off after the exposure has been made, effectively increasing the amount of light in the scene more or less for the duration of the picture.

    In the case of xenon, the flash fires a very short ‘pulse’ of light. This pulse can be as short as approximately 1/25,000 (hence why xenon can freeze high speed movement). With a typical CMOS sensor the time difference between the 1st pixel being ‘read’ and the last is greater than this time. The result would be some pixels would be correctly exposed whilst others would be dark or even potentially black. To overcome this, the pixels are effectively read all at the same time. But to achieve this all pixels are turned on, the shutter opens, the flash fires, the shutter closes and the pixels turned off. And that’s why typically mechanical shutters have been needed in products such as n8, n82, n808. In some cases some latest generation sensors can read all their pixels at very high speed (note: again don’t ask me to comment on speculation or rumour) allowing xenon to be used. In some cases e.g. Nikon 1 series these later generation sensors are allowing for electronic shutters which can provide potential advantages in high frame rate scenarios which mechanical shutters would not be suitable for.

    In some cases a hybrid approach maybe used e.g. a SE product of a few years back which featured xenon only used the mechanical shutter for flash but not other situations, which meant in that case it didn’t provide the following potential advantage….

    With mechanical shutters, because the pixels are effectively read all at the same time it overcomes the motion skew effect which can typically occur with CMOS sensors due to the time difference between the first and last pixels being read. As the read time from CMOS sensors is increasing (shorter read times) this is becoming less of an issue in some cases.

    Mechanical shutters do require additional space, there are no space advantages to them.

    As for dust protection there is some theoretical advantage to them but in practice (at least in my experience) I have seen dust penetration in all cameras, there is a fundamental limit to what can be done to prevent dust penetration.

    Hope that clarifies things.

    • MdN

      ^^ Big respect. :-) Thanks!

    • shallow ocean shoal

      THANK YOU

    • http://aligonemobile.blogspot.com/ Aliqudsi

      Thank you Mr. Dinning, I’ve added your reply to the original post. Always great to have it explained by a true imaging genius :D

    • Werner Ruotsalainen

      Thanks for making clear the new model won’t suffer from (at least major) global shutter problems (one of the biggest problems with purely electronic shutters in general) either, thanks to the fast readout of the entire sensor – unlike, say, the Pana GH3. Nokia could teach Panasonic a lesson in sensor design :)

    • ck

      Damian, thanks for the clarification :)