"B" shutter setting?

Discussion in 'Digital Cameras' started by Jennifer Murphy, Feb 9, 2012.

  1. I happened to see this question on an old Trivial Pursuit card:

    What does the camera shutter speed B stand for?

    The answer is "Bulb".

    Is this still used?

    Does it mean "flash"?

    What, exactly, does it do (or did it do)?
     
    Jennifer Murphy, Feb 9, 2012
    #1
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  2. Jennifer Murphy

    MG Guest

    MG, Feb 9, 2012
    #2
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  3. Jennifer Murphy

    nospam Guest

    In article <>, Jennifer
    Murphy <> wrote:

    > I happened to see this question on an old Trivial Pursuit card:
    >
    > What does the camera shutter speed B stand for?
    >
    > The answer is "Bulb".
    >
    > Is this still used?


    yes. many cameras have a 'b' or bulb setting.

    > Does it mean "flash"?


    no.

    > What, exactly, does it do (or did it do)?


    bulb is for exposures longer than the slowest built-in shutter speed,
    generally ranging from a few seconds to a few hours.

    you press the shutter release button to open the shutter, hold it down
    to keep it open and when you let go, it closes. it gets its name from
    air bulbs, similar to the one your doctor uses when taking blood
    pressure. these days, you can lock it open so you don't have to stand
    there holding it.

    there used to also be a setting called 't' for time, which was press
    once to open and press again to close. since cameras now have a way to
    lock bulb open, t isn't needed anymore.
     
    nospam, Feb 9, 2012
    #3
  4. Jennifer Murphy

    Robert Coe Guest

    On Thu, 09 Feb 2012 12:50:25 -0500, nospam <> wrote:
    : In article <>, Jennifer
    : Murphy <> wrote:
    :
    : > I happened to see this question on an old Trivial Pursuit card:
    : >
    : > What does the camera shutter speed B stand for?
    : >
    : > The answer is "Bulb".
    : >
    : > Is this still used?
    :
    : yes. many cameras have a 'b' or bulb setting.
    :
    : > Does it mean "flash"?
    :
    : no.
    :
    : > What, exactly, does it do (or did it do)?
    :
    : bulb is for exposures longer than the slowest built-in shutter speed,
    : generally ranging from a few seconds to a few hours.
    :
    : you press the shutter release button to open the shutter, hold it down
    : to keep it open and when you let go, it closes. it gets its name from
    : air bulbs, similar to the one your doctor uses when taking blood
    : pressure.

    Does anyone else question that etymology? Since I first picked up a camera,
    I've understood the "bulb" referred to by the "B" setting to be a flashbulb.
    Early flashbulbs had a variety of speeds at which they reached full
    brightness, and some flash units were independent of the camera and had to be
    set off by hand. (My dad had one of those.) I was told that the "B" setting
    was to accommodate the variety of different equipment in use.

    I consider the air-release bulb explanation to be suspect anyway, because I
    doubt that an air release could be counted on to hold pressure well enough to
    guarantee that the shutter would stay open. I've seen air releases used a fair
    number of times, but never to control a long exposure. For that you would have
    used a cable release with a ratchet or screw lock. An air release was for when
    you were too far from the camera to use a cable release.

    I realize that I'm at odds with Wikipedia. But it wouldn't be the first time
    they've been wrong.

    Bob
     
    Robert Coe, Feb 17, 2012
    #4
  5. Jennifer Murphy

    nospam Guest

    In article <>, Robert Coe
    <> wrote:

    > : > What, exactly, does it do (or did it do)?
    > :
    > : bulb is for exposures longer than the slowest built-in shutter speed,
    > : generally ranging from a few seconds to a few hours.
    > :
    > : you press the shutter release button to open the shutter, hold it down
    > : to keep it open and when you let go, it closes. it gets its name from
    > : air bulbs, similar to the one your doctor uses when taking blood
    > : pressure.
    >
    > Does anyone else question that etymology?


    i don't. i remember air bulb shutter releases, and it wasn't all that
    long ago either. cable releases work well for short distances, but for
    longer runs they tend to bind. using air is a lot more reliable.

    > Since I first picked up a camera,
    > I've understood the "bulb" referred to by the "B" setting to be a flashbulb.
    > Early flashbulbs had a variety of speeds at which they reached full
    > brightness, and some flash units were independent of the camera and had to be
    > set off by hand. (My dad had one of those.) I was told that the "B" setting
    > was to accommodate the variety of different equipment in use.


    some cameras had multiple flash sync terminals to match flash bulb
    timings versus electronic flash.

    > I consider the air-release bulb explanation to be suspect anyway, because I
    > doubt that an air release could be counted on to hold pressure well enough to
    > guarantee that the shutter would stay open. I've seen air releases used a fair
    > number of times, but never to control a long exposure. For that you would have
    > used a cable release with a ratchet or screw lock. An air release was for when
    > you were too far from the camera to use a cable release.


    ever have your blood pressure taken? that seems to hold pretty well,
    does it not?

    > I realize that I'm at odds with Wikipedia. But it wouldn't be the first time
    > they've been wrong.


    true, but this isn't one of them.
     
    nospam, Feb 17, 2012
    #5
  6. Jennifer Murphy

    Peter Irwin Guest

    Robert Coe <> wrote:
    >
    > Does anyone else question that etymology? Since I first picked up a camera,
    > I've understood the "bulb" referred to by the "B" setting to be a flashbulb.


    It can't be. "B" appears on shutters made well before the advent
    of flashbulbs. You can see "B" on late 19th century shutters,
    while flashbulbs were developed in the late 1920s and were rare
    before the 1930s.

    The "B" setting is useful for open flash with bulbs or flashpowder,
    but the "bulb" of the name is the pneumatic release.
    >
    > I consider the air-release bulb explanation to be suspect anyway, because I
    > doubt that an air release could be counted on to hold pressure well enough to
    > guarantee that the shutter would stay open. I've seen air releases used a fair
    > number of times, but never to control a long exposure.


    That's because you haven't met good ones. Good quality rubber
    bulbs, valves and hoses can hold pressure all day. They used
    to be common in the era of pneumatic shutters 100 years ago.

    > An air release was for when
    > you were too far from the camera to use a cable release.


    The cable release started taking over from the air release about
    100 years ago. It happened about the same time that clockwork
    shutters started taking over from pneumatic ones. (You can use
    a cable release with many pneumatic shutters, the standard screw
    fitting is actually originally intended to fit the Compound pneumatic
    shutters, but by and large you can't hook up a hose directly to
    a clockwork shutter.)

    Peter.
    --
     
    Peter Irwin, Feb 17, 2012
    #6
  7. Robert Coe <> writes:

    > On Thu, 09 Feb 2012 12:50:25 -0500, nospam <> wrote:
    > : In article <>, Jennifer
    > : Murphy <> wrote:
    > :
    > : > I happened to see this question on an old Trivial Pursuit card:
    > : >
    > : > What does the camera shutter speed B stand for?
    > : >
    > : > The answer is "Bulb".
    > : >
    > : > Is this still used?
    > :
    > : yes. many cameras have a 'b' or bulb setting.
    > :
    > : > Does it mean "flash"?
    > :
    > : no.
    > :
    > : > What, exactly, does it do (or did it do)?
    > :
    > : bulb is for exposures longer than the slowest built-in shutter speed,
    > : generally ranging from a few seconds to a few hours.
    > :
    > : you press the shutter release button to open the shutter, hold it down
    > : to keep it open and when you let go, it closes. it gets its name from
    > : air bulbs, similar to the one your doctor uses when taking blood
    > : pressure.
    >
    > Does anyone else question that etymology? Since I first picked up a camera,
    > I've understood the "bulb" referred to by the "B" setting to be a flashbulb.
    > Early flashbulbs had a variety of speeds at which they reached full
    > brightness, and some flash units were independent of the camera and had to be
    > set off by hand. (My dad had one of those.) I was told that the "B" setting
    > was to accommodate the variety of different equipment in use.
    >
    > I consider the air-release bulb explanation to be suspect anyway, because I
    > doubt that an air release could be counted on to hold pressure well enough to
    > guarantee that the shutter would stay open. I've seen air releases used a fair
    > number of times, but never to control a long exposure. For that you would have
    > used a cable release with a ratchet or screw lock. An air release was for when
    > you were too far from the camera to use a cable release.


    I've used air releases, for the sort of time that would be needed to
    trigger a bulb, I've never had one leak down enough to close the
    shutter. (This doesn't mean I can in any way confirm that etymology;
    but my experience is that an air release *could* be used as described,
    at least.)

    For real time exposures, you use the "T" shutter setting of course,
    which doesn't have those problems.

    (Another advantage of bulb releases is that the tubing was less stiff,
    so it was harder to move the camera accidentally while manipulating it.)

    > I realize that I'm at odds with Wikipedia. But it wouldn't be the first time
    > they've been wrong.


    Indeed not.

    What citations do they give to support the current article?
    --
    David Dyer-Bennet, ; http://dd-b.net/
    Snapshots: http://dd-b.net/dd-b/SnapshotAlbum/data/
    Photos: http://dd-b.net/photography/gallery/
    Dragaera: http://dragaera.info
     
    David Dyer-Bennet, Feb 17, 2012
    #7
  8. Jennifer Murphy

    Eric Stevens Guest

    On Fri, 17 Feb 2012 16:44:29 -0500, Robert Coe <> wrote:

    >On Thu, 09 Feb 2012 12:50:25 -0500, nospam <> wrote:
    >: In article <>, Jennifer
    >: Murphy <> wrote:
    >:
    >: > I happened to see this question on an old Trivial Pursuit card:
    >: >
    >: > What does the camera shutter speed B stand for?
    >: >
    >: > The answer is "Bulb".
    >: >
    >: > Is this still used?
    >:
    >: yes. many cameras have a 'b' or bulb setting.
    >:
    >: > Does it mean "flash"?
    >:
    >: no.
    >:
    >: > What, exactly, does it do (or did it do)?
    >:
    >: bulb is for exposures longer than the slowest built-in shutter speed,
    >: generally ranging from a few seconds to a few hours.
    >:
    >: you press the shutter release button to open the shutter, hold it down
    >: to keep it open and when you let go, it closes. it gets its name from
    >: air bulbs, similar to the one your doctor uses when taking blood
    >: pressure.
    >
    >Does anyone else question that etymology? Since I first picked up a camera,
    >I've understood the "bulb" referred to by the "B" setting to be a flashbulb.
    >Early flashbulbs had a variety of speeds at which they reached full
    >brightness, and some flash units were independent of the camera and had to be
    >set off by hand. (My dad had one of those.) I was told that the "B" setting
    >was to accommodate the variety of different equipment in use.


    In the early days of photography exposures could range from 1/20sec to
    20sec. So-called 'instantaneous' shutters could cope with the shorter
    exposures but the longer exposures had to be conducted by the
    photographer. In the very early days the conventional way for the
    photographer to do this was by removing the lens cap and then putting
    it back again. Manufacturers of instantaneous shutters began to offer
    the ability for the photographer to hold the shutter open for the
    desired length of time and then to release it.

    In these early days pneumatic systems utilising rubber bulbs were the
    predominate type of remote control for shutters. As well as the
    various instantaneous speed settings, shutters would offer the
    photographer the opportunity to directly control the exposure via the
    bulb rather than leaving it to the timer in the shutter. So that's all
    the 'B' means, that the shutter is under the control of the Bulb.

    >I consider the air-release bulb explanation to be suspect anyway, because I
    >doubt that an air release could be counted on to hold pressure well enough to
    >guarantee that the shutter would stay open. I've seen air releases used a fair
    >number of times, but never to control a long exposure. For that you would have
    >used a cable release with a ratchet or screw lock. An air release was for when
    >you were too far from the camera to use a cable release.


    Depending on their condition, air releases are good for several
    minutes, or longer. It all depends upon how they are designed and
    built.
    >
    >I realize that I'm at odds with Wikipedia. But it wouldn't be the first time
    >they've been wrong.
    >
    >Bob


    Regards,

    Eric Stevens
     
    Eric Stevens, Feb 17, 2012
    #8
  9. Jennifer Murphy

    Eric Stevens Guest

    On Fri, 17 Feb 2012 22:31:46 +0000 (UTC), Peter Irwin <>
    wrote:

    >Robert Coe <> wrote:
    >>
    >> Does anyone else question that etymology? Since I first picked up a camera,
    >> I've understood the "bulb" referred to by the "B" setting to be a flashbulb.

    >
    >It can't be. "B" appears on shutters made well before the advent
    >of flashbulbs. You can see "B" on late 19th century shutters,
    >while flashbulbs were developed in the late 1920s and were rare
    >before the 1930s.


    First flashes were in 1899. See
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flash-lamp
    >
    >The "B" setting is useful for open flash with bulbs or flashpowder,
    >but the "bulb" of the name is the pneumatic release.
    >>
    >> I consider the air-release bulb explanation to be suspect anyway, because I
    >> doubt that an air release could be counted on to hold pressure well enough to
    >> guarantee that the shutter would stay open. I've seen air releases used a fair
    >> number of times, but never to control a long exposure.

    >
    >That's because you haven't met good ones. Good quality rubber
    >bulbs, valves and hoses can hold pressure all day. They used
    >to be common in the era of pneumatic shutters 100 years ago.
    >
    >> An air release was for when
    >> you were too far from the camera to use a cable release.

    >
    >The cable release started taking over from the air release about
    >100 years ago. It happened about the same time that clockwork
    >shutters started taking over from pneumatic ones. (You can use
    >a cable release with many pneumatic shutters, the standard screw
    >fitting is actually originally intended to fit the Compound pneumatic
    >shutters, but by and large you can't hook up a hose directly to
    >a clockwork shutter.)
    >
    >Peter.


    Regards,

    Eric Stevens
     
    Eric Stevens, Feb 17, 2012
    #9
  10. Jennifer Murphy

    Peter Irwin Guest

    Eric Stevens <> wrote:
    > On Fri, 17 Feb 2012 22:31:46 +0000 (UTC), Peter Irwin <>
    > wrote:
    >>It can't be. "B" appears on shutters made well before the advent
    >>of flashbulbs. You can see "B" on late 19th century shutters,
    >>while flashbulbs were developed in the late 1920s and were rare
    >>before the 1930s.

    >
    > First flashes were in 1899. See
    > http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flash-lamp


    That "Flash lamp" is a device for setting off flash powder,
    not a flashbulb.

    Peter.
    --
     
    Peter Irwin, Feb 18, 2012
    #10
  11. Jennifer Murphy

    Neil Ellwood Guest

    On Fri, 17 Feb 2012 16:44:29 -0500, Robert Coe wrote:

    > On Thu, 09 Feb 2012 12:50:25 -0500, nospam <>
    > wrote:
    > : In article <>, Jennifer :
    > Murphy <> wrote:
    > :
    > : > I happened to see this question on an old Trivial Pursuit card:
    > : >
    > : > What does the camera shutter speed B stand for?
    > : >
    > : > The answer is "Bulb".
    > : >
    > : > Is this still used?
    > :
    > : yes. many cameras have a 'b' or bulb setting.
    > :
    > : > Does it mean "flash"?
    > :
    > : no.
    > :
    > : > What, exactly, does it do (or did it do)?
    > :
    > : bulb is for exposures longer than the slowest built-in shutter speed,
    > : generally ranging from a few seconds to a few hours.
    > :
    > : you press the shutter release button to open the shutter, hold it down
    > : to keep it open and when you let go, it closes. it gets its name from
    > : air bulbs, similar to the one your doctor uses when taking blood :
    > pressure.
    >
    > Does anyone else question that etymology?

    I don't.
    In the early 60's I acquired an old plate camera (with a lot of other
    stuff) from a church jumble sale. The camera had a name plate that
    included a date of 1898. The shutter was marked with 1/50 1/25 1/4 sec
    and B, T.

    Since I first picked up a
    > camera, I've understood the "bulb" referred to by the "B" setting to be
    > a flashbulb. Early flashbulbs had a variety of speeds at which they
    > reached full brightness, and some flash units were independent of the
    > camera and had to be set off by hand. (My dad had one of those.) I was
    > told that the "B" setting was to accommodate the variety of different
    > equipment in use.


    This was before the introduction of Flash bulbs.
    >
    > I consider the air-release bulb explanation to be suspect anyway,
    > because I doubt that an air release could be counted on to hold pressure
    > well enough to guarantee that the shutter would stay open. I've seen air
    > releases used a fair number of times, but never to control a long
    > exposure. For that you would have used a cable release with a ratchet or
    > screw lock. An air release was for when you were too far from the camera
    > to use a cable release.
    >
    > I realize that I'm at odds with Wikipedia. But it wouldn't be the first
    > time they've been wrong.
    >
    > Bob


    I never rely on wikipedia.



    --
    Neil
    Reverse ‘a’ and 'r' then delete ‘l’ for address.
     
    Neil Ellwood, Feb 18, 2012
    #11
  12. Jennifer Murphy

    Alan Browne Guest

    On 2012-02-18 12:28 , Neil Ellwood wrote:
    > I never rely on wikipedia.


    Nor should you rely on any single source.


    --
    "We demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty."
    Douglas Adams - (Could have been a GPS engineer).
     
    Alan Browne, Feb 18, 2012
    #12
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