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Art Deco Cameras

Using 'Time' Mode on Vintage Film Cameras

Time Mode for Artificial Light

Time Mode

Don't let complex metering issues get in the way of enjoying your vintage cameras. An exposure meter may not always be available, and using a meter to determine exposure for some scenes with unusual lighting distribution may be difficult. But there are methods of estimating exposure values without the use of an exposure meter. The 'Sunny 16’ rule is a method of estimating correct daylight exposures without a light meter. But what about at night when artificial light is being used?

Vintage cameras prior to 1950 for example, do not have a good range of aperture values to choose from. They are often limited to the range f/8 to f/45. To take images in artificial light, you will need to set your vintage camera to 'Time' mode. The shutter is then opened for a period of time ranging from as low as 1 second to a timed exposure of several minutes or even hours.

For many scenes using artificial lighting, the light level is predictable so that exposure can often be determined, with reasonable accuracy, from tabulated values. The tabulated exposure values work well for negative film which has a lot of latitude, but not so well for colour slide film where more accurate exposure is desirable.

The Calculator

Using the calculator shown below, you can find the estimated time required for an exposure under different lighting conditions. The calculator will take into account the ISO of the film, the f number of the aperture and the type of film being used. The type of film being used is important because long exposures cause the normal reciprocity between aperture and shutter speed to break down. Different films respond differently to long exposures. An ideal film would have no reciprocity failure and the time given by a lightmeter would hold for long time exposures. This is the case for digital cameras. Find out more about reciprocity failure.

This calculator have been designed with vintage cameras in mind. The aperture settings are what you might find on these old cameras. Negative film is very forgiving and can be overexposed by 2 stops without much effect on the final image. Always err on the side of overexposure. If the f stop of your camera is not shown in the dropdown menu, overexpose by choosing a smaller aperture (larger f number) in the calculator. This will have the effect of giving a longer time for exposure and would therefore slightly overexpose.

I have assumed that the quickest time exposure to be made with these cameras with any accuracy is one second. Exposure times of less than 1 second are shown as 'out of range'.

'Ideal Film 100' gives the time required for ISO 100 film with no reciprocity failure.

Camera Set-Up

Film Type

Outdoor Artificial Light

Lighting Conditions
Exposure Time
Neon and other Bright Signs**:**:**
Night Sports Events**:**:**
Bright Xmas lights on Homes**:**:**
Street Scenes, Bright 00:00:01
Street Scenes, Normal 00:00:02
Shop Window Displays00:00:02
Fair & Amusement Parks00:00:02
Night Vehicle Traffic00:00:08
Xmas Tree Lights00:00:16
Floodlit Buildings00:00:16
Monuments & Fountains00:00:30
Distant Lighted Buildings00:01:00

**:**:** - Out of range

Indoor Artificial Light

Lighting Conditions
Exposure Time
Bright Galleries**:**:**
Floodlit Ice Shows**:**:**
Bright Fluorescent Lights00:00:01
Indoor Sports Events00:00:01
Theatre Stage Shows00:00:01
Floodlit Circuses00:00:01
Offices, Bright Lights00:00:01
Offices, Normal Lights00:00:02
Home Interiors, Bright Lights00:00:04
Home Interiors, Normal Lights 00:00:08
School Stage Shows00:00:08
Indoor Xmas Tree Lights00:00:16

**:**:** - Out of range