Ilex Shutters for Large Format Photographers

The most numerous older view camera shutters are the ILEX brand.



A 1948 Pop Photo Ad
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T he Ilex shutters were a product of the American optical industry located in Rochester, New York. There are numerous versions produced over fifty years of industry. They are in abundant supply and still widely used today. This picture is of a 1962 school science pamphlet cover featuring a typical factory installation of a 12″ Goerz Dagor lens.

click here to enlarge This is an ordinary Ilex #3 “Rim Set” shutter. The shutter speed is selected by turning the knurled rim anywhere on the outer circumference . Click on the picture to see an enlarged version with the various parts labeled.
The set and release type “Synchro” models have a complicated set and release type delay mechanism for use with flash bulbs. Since a flash bulb requires some time to become illuminated shutters intended for pre-electronic flash require a method to trip the flash before the shutter is opened. The numbers indicate the milliseconds that the flash is started before the shutter is released. This is obsolete and for use with electronic flash the dial is set to the red “0” setting. It is an inconvenience that two cocking operations are required when using flash: one to set the shutter itself and the other to set the flash synchronizer. This must be done even at the “0” setting.
When is an Ilex not an Ilex? Shutters marked as “Made for Eastman Kodak”, like this one are often made to different dimensions from the standard production runs. This means that lenses and mounting flanges may not be easily interchangeable between different shutters. Scroll down the page or click here to see a table of usual dimensions for Ilex shutters.
The Ilex is one of the most “American” of products. It’s simple design uses mostly stamped metal parts. Although stamped metal parts have a reputation of being “cheap” this method of mass production requires a rare mastery in the design and fabrication of the tooling for the original parts.
The $2.00 windup alarm clock of which the Ilexes are reminiscent is only that cheap because millions of them were made. The tooling and technology to make a reliable cheap mechanism is very sophisticated. Even taking this into account, the Ilex company came up with at least one real dog of a model: The Dial set version illustrated below on the left, is a lookalike for a more expensive German made shutter. They rarely work at all and reliable operation is nearly impossible. These should be avoided. (Other Black finished models are virtually the same as the usual, reliable, silvery colored ones)

To appreciate the reliability of the Ilex shutter line its best to realize that they were designed to be accurate to within one stop. In addition, the stamped metal parts provide no particular sophistication for adjustment depending on the skill and experience of the mechanic to clean, file, bend and tweak to obtain the best performance and then leave well enough alone. If tenth of a stop accuracy is required the Ilex shutter should be replaced with a new Copal or Compur shutter of most recent design.


#3 #3 (dialset) #4 #4 (dialset) #5
overall Ø 3.375″ 3.070″ 4.025″ 3.825″ 5.20″
lens thread 1.775-48 1.785-48 2.340-40 2.360-40 2.988-30
overall thickness 1.025″ 0.828″ 1.060″ 0.866″ 1.060″
front to iris 0.566″ 0.415″ 0.623″ 0.458″ 0.614″
mount flange thread 1.915-40 1.915-40 2.500-30 2.500-30 3.225-30
lensboard hole Ø 1.985″ 1.985″ 2.604″ 2.604″ 3.365″
iris Ø (Max) 1.362″ 1.375″ 1.730″ 1.741″ 2.525″

“Ø” means “diameter”

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