Soloman S. Benster, Toledo, Ohio             1887-1908


The Benster Patent Diaphragm Shutter was patented by Soloman S. (Sylvester) Benster on April 13, 1886, Patent No. 339,731.


Benster's Shutter was designed to be placed between a lens' front and rear element groups. After the client supplied the lens to Benster, the barrel was cut in two with the shutter then mated within the front and rear barrel sections.

The shutter was exhibited in 1885 at a photographer's convention in Buffalo, New York, also being introduced at the St. Louis Apparatus Exhibition in 1886 by Benster himself.  Benster is believed to have begun manufacturing the shutter by 1887, and it could still be found in Ralph J. Golsen's catalogue of 1908 (believed date of an undated catalogue).  As a photographer operating in Toledo, Ohio between 1879 and 1894, Benster was already known for his Boss Plate Holder (1884 to 1894, at least) that easily adjusted to accommodate a variety of plate sizes.  

The Benster featured here is mounted within a Ralph J. Golsen, Chicago, 6-1/2 x 8-1/2 Special Rapid Portrait Series C lens, f_5, Serial No. 5085, manufactured by the Bausch & Lomb Optical Company.  The design of the pneumatic support arm suggests it to be a later production version, earlier examples having a sharp-angled support like that depicted in advertisements from the late 1880's and the 1886 patent drawings:




                                                     Source:  Google Patents



                                                      Source:  Google Patents


Many photographers were hesitant to pursue the Benster, from either the cost of conversion or the risk of damage to what was already a very expensive instrument.  As a result, Benster's Patent Diaphragm Shutter was made in very limited numbers, despite the conversion being offered for probably two decades.  Few are seen today and when found, many are inoperable or incomplete.

One of those great, innovative designs that ultimately proved unsuccessful due to the rapid advancement in shutter technology.



                                     From W.D. Gatchel's 1888 Catalogue