Lumiere Lumireflex

The Lumiere brothers’ main claim to fame is the invention of colour photography in 1903 with their Autochrome plates. To be honest, this is all I knew of the Lumieres until I came across this camera. My naming of the camera – Lumireflex – is considered conjecture on my part as the name plate above the lens is missing. Looking at Sylvain Halgand’s site (collection-appareils) tells me that Lumiere only made two TLR cameras, this one and the Lumiflex and that mine is the Lumireflex.

Lumiere Lumireflex

lens: Spector (taking), unknown (viewing)
focal length:  80 cm
apertures: f/4.5 to f/16
focus range: 1 m to infinity
lens fitting: fixed
shutter: Atos 2
speeds: 1 second to 1/300 seconds
flash: PC connector
film size120

Lumiere Lumireflex

The description:

This camera obviously builds on the Rolleiflex concept but is not just a copy. The camera consists of a body measuring 130 x 80 x 100 mm when closed. The viewing hood adds a further 50 mm to the height. It weighs 735 g with no film in place.

There are two lenses: a lower lens to produce the photograph and an upper lens for composition and focusing. The lower lens is a Lumiere Spector lens with a focal length of 80 mm – this is a ‘normal’ lens for a 6 x 6 cm negative and is equivalent to 45 mm on 35 mm film or 28 mm on a APS-C digital camera. It has a maximum aperture of f/4.5. I have tried to determine how many elements the lens has by counting reflections from the various surfaces. I can see four reflections in front of the shutter and two behind so I think this is a triplet lens. Sylvain Halgand confirms this. Both front and rear lens elements have a blue cast so the lens is coated (at least on two surfaces).

Lumiere Lumireflex

The focus lens has no model name but does have the legends “Lumiere”, “1:3.5” and “f=80” so this lens has a wider aperture than the taking lens. This will be possible as the various aberrations lenses are prone to do not really matter in the focus lens while they clearly do in the taking lens.

The camer is focused by looking down into the open top and turning the focus lens until the image is sharp. This action also focuses  the taking lens (they are coupled by a toothed gear).

The focus ring has a distance scale which runs from just under 1 metre to infinity. There is also a depth-of-field scale. The way the Depth-of-filed scale is printed, the numbers are upside down to the user – still usable but could easily have been made easier. There is an anomaly here in as much as the depth-of-field scale goes to f/22 but the taking lens only stops down to f/16. I would assume that there was a more expensive option with the smaller aperture.

Lumiere Lumireflex

Apertures are selected by a lever on the left side of the taking lens. Shutter speeds are adjusted by a ring around the taking lens with the speed scale on the upper right side of the taking lens.

The shutter (which is a between the lens left shutter) is cocked by lifting a lever on the lower right of the taking lens. Once cocked, the shutter is fired by lifting a lever on the bottom left of the taking lens. just below the shutter release is a threaded socket for a standard cable release, and just below the cocking lever is a PC socket for flash. There is no means of selecting a synch speed and no indication of what type of synch it is (slow bulb, fast bulb or electronic). This is where the manual comes in handy!

There is no maker’s name on the shutter so I must rely on an interweb search (I prefer to rely on just the camera before me). Again, Sylvain Halgand helps by telling us that the body of the camera was made by Atoms (Association de Techniciens en Optique et Mécanique Scientifique) who made their own shutters. Stereo Antica tell me that the shutter is an Atos-2 which was made by Atoms. So, in the absence of any concrete evidence, I am going with the idea that this camera has an Atos-2 shutter made by Atoms. The shutter works well (not a given with old cameras) and clearly has separate slow and fast speed escarpments. Shutter speeds are from 1 second to 1/300 seconds plus B.

Lumiere Lumireflex

The only other control on the camera is the film advance knob. This only turns one way but is not limited at all so it is possible to advance the film too far. Frame control is by reading frame numbers off the film’s backing paper through the red window while winding the film . The red window is actually orange and has a blind to prevent light from fogging the film when you are not winding it on.

To load film, it is necessary to open the back. There is a sliding catch at the top of the back. When this is  moved to the left, the back and base come away in one piece. The new roll film goes at the front of the base. It is not fixed in place but held by a spring. The film passes over two chrome rollers and onto the take-up spool at the top. The take-up spool is located by the film advance knob. Pulling the advance knob out allows the simple carriage to hinge out which makes removal of the finished film easier.

Lumiere Lumireflex

When the back is replaced, there is a bar across the base which puts some pressure on the film to keep it taut across the film gate. There is also a nice large pressure plate in the middle of the back to aid with flatness.

There are two viewfinders. One is a direct vision finder. When the top of the camera is opened, there is a small round window in the rear of the hood with a simple lens and a larger square hole in front, also with a simple lens. This gives a very bright and easy to see view but cannot be used to focus the camera. If you have the camera focused on infinity and have no need to change this, this direct vision finder is the easiest to use. This type was often referred to as a sports finder.

The other finder is a reflex finder looking down into the top of the camera and through the top lens by way of a sloping mirror. This has two disadvantages. First, it is relatively dim – and can be hard to see the image clearly in bright light. Secondly, the image is reversed left to right. Moving the camera to the left causes the viewfinder image to move to the left. (and vice versa). This is awkward at first but with practice it becomes second nature. It has the big advantage of being the only way to focus the camera. To aid this, there is a pop-up magnifier in the viewing hood.

The body of the camera is made from Bakelite with pressed steel where strength is required. The front and back of the camera are covered with black leatherette which is peeling on the front of my camera – no big deal as it is easy to stick down again. The viewfinder hood has a textured paint finish.

I intend to use this camera but first I have a couple of light-tightness issues to deal with. Fist, the back does not fit properly. My first impression is that the flange around the back is slightly bent in places. Some gentle persuasion with a pair of pliers will hopefully sort this out. There second issue is that one corner of the bakelite on the left side of the camera has snapped off. I am not sure what to do about this but if all else fails, a piece of duck tape should keep it light tight once the film is in place.


Author: John Margetts

I am a keen photographer who also collects cameras. I am retired with about 50 years photography experience.

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