May Fair folding camera

This camera is a cheap offering from the early to mid 20th century. The camera was never offered for sale – it could only be obtained by saving coupons in packets of cigarettes. In order for the cigarette companies to do this without losing money, the camera had to be cheap, but not so cheap as to not attract customers.

P1010318 copyThe camera was made by the Houghton Butcher company in London – this information is stamped into the leatherette on the back. As far as I can see, this is not just a rebadged model from Houghton and Butcher’s catalogue but was made especially for the cigarette company  (Ardath Tobacco Co. Ltd.). It is, however, very similar to Houghton and Butcher’s No. 3 Carbine of the same date. The shutter is different as well as some minor details.

P1010322 copySo, a description. This is a standard folding camera of its time. Two design features lead me to think that this camera was made very close to 1930 (or else was made later to a very old-fashioned design). First, there is no shutter speed dial – the shutter has a rim-set speed selector. This feature was only introduced in 1928 by Compur so the camera must have been made after that. Second, the camera is not self-erecting. When opening the camera for use, the user must manually pull the shutter/lens assembly forward on rails. This type of design was decidedly passé by the mid-1930s. Of course, if the cigarette company wanted tp keep prices down, they might well have stuck with a very old design.

I like my blog to rely entirely on the camera in front of me. Yet, sometimes, there is information I would like which cannot be derived from the camera itself. An Interweb search gains me the information that the camera was offered to customers of the Ardath Tobacco Company. They traded from 1927 to 1933 so this camera was offered between these dates. In an Ardath Tobacco Company catalogue that a dates from 1930, this model May Fair was offered for 395 vouchers. (information from the Redbellows site).

P1010319 copyP1010320 copyThe camera is a full-frame camera using 120 film (called E20 on the sticker in the film chamber. I think that the ‘E’ refers to ‘Ensign’ which was a trade name of Houghton Butcher) giving a nominal 90 by 60 mm negatives.

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The camera measures 6 1/4 inches by 3 inches by 1 1/4 inches when closed and opens to 6 1/4 by 3 by 5 inches when open for use. It weighs 545 g without having a film loaded.

The camera is made from pressed mild steel which is covered with black leatherette. The leatherette is embossed with a linear box design On the back is the maker’s name: “Made in England by Houghton-Butcher MFG Co. Ltd. LONDON”. Apart from the embossing, the back has two items. There is a red window (now faded to orange) to allow the user to read frame numbers from the backing paper of the roll of film. This is a full-frame camera so the frame numbers will run from 1 to 8 – eight whole shots on each roll of film. Each frame will be 83 by 55 mm and would have been contacted printed rather than being enlarged.

P1010324 copyAlso on the back is the eyepiece for one of the two viewfinders. This viewfinder is an iconometer – basically a large wire frame to one side of the shutter/lens assembly. This eyepiece slides out of harm’s way when not in use and must be puled out for use. When slid out, there is a 3/4 inch metal strap with a 12.5 by 7 mm hole. (I am mixing my units here as the camera is English so will have been made using Imperial units but I am using SI units for film and image dimensions. I probably should not do this, but what the hell?).

The lens board is opened with a chrome lever which pulls out from the right. This lever doubles as a foot for when the camera is placed on a firm surface when using B or T. The lens board pulls down easily but requires a final firm push down to locate the struts securely. Once the lens board is down, the shutter/lens assembly must be pulled forward. A single central stud is provided for the user to hold. This is made more difficult than it needs to be by the presence of the iconometer frame which folds over the shutter/lens for storage. The iconometer can be hinged out of the way but doing so its still awkward. As you pull the shutter/lens forward, it should locate on the focus scale at the infinity position but the locating lever is missing on my camera. The two holes where this lever should be affixed are clearly visible.

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The shutter/lens assembly is attached to the camera body with the usual folding bellows. These are made from leatherette and appear to be in good, light proof condition.

The shutter/lens housing supports the two viewfinders. The first is the iconometer already mentioned. This consists of a wire frame that is hinged at the left side of the shutter/lens housing (as when using the camera). This iconometer frame measures 3 1/4 by 2 1/4 inches. In use, you pull out the eyepiece – already mentioned – from the slide on the back and fold out the wire frame at the front. I find this iconometer (I have them on several other cameras) very easy to use. Also on the top left of the shutter/lens housing is the second viewfinder – a brilliant finder. This brilliant finder requires you to look down on the viewfinder. The top measures 15 mm square. It is actually in the form of a cross where each arm of the cross measures 15 by 10 mm (in Imperial, 5/8 by 3/8 inches approximately). I find these brilliant finders very hard to use – they are best in bright light. This brilliant finder is on a swivel so that it can be used with the camera in either portrait or landscape orientation.

P1010326 copyThe shutter has no maker’s or model name on it and offers 1/100, 1/50 and 1/25 seconds plus B and T exposures. The shutter speeds are set by a lever which moves around the rim of the housing. this is a rim-set shutter – very state-of-the-art for 1930 – rather than having the older dial-set system. The B stands for Bulb and with this setting the shutter will remain open while the shutter release lever is depressed. The T stands for Time and the shutter will open when the shutter release lever is depressed and will remain open until the shutter release lever is pressed a second time.

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On the top right of the shutter/lens housing is the shutter release lever. This is nickel plated metal. Just above it is a lug with a threaded hole. This is for a standard cable release. At the bottom of the shutter/lens housing is the aperture selector. This has two positions – Ordinary and Very Bright. I have no idea at all as to what these apertures might be expressed in ƒ/numbers.

In the centre of the shutter/lens housing is the lens. This is labelled as a Novo-Ray Objective Lens. There is no indiction of focal length but a normal lens for full-frame 120 film would have 110 mm focal length so I would expect this lens to have a focal length of between 100 and 110 mm.

Below the shutter/lens assembly is a name plate with the legend “The May Fair REGD Camera”.

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The back of the camera opens with a sliding, nickel plated, catch at one end. When opening this, the back comes away in one piece. There is a pencilled number at one end – K34 – which is repeated inside the back of the camera? Is this a serial number? At the other end of the back is an orange label stating “This camera uses the E.20. Ensign film obtainable everywhere”. What is clearly missing here is a pressure plate. There is no provision at all to keep the film flat against the film gate.

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Inside the back of the camera is dominated by the film gate. This measures 83 by 55 mm – the nominal size for a full-frame 120 image is 90 by 60 mm. At either end of the film gate i9s a chrome roller to allow the film to wind without scratching. One of these in my camera has a rusty surface and barely moves.

P1010333 copyAt either end of the the camera is a chamber for the film spools.  There is a spring in the chamber to prevent the film unrolling and becoming loose. The take-up spool goes on the left (the take-up spool is the empty spool from the last roll of film). At the bottom of this chamber is another hinged stud, butat the top is the winding key. This last must be pulled up to allow the empty take-up spool to be fitted. The take-up spool is wound by a knob on the outside which can only be turned clockwise. Not being Japanese, there are no foam light seals to worry about, light tightness being achieved by deep flanges.

Plaubel folder

This is a dual-format folder from Germany. There is no name on this camera apart from the name “Plaubel A.G. Frankfurt a. M.” on the lens bezel. Plaubel are better known for their range of folding large format cameras – the Plaubel M.

P1050330This camera is a run-of-the-mill medium format camera. The camera has a rim-set Compur shutter with a serial number of 275xxxx which gives a date of 1934 for the shutter. The camera will have been made that year or the next year. The entire serial number is not visible but I know the general date by the fact that it is a rim-set shutter – introduced in 1929 – which means a seven digit number so two million, seven hundred thousand and some.

Research on the Interweb tells me that Plaubel bought in their roll film cameras from Balda and that this particular camera is really a Balda Gloria. The Balda Gloria was made in 1934 which ties in with the shutter date.

Visually, it is very like my ICA and Zeiss Ikon Icarette cameras but the details show this to have been a cheaper model – but still not cheap. The body is made from pressed steel (rather than aluminium alloy) with the bulk of the camera covered with leather (and not leatherette as you might expect on a cheaper camera) and the edges nickel plated. The camera has clearly been kept somewhere damp as there is rust coming through the nickel plating and the nickel itself has significant green verdigris.

It was usual at this time to emboss maker and model names in the leather but, apart from some straight line ornamentation, there is no embossing here. Also missing is the legend “Made in Germany” indicating that this is unlikely to be an export model (it is slightly possible that it was embossed with “Made in Germany” and that the embossing has disappeared but you can usually see such embossing even if it is too faded to read).

When closed, the camera measures 156 by 78 by 39 mm and weighs 612 g. When open for use, the baseboard extends to 130 mm. The top of the camera is plain apart from the folding viewfinder. This is just two hinged frames with no glass. The eye-piece of the finder is a plain steel plate with a 10 by 6 mm hole in it. The other frame has a 30 by 20 mm hole with a 14.5 by 20 mm central portion. If you are using the 6 by 9 cm format, you view the scene through the outer hole and if you are using the optional half-frame insert (6 by 4.5 cm) you view the scene through the inner hole.

P1050332The ‘bottom’ of the camera contains more items. About 1/3 of the way along is a large – 28 mm diameter – disc with a 3/8 inch tripod socket in the centre. At the far end is the film advance knob – also 28 mm. The film advance knob pulls up to facilitate inserting and removing the take-up spool – more later. Just by the film advance knob is a small button which releases the hinged lens door.

P1050331The back of the camera has two red windows. These are for viewing the frame numbers on the film’s backing paper. If you are using the camera full frame (6 by 9 cm negative) then you use the red window near thew the left edge of the camera. If you have inserted the 6 by 4.5 cm mask, then you use both windows – number 1 on the outer window, then number 1 on the inner/right hand window followed by number 2 on the outer/ left hand window followed by number 2 on the inner/right hand window and so on until number 8 has been used on both windows, giving 16 negatives on one roll of 120 film. Both of these red windows have a swivelling brass cover to prevent light coming in through the window and fogging the film.

P1050333The front of the camera opens by the small button already mentioned. The front opens itself on a spring – it does not open all the way but I suspect that it did when new. This is a self-erecting camera – the shutter/lens assembly moves forward to the shooting position on its now – which was a new idea in the early 1093s.

The shutter is a Compur shutter which was the up-market alternative to the prontor shutter (both were owned by the Carl Zeiss Stiftung, by the way). This shutter offers speeds from 1 second to 1/250 seconds. There are also B and T options. B is where the shutter remains open while the release lever is depressed. T is where the shutter opens when you press the shutter release lever and stays open until you press the shutter release lever a second time.

P1050335This shutter needs to be cocked before it will work. The cocking lever is towards the top of the shutter housing by the shutter speed scale and must be turned clockwise towards the top of the housing. When the shutter is set to 1/250 seconds, the cocking lever requires significantly more effort to move. At the top of the cocking lever’s travel is a small flush button. moving this towards the camera body allows the cocking lever to move 5 mm further. This additional movement sets the delay timer. On my camera this is a delay of 23 seconds but when the camera was new would have been 8 – 10 seconds. This self-delay cannot be set with a shutter speed of 1/250 seconds, not can a shutter speed of 1/250 seconds be set if the self-delay timer has already been set on another shutter speed. When using B and T settings there is no need to cock the shutter as the timing mechanism is not required. If the shutter is already cocked, you cannot set B or T.

P1050334The shutter release is a lever on the lower right of the shutter housing. Above this, and just below the cocking lever, is a threaded hole to take a standard cable release. The serial number for the shutter is between the cocking and release levers. Unfortunately, this number is mostly obscured by the mounting struts but enough is visible (three digits) to date the shutter to 1934.

The apertures are set by a lever below the shutter housing. This offers apertures from ƒ/3.9 to ƒ/25. This is the older, European aperture scale which became obsolete during the first decades of the 20th century. It works in exactly the same way as modern aperture scale as moving to the next higher number halves the diameter of the aperture. The maths from which the scale is derived is also the same: the physical diameter of the aperture is divided into the focal length of the lens. So, ƒ/6 is the lens’ focal length (100 mm divided by the aperture diameter (16.7 mm) giving 100/16.7 = ƒ/6. The scale on this camera is continuous without click stops so intermediate apertures can be set.

The lens is a Plaubel Anticomar. Information on the Interweb leads me to think that this is a Tessar clone – four elements in three groups. The maximum aperture is ƒ/3.9 and the focal length is 10 cm (which, obviously, is 100 mm). The change from declaring focal lengths in cm to mm occurred slowly through the 1940s. Focusing is by way of a helical rather than the older system of sliding the lens. This is front cell focusing – only the front piece of glass moves, rather than the entire lens. The focus range of the lens is from 1.5 m to infinity. This lens has a serial number of 89043.

P1050336On the top of the shutter housing is a viewfinder which is a brilliant finder. This finder swivels to allow the camera to be used in either portrait or landscape orientation. There is also the folding finder mentioned earlier which is much easier to use and also includes framing for the half-frame option.

Then shutter/lens housing is connected to the camera body  by leatherette bellows. These bellows are always a weak point with folding cameras. All my Zeiss Ikon and Voigtländer folders from the 1920s and 1930s have bellows in good condition yet Agfa folding cameras are notorious for having bellows with small light leaks. The bellows on this camera have been repaired inside with black fabric tape so I must assume that each piece of tape represents a light leak.

On either side of the bellows are the metal struts that hold the camera lens door and the shutter/lens housing in place. When open, the shutter/lens housing is held rigidly in place with no p-lay – this is important as the lens needs to be exactly parallel to the film. There are three struts on either side, the front and rear struts are chrome plated and the middle strut is painted black.

To close the open camera, you need to press the tops of the struts towards the back of the camera and then lift the camera.

P1050337Inside the back of the camera are two spool carriers, one at either end. The reason for having spool carriers light baffle against any stray light coming in the hinge or the catch. German cameras never used foam light seals.

The spool carrier near the hinge takes the new, unexposed film. The spool carrier swings out on a hinge and, as it does so, one end springs out a few mm to ease the insertion or removal of the roll of film. At this end, the film spool is held o0n two short round pegs.

P1050338The take-up spool for the exposed film goes at the other end. The spool carrier at this end needs to be released before it can be swung out. Releasing the spool carrier is achieved by pulling the film advance knob away from the camera body. The take-up spool fits o0nto a short round peg on the lower end and then, once the spool carrier has been swung back into place, the film advance knob needs to be pushed back into position. The film advance knob locates in the take-up spool with a flattened key which sits in the slot at the end of the spool. The take-up spool is actually the film spool left over from the previous film and must be moved from one end of the camera to the other.

Incidentally, spools from various makers and from various times differ in detail. The empty spool that was in this camera when I bought it only has a slot at one end (it is a metal Kodak spool) and needs to be fitted the right way around. All the plastic spools I can recollect have the slot at both ends.

The film gate sits between the two spool carriers. This has four grooves, top and bottom, to allow for air movement. Oner of the weaknesses of folding cameras is that when you extend the bellows you generate a partial vacuum which can pull the film towards the lens resulting in a curved piece of film in front of the lens. This would cause the image in the centre of the frame to be soft. The grooves allow air to move into the bellows without the film moving.

At either end of the film gate is a chrome roller. These are to prevent film scratches as the film moves across the film gate.

With the front of the camera closed and the back open, you can inspect the rear of the lens. The rear lens element is clean, clear and fungus free. Unfortunately, I can also see the iris diaphragm. One blade of this is out of place and is obscuring the lower part of the aperture. It still moves as the aperture is adjusted but remains in the wrong place.

Butcher’s Watch Pocket Carbine

This is my oldest camera to date. Dating any old camera is problematical. There is a body serial number – C35133 – in the standard Ica (and then Zeiss Ikon) sequence. The trouble is that all Ica and Zeiss Ikon records were lost in the bombing of Dresden in WWII. A lot of work has been done by enthusiasts to correlate serial numbers and dates – this is done with lens serial numbers (which have survived, not having been held in Dresden), shutter serial numbers and ancillary information such as known production dates and sales invoices.


lens: Aldis Uno

focal length:  3 inches

apertures: f/7.7 to f/32

focus range: 3 ft to infinity

lens fitting: fixed

shutter: Lukos II

speeds: 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, B, T

flash: No!

film size: 117

So, this camera. The model – an Ica Icarette model 1(type 495) – was made from 1912 to 1926 and then continued by Zeiss Ikon as their Icarette 493. Various revisions help to narrow the date somewhat (my camera clearly uses 117 film as 120 spools do not quite fit). More useful is the fact that Ica made this camera for Butcher’s in the UK. As a result of hostilities in WWI, Butchers were no longer allowed to trade with German companies. This gives a date for this camera of between 1912 (date of introduction) and July 1914 (the outbreak of World War I). Information from other camera collectors suggests that the “C” serial numbers date from 1913 – just a suggestion, mind, as “C” could have run from late 1912 to early 1914. Any road, I am going for a date of 1913 until such time as someone shows me different.

I have another Ica Icarette I which is mostly the same as this Butcher’s Carbine. The differences are minimal except for the viewfinder – this Butcher’s Carbine has no viewfinder and there are no indications that there ever was one. These cameras were supplied with one of two options (or both). The first option was a small Brilliant finder attached to the shutter housing. The attachment was a part of the metal moulding of the shutter housing and was not removable – there are no traces of anything being attached at this point.

The second option was an Iconometer which was basically a wire frame fixed to the top of the shutter housing with two screws and an eyepiece attached to the body of the camera. Again, there is no evidence of either the wire frame or the eyepiece ever having been attached. On the other hand, how would you use the camera with no viewfinder?

The name intrigues me. The full name of this camera is ‘Watch Pocket “Carbine”‘, with “Carbine” in quotation marks. The Watch Pocket part presumably indicates that the camera would fit into a small pocket. The camera is certainly very small – yet Butcher’s also sold 6x 9 cm cameras as Watch Pocket which were not very small. The “Carbine” part? The quotation marks tell us that it is not really a carbine. So, what is a carbine? It is a rifle with a rather short barrel – a smaller gun (or so Wikipedia tells me!). I think that Butcher’s used the name “Carbine” to indicate that their cameras were smaller than their competitors’ cameras.

The body is made from steel as far as I can see, covered with black leather. After 105 years, the leather has deteriorated somewhat and the steels exposed and a bit rusty. The lens door is aluminium painted gloss black. The insides of the camera is painted matt black. The camera measures 130 by 72 by 25 mm when closed and by 90 mm when open for use. It weighs 325 g.


To focus the lens closer than infinity, there is a radial lever on the front right of the baseboard

As was usual 100 years ago, the camera folds up when not in use. To open the camera, you press a small stud on the top. There are no springs involved so the user has to pull the baseboard down by hand. The baseboard is held in place by two chrome struts. The lens now needs to be pulled out to its working position. Usually, this is done by pulling two chrome studs under the lens.

Lugs with missing knobs

These are missing on my camera (there is a price too pay for being 105 years old!) but the lugs the studs fit in are still there. One of the lugs is spring loaded and presses in towards the centre to free the lens. A further problem with my camera is a missing stud on the baseboard behind the lens. This locates the lens when the camera is folded up. The problem here is that the shutter/lens assembly comes away from the guide rails when the camera is closed. So, when opening the camera, the shutter needs to be relocated onto the guide rails.

P1050123When pulling the lens out, it locates on a further stud, putting the lens in the infinity focus position. To focus the lens closer than infinity, there is a radial lever on the front right of the baseboard. When moved fully forward, the lens is focused at three feet. Precise focus is not possible but this was not important as the user would only have had 6 by 6 cm contact prints made which would not show up defects in focus.


P1050126The shutter is a Lukos II shutter which is only (as far as I know) found on Butcher’s cameras made by Ica. It would seem to be identical to the shutter on my Ica Icarette I but with a much cheaper dial. I suspect that this is either an Ica Automat A or an Ica Automat X. Both are dial-set shutters (as all leaf shutters were until the end of the 1920s). Speeds available are 1/25, 1/59, 1/100, B and T. For my modern readers, B keeps the shutter open while the release lever is held down and T will leave the shutter open until the release lever is pressed a second time. The dial is cruder on this carbine (just a serrated disc) compared to the Icarette’s dial but all other details are the same – shutter release lever details, cable release socket, size and position of fixing screws are exactly the same – see the photos. The shutter is a simple Everset variety – there is no need to cock the shutter first.

The lens is an Aldis Uno which is a triplet lens with the two front elements cemented together. In 1913, these were not coated so care would be needed to avoid light sources in the image. Aldis were a British company who are perhaps better know for their military Aldis Lamp which was used to signal at night in Morse Code. Aldis ended up being bought up by the Rank Organisation and became Rank Aldis and were known for their projector lenses.


This Uno lens has a decent reputation and in some versions, the front doublet could be removed and replaced by a long-focus alternative. I am not sure if that was the case here. The maximum aperture of this lens is f/7.7 which was fairly small for the day (the Ica Novar equivalent had f/6.8). The aperture scale is the modern one of f/11, f/16, f/22 and f/32 (the Ica version uses the older series of f/6.6, f/9, f/12.5, f/18, f/25, f/36). The f/7.7 does not form a part of any aperture series and is just the maximum aperture that the design produced. The iris diaphragm actually opens well beyond f/7.7 but at that point the aperture is defined by the fitting holding the rear lens element rather than by the iris diaphragm.

Radial focus lever

The iris diaphragm has nine blades each of which is curved giving an aperture that is very nearly circular – good news for aficionados of bokeh.

The focal length of the lens is three inches – British Empire was still very anti-metric in 1913 and this is a British lens. Three inches is 75 mm which is normal for 6 by 6 cm negatives (and the same focal length as on the Ica Icarette I version of this camera even though that one is expressed in cm).

P1050131The back opens by a small slide catch on the right hand edge off the camera. The whole back comes away in one piece. In the centre of the back is the red window for reading frame numbers off the film backing paper. This has a swivelling cover made from brass to prevent stray light from fogging the film.

P1050121Inside, there is a chamber on the right to hold the new film. This is not securely held in place. There is a curved spring steel spring to stop the spool from rattling about. The take-up spool goes on the left – again, the spool is not held securely in place – there is the same steel spring as on the other side. In order to move the film, there is a hinged key on the left hand top of the camera which locates in the slot on the top of the take-up spool. On my camera, the actual key part you hold onto is missing meaning that if I was to try to use this camera, I would have no way to advance the film between shots.

Missing film advance key

Foth Folder

My criterion for buying my old cameras is that they must interest me. I prefer them to be in working condition but it is not essential. In good cosmetic condition is nice but so is ‘well loved’. In this case, ‘Interesting’ is the maker – Foth. Previously, I knew of Foth from the Foth Derby camera which has a very high reputation (yet I do not own one!). This Foth folder dates from the very early 1930s as far as I can ascertain. In many ways it is the same as many folding cameras made by many makers around the world.My criterion for buying my old cameras is that they must interest me. I prefer them to be in working condition but it is not essential. In good cosmetic condition is nice but so is ‘well loved’. In this case, ‘Interesting’ is the maker – Foth. Previously, I knew of Foth from the Foth Derby camera which has a very high reputation (yet I do not own one!). This Foth folder dates from the very early 1930s as far as I can ascertain. In many ways it is the same as many folding cameras made by many makers around the world.

P1050094Dating is hard as there are no serial numbers anywhere. Many features – iconometer for viewfinder, presence of a Brilliant finder, dial-set shutter, slide focusing rather than helical focusing – point to pre-1930 (although pre-1930 can extend into the mid-1930s). Even with those features, the detail of the iconometer suggest earlier rather than later – the eye-piece is a pointer rather than a frame. Yet, the Interweb tells me that having two knobs to extend the bellows means post-1930 on Foth cameras and the presence of the iconometer means post 1931. So, if I am to believe the Interweb, Foth were selling a very old-fashioned camera in the 1930s. I have no evidence on the camera to be able to form my own opinion here.


lens: Foth Doppel

focal length:  105 mm

apertures: f/4.5 to f/36 (Stoize scale)

focus range: 1.5 m to infinity

lens fitting: fixed

shutter: Foth everset

speeds: 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, B, T

flash: No!

film size: 120

The maximum aperture of f/4.5 also suggests a later date but the aperture scale – 4.5, 6.3, 9, 12.5, 18, 25, 36 – suggests an earlier date. I am not sure when the scale used here finally disappeared but my other cameras of this sort of date seem to have changed over to the modern scale around 1930 – the actual dates vary from maker to maker (Zeiss early 1900s, Voigtlander at the very end of the 1930s, Leitz in the early 1940s). All in all, I think I can safely say that this camera was made before 1940 and probably 1931 to 1935.

P1050100The name ‘Foth’ only appears once on the camera. It is embedded in the leatherette on the baseboard/lens door. There is no model name or reference number anywhere. I assume this means that Foth only made the one folding camera model. The rear of the camera has the initials ‘H.E.F.’ stencilled in white on a scroll background – this will be either the retailer or the owner. I tend to think it is the initials of the owner as retailers usually rely on stickers on the inside.

P1050086The camera measures 163 by 80 by 34 mm when closed and by 135 mm when open. It weighs 578 g. While the camera is closed, there are few controls apparent. On one long edge are the film advance key at one end, the viewfinder eyepiece/pointer in the middle and the baseboard/lens door release button near the other end. On the other long edge, at the end, is the tripod socket which is the 3/8 inch version. Near the middle is a sliding button to release the back for film loading. This part is very like a Braun Paxette – the back, the base and part of the front on both sides come away in one piece.

P1050087On the back is only the red window for advancing the film. On the front of the camera is the hinged baseboard/lens door. While closed, this has a folding foot to enable the camera to sit upright on a level surface. Near the hinge is a second tripod socket. Again, this is a 3/8 inch thread.

P1050085P1050084The whole camera os covered with a thick, cardboard based, leatherette. This has been very damp at some point and the cardboard backing has seriously buckled. The leatherette on the hinged baseboard has the legend ‘Foth’ embossed on it.


P1050092Pressing the stud on long side causes the baseboard to spring open. The spring is strong enough to open this all the way without any help. All that is required of the user is to click the baseboard down to finally locate the struts securely.  As an older design camera, the shutter/lens assembly does not move and needs to be pulled out by hand – two chromed studs are provided as a hand-hold. Pulling the shutter/lens out to the stop position will leave the lens focused at infinity. To focus nearer, there is a metal slide on the front right-hand side of the baseboard. This has an ivorine scale which extends from infinity to 1.5 metres. Fine focus is not possible but this will not have mattered as the user will only have had contact prints made and focus defects would not have been visible.

Logo is FCFC

The shutter is an everset shutter made by Foth. It bears the logo ‘FCFC’ for ‘F.C. Foth Company’. This offers speeds of 1/25, 1/50, 1/100 seconds plus B and T (B keeps the Sutter open for as long as you keep your finger on the shutter release. T opens the shutter which will stay open until you press the shutter release a second time). The lens is a Doppel which is German for double and indicates a two element lens. This will be better than the single meniscus lens used on very cheap cameras but nowhere as good as a triplet as used on cheaper decent cameras or an upmarket Tessar with its four elements. There is a socket for a standard cable release just below the shutter release lever. There is no delay action lever on this camera.


There are two viewfinders provided. The first is a small brilliant finder which will only work in good but not bright light. When the camera is folded up this brilliant finder collapses to fit into the tight space available for it in the camera body. I find these finders just about impossible to use. This one is in good condition – usually they are made from steel that has had chromium plated directly onto the steel which is usually too rusted after 50 to 100 years to be usable. The second finder is an iconometer (I think the name ‘Iconometer’ might have been a registered trademark of Zeiss Ikon but I am still going to use it). This consists of a large wire frame attached to the side of the shutter housing. In use, it hinges out to the left. This wire frame measures 60 mm by 90 mm which is the size of the negative. On the camera body is a folding pointer which the user has to centre in the frame. This is not going to be precise but will have been more than good enough for holiday landscapes and beach portraits.

To open the camera to fit film or remove a finished film, there is a sliding knob in the

‘Z” for closed is just visible in the bottom of the slot

centre of one long side. Sliding this as far as it will go, you can pull the two long edges apart, revealing the innards. There are the letters Z and A to indicate open and closed in German (Z = closed, A = open) but these are barely visible. The camera body and the camera back are made of aluminium which is a rather soft metal. Over the years there has been some distortion of both body and back which makes opening the camera fairly hard. I would think that when new, this would have been easy. The two spools (new film and the empty take-up


spool) are held

in place by a black painted brass strip. This does not hold the spools very securely and I find it necessary to keep a finger on each spool as I refit the back. Might get easier with practice.


Demaria-Lapierre Dehel folding camera.

This camera looks very like a 1930s Zeiss Ikon Nettar or Ikonta camera. Looking at the <a href=””>collection-appareils</a> site, there is a chronology of Dehel cameras. Looking at the specific features of my camera – f/3.5 Manar lens, Gauthier shutter, knob film advance, the English writing on the shutter fascia, design of the viewfinder – it would appear to be a 1948 version. 1948 is still fairly soon after the destruction of WWII so it is not surprising to find a French company modernising a 1930s design rather than designing a 1948 camera – Voigtlander and Zeiss Ikon were still producing 1930s designs at this point.This camera looks very like a 1930s Zeiss Ikon Nettar or Ikonta camera. Looking at the collection-appareils site, there is a chronology of Dehel cameras. Looking at the specific features of my camera – f/3.5 Manar lens, Gauthier shutter, knob film advance, the English writing on the shutter fascia, design of the viewfinder – it would appear to be a 1948 version. 1948 is still fairly soon after the destruction of WWII so it is not surprising to find a French company modernising a 1930s design rather than designing a 1948 camera – Voigtlander and Zeiss Ikon were still producing 1930s designs at this point.


A description: well, it’s a medium format folding camera taking 6 x 4.5 cm negatives. Superficially, it looks quite like a Zeiss Ikon Ikonta 520 or Nettar 515 (or Bob 510). The top plate is sparse. Centrally, there is a folding, reverse Newtonian viewfinder. The viewfinder is one of the features with which to date the camera. Early Dehel cameras has a simple wire frame finder. This camera has a moulded, nickel-plated brass, front piece to the finder. The finder is in portrait orientation as the 6 x 4.5 negative is naturally in this mode. However, turning the camera on its side and using your left hand for the shutter release button is easy enough. Turning the other way is possible as well but your right hand fouls the viewfinder. The camera measures 118 mm by 78 mm by 40 mm when closed and by 84 m when open. It weighs 444 g.

P1050079On the front edge of the top plate to the right of the viewfinder is a small nickel-plated button. This releases the lens door for use. The lens door has a fairly hefty spring and puts itself into shooting position but needs an initial helping hand. I suspect that this is an age thing. On the other side of the viewfinder is the shutter release button. This operates through a couple of levers on the shutter release on the shutter housing – very de rigueur since the mid 1930s until internal coupling arrived in the early 1950s. This shutter release button is also nickel plated brass and has a nice large top surface.

The front of the camera is plain apart from the lens door. In the centre of the lens door is a folding foot of nickel plated brass. This foot is plain apart from an embossed edge. This is another dating feature as earlier Dehel cameras had the legend “DEHEL” stamped on the foot. When the lens door is opened – it hinges on the left – the shutter/lens assembly is held firmly in place by chromed struts. These struts are very reminiscent of Zeiss Ikon Ikonta 520 struts. To close the lens door you need to press the outer most part of the strut, near the top, towards the body. This partially folds the struts and the door can be pushed up into place.

The lens is a Manar anastigmat with a focal length of 75 mm and a maximum aperture of f/3.5. Collection-appareils has the lens as being a triplet. Minimum aperture is f/23 which is a bit strange as f/22 is a standard aperture and the difference between f/22 and f/23 is too small to be worth worrying about. Focus range is from a bit closer than four feet to infinity. The focus scale is in feet, indication an export version.


The shutter is made by Gauthier – there is no model name indicated but there is the Gauthier logo on the shutter fascia. I think the shutter to be a modified Prontor II. The speed range is from 1  second to 1/250 seconds plus B (but no T). Perceived wisdom (ie the Interweb) says that Prontor II shutters only went to 1/200 in the flash synchronised version but I have seen a Certo Durata camera from the late 1940s with a Prontor II shutter that went to 1/250 seconds.

P1050078However, this shutter has been modified as it has Demaria-Lapierre’s Autocal feature. This is very neat. The system assumes that you are using 25 ASA film – very slow by today’s standards but common in the 1940s and earlier. This is really a mechanical version of the Sunny 16 rule. There are four windows in the shutter fascia marked ‘Bright sun’, ‘Hazy sun’, ‘Cloudy bright’ and ‘Cloudy dull’. Each of these displays a recommended aperture. As you change the shutter speed these recommended apertures change. Example: At 1/25 seconds shutter speed, the recommended apertures are 16, 11, 8 and 6.3. Changing the shutter speed to 1/100 seconds, the recommended apertures are 8, 6.3, 4.5 and 3.4. A further change in shutter speed too 1/250 seconds gives 6.3, 4.5, 3.5 and ‘NO’ – ‘NO’ indicating that you should not attempt to use 1/250 seconds in cloudy dull weather. As I said – very neat.

The shutter also sports a self-timer which barely works – as always, the standard advice is to not use the self-timer on old cameras as you run the risk of wrecking the shutter. The shutter is synchronised for flash with the provision of a PC connector – there is no indication as to whether this is X or M sync. There is no way to connect a cable release – neither on the shutter housing nor on the body release.

P1050076The bottom of the camera has, at one end, a 1/4 inch Whitworth tripod boss. At the other end of the baseplate is the film advance knob. Again, this helps with dating as earlier models had a film advance key rather than a knob. The back of the camera is plain apart from the red window for reading the frame numbers while advancing the film. This has a metal swivel cover marked ‘MADE IN FRANCE’.

Inside, there is little to comment on. The film spools are held in place by springs. There are no spool cradle here nor any devices to locate the spool apart from the key that locates in the end of the take-up spool for turning the spool when advancing the film. The outside of the camera is covered with black leatherette with the metal edges of the body being painted gloss black.


Crystar 15

<p class="has-drop-cap" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">This is a Japanese folding camera made for export – the distance scale is in feet. There is no country of manufacture anywhere on the camera which is rather unusual for an exported camera. The maker is Crystar Optl Co as marked on the shutter housing. It is very like a Zeiss Ikon Nettar 517 or 518 from the early 1950s. My particular camera is not in very good condition. The <a href="; target="_blank" rel="noopener">bellows</a> have collapsed and have pinprick holes in them, the catch for the back is almost detached from the camera body and the shutter has a sticking problem. I will deal with these in more detail in my general description.This is a Japanese folding camera made for export – the distance scale is in feet. There is no country of manufacture anywhere on the camera which is rather unusual for an exported camera. The maker is Crystar Optl Co as marked on the shutter housing. It is very like a Zeiss Ikon Nettar 517 or 518 from the early 1950s. My particular camera is not in very good condition. The bellows have collapsed and have pinprick holes in them, the catch for the back is almost detached from the camera body and the shutter has a sticking problem. I will deal with these in more detail in my general description.

P1050016lens: C-Master
focal length:  75 mm
apertures: f/3.5 to f/22
focus range: 3 feet to infinity
lens fitting: fixed
shutter: OKK leaf shutter
speeds: 1 second to 1/200 seconds
flash: PC socket
film size: 120

There are also some neat innovations. There is a permanently fixed mask inside the camera so that the user can choose between 6×6 or 6×4.5 negatives on 120 roll from. There are two, clearly marked, red windows on the back for whichever format is in use.

“There are no guidelines in the viewfinder to allow the user to distinguish between the 6×6 and 6×4.5 options.”

P1050019As is my wont, I will I will now give a description of the camera with photographs illustrating the main features.

“The lens is a C-Master (of which I have never heard before) of 75 mm focal length and maximum aperture of f/3.5.”

The top plate is made from satin-plated pressed brass with a strip of black leatherette. There is no corrosion of the plating metal so I assume that it is chromium rather than nickel. There is a raised portion in the centre housing the viewfinder. This is the typical 1950s small viewfinder with a circular eyepiece which is 5 mm in diameter. The front of the viewfinder is 10 mm square. There are no guidelines in the viewfinder to allow the user to distinguish between the 6×6 and 6×4.5 options. This viewfinder is very hard to use while wearing glasses and not particularly easy to use without glasses. On top of the viewfinder is the accessory shoe. This has no electrical contacts at this age. In front of the accessory shoe is the legend ‘Crystar’ in Italic script.

P1050018On the right of the top plate is a circular bright-plated disc. This is a part of the spool holder and has no practical function on the outside of the camera. Hard by this is the shutter release button. Again, this is bright plated. It is not threaded for a cable release – this function is supplied on the shutter housing.

On the left of the viewfinder is a second bright-plated disc. this one is the film advance knob. It turns clockwise (as indicated by a red arrow on its top) on a ratchet – it is not possible to turn it the wrong way. By the film advance knob is a second button. This one is the release for the lens door on the front of the camera.

P1050021While the camera is closed, the lens/shutter is behind a square door which protrudes from the front. As mentioned just above, this is opened by a button on the top left of the top plate. When pressing this button, the door is opened by a spring. On my camera, the door does not open all the way on its own – the last part requires manual help.

“The shutter is made by OKK and looks exactly like a Gauthier Prontor-S shutter.”

When opened, the lens door becomes a baseboard for the lens. This is held firmly in place by a chrome strut on either side. The lens/shutter is held firmly in place with the controls visible and accessible on the top of the housing.

P1050020The lens is a C-Master (of which I have never heard before) of 75 mm focal length and maximum aperture of f/3.5. There is a ‘c’ marked on the lens bezel to indicate that the lens is coated – also evidenced by the blue tint of the glass. The lens is front-cell focusing which means that the lens focusses by just the front piece of glass moving, the rest of the lens staying put. This is not as good as focusing with the whole lens moving but I doubt that any users would have noticed any difference.

“In any case, the standard advice is to not use these devices on old shutters as any defects here will wreck the shutter mechanism.”

P1050022The shutter is made by OKK and looks exactly like a Gauthier Prontor-S shutter. Shutter speeds are from 1 second to 1/200 seconds. Apertures are in the standard range from f/3.5 to f/22 – quite a good range for the date. There is a silver circle marked on the aperture range. This is used in conjunction with the distance scale where there is a faint vertical mark between 20 and 30 feet. Setting the aperture and distance to these marks gives a focus ranger from 15 feet to infinity and obviates the need to focus for landscapes.

On this type of shutter, it is necessary to manually cock the shutter before taking the picture. There is a lever with a round tip protruding from the top of the shutter housing. This needs to be pulled down to the right (that is right when holding the camera for use). On my camera, doing this partially opens the shutter – the shutter problem I mentioned above.  There are two ways of fixing this. The first is to take the shutter mechanism apart and clean it. Experience has taught me that this wrecks the shutter (I am not an engineer!). The other way is to sit quietly for an hour or so and repeatedly fire the shutter a few hundred times which is what I shall be doing shortly.

There is a red lever beneath the shutter housing. This is the self-timer which should delay the firing of the shutter by around eight to ten seconds. On my camera, this attempts to fire the shutter, but after thirty seconds or so it seems to run out of stream. In any case, the standard advice is to not use these devices on old shutters as any defects here will wreck the shutter mechanism. Also on the shutter housing – on the right hand side while using the camera – is a threaded socket for a standard cable release. On the other side is a PC socket for attaching a flash gun. There are no synch options for X or M flash.

To put the camera away again you press a tab (marked ‘COC’) on either side at the top of the struts and then lift the lens door.

Inside is much as you would expect from a roll film camera. The new film sits on the right and the take-unspool is on the left. The one unusual feature is a hinged mask allowing the user to choose between 6×6 or 6×4.5 negatives. This choice has to be made before the film is loaded into the camera. The mask consists of a hinged flap on either side of the film gate each of which masks 7.5 mm of the 6×6 frame. To use the camera as a 6×6 camera, the two flaps must be swung away from the film gate into the recesses for the film spools. To use the camera as a 6×4.5 camera, the two flaps must be swung out of the spool recesses and across the film gate. When using the camera as 6×6, you advance the film using the lower red window for the frame numbers and for 6×4.5 you use the upper red window. Both these red windows have a sliding shutter to keep errant light out of the camera when the red window is not in use.

Mask flaps in intermediate position

Because of the state of the bellows and the shutter blades, I shall not be trying this camera with film.

Kodak Brownie Cresta

Kodak made a prolific range of cameras over many years. In fact, their ranges of cameras had sub-ranges. This camera is a Brownie which is a range of amateur cameras first made in 1900. Brownie cameras were aimed at snap shot photographers and were extremely simple to use. My first cameras was a Brownie Vecta and produced quite good pictures. This Brownie – the Brownie Cresta – was made from 1955 to 1958 (according to Camerapedia).


The basic shape of this camera is curved. Having the film curved corrects a lot of lens distortion and improves image quality at little cost.

There is little in the way of controls on this camera although there are some. On the top is the film advance knob. This is an ivory coloured plastic knob. This will continue to wind the film from one end to the other – the user has to look in the red window at the frame numbers to control the film movement.


Also on the top is the shutter release button. This also is ivory coloured plastic. There is no double exposure control here – you can take as many exposures as you like on one frame.

At the front of the Cora, at the top, is the viewfinder window. This gives a rather small, square image of the view. Below this is the lens which is labelled as a ‘Kodak’ lens. This is a single element meniscus lens which has a depth of field of around seven feet to infinity. Behind the lens is a slide with three elements. The central element is merely a hole which has no effect on anything – this is the normal way to use this camera. Pulling this slide to the right (as when looking at the lens) moves an additional lens element into place behind the main lens. This gives a focal range from four feet to seven feet and is intended for portraits – it is labelled ‘close-up’.

Pulling the slide to the left (again, as when looking at the lens) moves a pale yellow filter into place behind the lens. This would have been ideal for beach photography (which surely would have been one of the main uses of this camera) as the use of this filter would have helped the surf to standout from the sea, clouds to stand out from the sky. It also would have slightly reduced the amount of light reaching the lens and so reducing the risk of over-exposure with the bright light frequently encountered on summer beaches.


Above the lens, in the corner of the fascia, is a PC connector for flash. Given the age of the camera and its intended market, this will be synchronised for flash bulbs. The synch mechanism is simple and crude. Electrical contact to fire the flash is made as soon as the shutter starts to move. The shutter needs to move 3 to 4 mm before the film is actually exposed. This delay gives the flash bulb a chance to reach maximum intensity before the shutter opens and then the bulb would continue to burn while the shutter was open.

This simply would not work with electronic flash where the flash duration is so brief it would be likely to be over before the shutter opened.


On the base of the camera are two items. First, a standard 1/4 inch Whitworth tripod socket. Centrally, there is the catch to open the camera. Turning this atto-clockwise allows the top of the camera to be pulled up, removing the spool holders and film gate with it. The film gate is 7/8 inches square (my apologies to my metric riders but this camera was made using English Imperial units). The film gate is about 1 1/2  inches away from the film so the edges of the image will not be a sharp line. I doubt anyone was bothered about this.


The film used here is 120 film (still readily available). The spools are held in place with  simple strip of spring steel.

Immediately behind the film is the red window. this is used by then user too see the frame numbers printed on the paper backing of the film. This red window is in the centre of the back – 120 film has three series of numbers printed on it for the three image formats used by 120 film cameras. Right at the top of the back is the viewfinder eyepiece which is 7/16 inches square.


Voigtländer Bessa 46

A folding medium format camera from Voigtlander from 1939


This is a pre-war (pre-1939 – 45 war, that is) Bessa camera from Voigtlander. I can almost date the camera from the lens serial number – 2,518,575. When Voigtlander restarted production in 1945 they were using lens serial numbers starting with 2,7xx,xxx so this camera is well before 1945. It is also stamped with the word ‘Germany’ on the leatherette. That effectively puts a latest date of September 1939 on the camera as this is clearly an export camera. In 1937, Voigtlander serial numbers reached 2,XXX,XXX and this is 500,000 beyond that so this is most probably from the last production in 1939.

lens: Voigtar
focal length:  75 mm
apertures: f/3.5 to f/16
focus range: 3 feet to infinity
lens fitting: fixed
shutter: Prontor II
speeds: 1 second to 1/175 seconds
flash: no
film size: 120

bessa 1The camera is in nearly new condition. There is a very small amount of black paint missing and some of the corners of the leatherette are lifting. This is almost certainly glued in place with shellac which has hardened over the last 78 years. I am not going to bother regluing it. The other outstanding thing about this camera is that the hinged yellow filter is in place and in good condition. Every other Bessa I have ever seen has this filter missing.

The description:

The camera measures 133 by 80 bob 35 mm when closed and by 97 mm when open for use. It weighs 480 g. Being a camera of its age, there are few controls. On the top three items 1) depth of field calculator 2) falling viewfinder 3) film advance key.

bessa 61) the depth of field calculator is simple to use. You rotate the outer ring until the distance to your subject is at the front by the black arrow. You then look down the centre to find your chosen aperture and follow the curved line both left and right to the outer ring. The numbers at this point give the nearest and farthest distances that will be in acceptable focus. Example: you’re focused on 15 feet and are using an aperture of f/11. When 15 is by the black arrow, the silver line for f/11 shows 9 feet (Actually an unnumbered mark between eight and 10) on the left and just short of 60 feet on the right. Acceptable focus will be from 9 feet to 40-ish feet. Also included are Voigtlander’s standard indications for portrait (a triangle) and the group (a circle).

If you want to know the hyperfocal distance for landscape work, set infinity against the chosen aperture on the right and read the required focus distance from the pointer at the front.

The viewfinder folds flat in order to allow the camera to be carried in a pocket. To open it, lift the back of the viewfinder and both parts will snap into place. Both parts contain glass lens and it is necessary to place the rear of then viewfinder very close to your eye. This is nowhere near as accurate as composing with an SLR camera, but is fine for all but the most critical use.

On the left is the film advance key. This also is hinged when not in use. This must be used in conjunction with the red window (more later). This key also acts as a release for the film take up spool by being lifted up while film is being removed and a new empty spool is put in place.

The front of the camera has a bowed hinged door cover the lens when just not in use. This has an ornate an ‘V’ in the centre. There was also a recessed lever which does nothing while the camera is closed. This door is opened by pressing a recessed button on the base of the camera. When pressed, the door opens most of the way. Zeiss Ikon and  Balda cameras snap fully open but Voigtlander is a gentler company and it is necessary to fully open the door by hand. All my Voigtlander folders are like this (five of them) so I think it must be intentional. As the door opens, the lens comes forward on bellows. When the door is fully open, the lens is rigidly held in place at the right distance and parallel to the film.

bessa 4The first thing to notice here is the yellow filter. Voigtlander supplied these fixed to the front of the lens with many of their cameras but they get broken off. This one is intact which together with the general finish of the camera suggests that it was never used very much. The filter is labelled ‘Voigtlander Moment’. For my younger readers, the purpose of the filter is the block some of the blue light in the sky making it darker and so making the clouds stand out more. This is only of any use with black-and-white film, of course. With colour film, the whole picture will come out yellow! As the filter is blocking some of the light, it is necessary to increase exposure slightly.

bessa 3The lens is Voigtlander’s Voigtar lens. This is a triplet lens (three pieces of glass) with a maximum aperture of f/3.5. Its focal length is 75 mm. The negative size with this camera is 45×60 mm and the diagonal of the lens is 75 mm – the lens is a ‘normal’ lens for this film format. The lens will focus from 3 feet to infinity. Incidentally, this is a front cell focusing camera – only the front piece of glass moves to focus the lens which is not ideal but is a lot cheaper to make.

The shutter is a Prontor II made by Gauthier. This shutter has speeds from one second to 1/175 seconds as well as B and T. B is short for Bulb and keeps the shutter open for as long as the shutter release is depressed. T is Time and the shutter release opens the shutter which stays open until the shutter release iOS pressed a second time. The aperture scale on the top of the shutter housing runs from f/3.5 to f/16. The lever actually goes quite a long way past f/16 and must be approaching f/22.

bessa 8The shutter needs to be cocked before use. There is a cocking lever towards the front of the shutter housing which needs to be moved downwards to cock the shutter. As was usual at this time, there is a shutter release lever on the side of the shutter housing. This cannot be accessed by the photographer as it is hidden behind the door’s supporting struts. Voigtlander have provided a shutter release lever on the lens door attached to the lever on the shutter housing by an articulated rod. Also on the shutter housing is a threaded socket for a standard cable release.

On the bottom of the shutter housing is a red lever. This is a delay action lever – pulling this to one side before firing the shutter delays it by about 10 seconds. The standard advice is never to use these on old cameras as if they go wrong they can wreck the shutter. On my camera, the delay action mechanism barely works at all.

bessa 5The back of the camera has the red window for reading frame numbers off the film backing paper. 120 film has three series of numbers on the back, one for ‘full frame’ which is 60 by 90 mm, one for square and one for ‘half frame’ which is 45 by 60 mm. This camera is a half frame camera and so uses the top row of numbers. The red window is fitted with a blind to stop light coming in and fogging the film. this blind has a clear ‘X’ printed on it. To remove the blind in order to read the frame numbers, there is a thumb screw beside the red window and rotating this exposes the frame numbers.

bessa 7The base of the camera has a couple of items. As already mentioned, there is the recessed button for opening the lens door. At the end of the base is a combination item. In the centre of this is a tripod socket. This is the older 3/8 inch Whitworth threaded socket but has an insert in it with the more usual 1/4 inch Whitworth thread. Around this is a lever which can be rotated through 90°. When rotated, it acts as a foot to enable the camera to be placed on a firm surface in lieu of a tripod. This can be used in conjunction with the delay action device to take self portraits.

When this lever is not being used as a foot, it blocks the catch for the back, making sure that it is not inadvertently opened while there is film in the camera. To open the back, this foot must be rotated out of the way and the top and bottom milled chrome parts of the end must both be pressed in and the back then pulled open.

bessa 9The new roll of film goes on the right in a carriage that is on a spring. When the new roll is in place, the backing paper can bet pulled across the film gate and the tapered end of the backing paper can be fed into the slot in the take-up spool. The take-up spool is then rotated using the film advance key on the top, pulling the backing paper until the paper is secure on the take-up spool. In any case, winding must stop if the word ‘START’ appears on the paper. At this point, close the back and open the red window. Continue winding the film until the number 1 appears in the window. This will be preceded by a series of circles or dots of diminishing sizes to warn you that the number is approaching.

In use:

I shall be trying this camera with a roll of Ilford FP4+ film. I usually use cheap colour film to test my cameras but no such is available in medium format and I have no 120 colour film to hand at the moment.


My test film is back from being developed and scanned by AG Photo and here are a few of the results. No light leaks visible. The negatives are slightly underexposed which is either the shutter (unlikely it will be running too fast) or my exposure meter. Either way, exposures are well within the latitude of the film. The photos:

Bessa 46-6-40
Lincoln Cathedral
Bessa 46-13-41
Flamborough lighthouse
Bessa 46-3-39
Witham in Lincoln

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.

Ica Icarette 498/1

This is my third Icarette camera. My first is the Zeiss Ikon Icarette made in 1930 and my second was the Ica Icarette I (model 496) made, as far as I can tell, in 1918. This Icarette, also made by Ica and not Zeiss Ikon, would seem to be an Icarette II – model 498/1. I say “would seem to be” as I have had a good look in both a German and an American Ica catalogue for 1925 (the last year Ica was an independent company) and the combination of lens and shutter were not on offer in either.


The lens is a Novar Anastigmat with a maximum aperture of f/4.5. This is very fast for 1925 and Ica’s catalogues only offer a f/6.5 Novar. I had a thought that my lens was a later upgrade but that would involve a new shutter with a larger diameter lens mount.

The shutter is an Everest Gauthier shutter (it carries Gauthier’s logo on the front) where Ica’s catalogues only offers Ica’s own Automatschluss X with a Novar lens. I know with certainty that this is not the Ica shutter as that only offered three speeds while the shutter on my particular camera offers seven speeds from 1 second to 1/100 seconds. The only Gauthier Everest shutter to offer this speed range was the Ibsor. While Ica offered an Automatschluss shutter with this speed range, (the model XI), this had a horizontal cylinder behind the shutter speed dial. This is missing on my camera (and the shutter is clearly a Gauthier product with the Gauthier logo). Ica have helpfully used their own fascia on the speed dial where Gauthier would usually place the model name.

So, has the owner of my camera had an updated shutter and lens fitted to a low spec camera? This seems a strange thing to do rather than buy a better camera but it would also explain the absence of the name”Icarette” which I would expect to find under the lens but above the aperture scale on the front of the camera. If so, the work must have been done by Ica (or its successor, Zeiss Ikon), witness the legend “Ica Dresden” on the speed selector dial (a final thought: were both lens and shutter cannibalised from a different Ica model?)

P1030793Dating the camera is straight forward (ish). Ica used serial numbers of the form of one letter followed by five digits. When Ica merged with other camera makers to form Zeiss Ikon in 1926, Zeiss Ikon carried on with the same serial number system, starting with “L”. This tells us that the last Ica cameras used serial num bars with “K” (they might have used some “L” numbers as well, of course, Zeiss Ikon taking over part way through the series).

P1030799My camera has a serial number of K53636. This suggests a date of 1925. This is not helped by the lens serial number of 706481. I am assuming that this is a Carl Zeiss Novar in which case it was made in lateish 1926. Ica ceased to exist in October 1926 so was this camera made by Zeiss Ikon using parts made by Ica? This would help to explain the anomaly of both lens and shutter.

Note on Novar lenses. It is widely accepted that both Rodenstock and Steinheil made Novar lenses for Carl Zeiss – possibly other lens makers as well. These third-party lenses do not have the maker’s name on them, just the lens model name (Novar). This makes it impossible to tell who made a particular lens unless there is other evidence available. Most Novar lenses do not have serial numbers but some do. The difference would appear that out-sourced lenses have no serial number but Carl Zeiss made Novars do. I base this on using the Novar’s serial number to date the lens using accepted Carl Zeiss serial number data, giving a date of manufacture that is commensurate with body and shutter serial number data. 

P1030794Time to describe the camera. This Icarette is a taschenkamera – a pocket camera – although, at 610g, it needs a sturdy pocket. While closed, it measures 178 by 90 by 33 mm. When opened for use, the 33 mm becomes 135 mm.

To open the camera, hold the camera so that the hinged baseboard is facing down and press the nickel plated stud by the film advance key. The baseboard should fall open. When clicked I’m place, it is held in place by a chrome plated strut on either side. To close the camera again, you need to press the tops of the struts down until they click and then fold the baseboard up.

Once the baseboard is in place, it is necessary to pull the shutter/lens assembly forward. there are two grips just forward of the shutter/lens which need to be squeezed to free the assembly. Pulling this forward, the shutter/lens assembly will stop at the infinity focus position. The catch for focus is on the left of the baseboard (left, while  using the camera). To focus nearer, you need to push the focus scale slightly inwards and pull the shutter/lens forward. The pointer for the focus is behind the lens standard on the left. There are four click-stops on the focus scale. Apart from the first, which is infinity, I cannot tell what the focus distances for the other stops are as the faux ivory scale is missing on my camera.

The shutter is simple to operate. There is a dial sticking up above the shutter housing – giving this style of shutter mechanism its name: dial set shutter – which rotates to set the shutter speed, the set speed being at the top. this shutter has seven speeds – each being half the time of the previous one (roughly, 1/10 to 1/is not exactly half).

P1030800There are two other shutter speeds that might not be understood by younger readers. The first is B (for Bulb – a reference to the early/mid nineteenth century days of photography when photographers squeezed an air filled bulb to fire the shutter). This keeps the shutter open for as long as the photographer keeps the shutter release depressed. When using this, it is best to use a cable release screwed into the socket near the top of the shutter assembly. This is useful for moderately long exposures of up to, perhaps, 10 seconds. If even longer exposures are required, there is the T setting (T for Time). With T, the shutter opens when the shutter release is depressed and stays open until the shutter release is pressed a second time. Again, a cable release is required to prevent camera shake.

The viewfinder on this camera is the small, hard to use, brilliant finder. When these are in very good condition they are hard to use but they do not age well. The reason is they rely on a small mirror which is bright plated directly onto steel and the steel is usually rusting under the bright plating. It is all that is available, though. Other,more expensive, Icarette models had an iconometer viewfinder which consisted of a large wire frame attached to the shutter housing and an eye-piece attached to the back of the camera – but this cheap camera does not have one.

The brilliant finder is hinged so that it can be used in both portrait and landscape orientation.

Underneath the baseboard is a folding brass foot for use when using slow shutter speeds – the camera will stand on a stable, level surface. If no suitable stable, level surface is available there are two tripod sockets with a 3/8 inch Whitworth thread (old cameras, Whitworth thread – modern cameras UNC thread. The difference between the two is negligible). One of these is under the baseboard and the second on the side of the camera near the hinge for the baseboard.

The aperture is adjusted by a very small pointer below the shutter housing. It is not actually difficult to adjust but is more fiddley than it needs to be. Available apertures are from f/4.5 to f/36 (f/4.5, 6.3, 9, 12.5, 18, 25, 36). This is not the standard range we are used to today, but moving from one number to the next is still  either twice or half the exposure depending on the direction of travel.

P1030796To load the film, it is necessary to get inside the camera. The catch for the back is below the (very) small carrying handle. Slide this to one side and the back comes away completely in one piece.

The empty take-up spool goes in the end with the film advance key. It is necessary to pull this key out – turn and pull works best. once this is pulled out, the nickel plated spool carrier will fold out. One end is on a spring and will pull out to allow easy insertion of the empty spool. With the spool in place, the carrier folds back in place and the film advance key can be pushed back in place – it needs to engage in the slot in the end of the spool.

The new film goes at the other end. There is no key here so the spool carrier folds out easily. The backing paper of the film pulls across the middle of the camera with the printing on the outside. Once the leader of this backing paper has been fed into the slot on the empty take-up spool, and wound on enough to be secure, the back must be refitted (older readers, please bear with me. I have younger readers who come from an entirely digital world).

P1030795Once the back is in place, the small blind on the back of the camera must be pulled down to reveal an orange window. Looking at this window, wind the film until the number 1 appears. First, there will be lines and dots. The dots (or circles, depending on the make of film) will get steadily smaller as the number approaches. The negative size on this camera is 6 by 9 cm which is full frame for medium format cameras. You only get eight pictures on one roll of film.

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