Rajar No 6

This is another Bakelite camera – my others are the Soho Model B and the VP Twin. The later Soho Model B design is clearly derived from this Rajar No 6 – they even use identical struts. This camera appears to have been designed in 1929 and is an Art Deco design. It was made by APeM – this company had a chequered history and part of it ended up as Soho Ltd, the makers of the Soho Model B mentioned above. The camera measures 167 by 90 by 38 mm when closed and 167 by 90 by 115 when open for use. It weighs 450 g.

  • lens: meniscus
  • focal length: 85 mm
  • apertures: ƒ/12
  • focus range: ?
  • lens fitting: fixed
  • shutter: simple
  • speeds: I & T
  • flash: no
  • film size: Rajar No 6

As mentioned earlier, this camera is made from Bakelite, one of our earliest plastics dating from 1907. The Bakelite is black (many other colours of bakelite were available) and the body is rectangular with only the ends being curved. There are a few parts not made from Bakelite. The struts holding the lens board in place, the metal wires holding the back in place and there is a metal chassis behind the Bakelite lens board and a few rivets.

All the controls apart from the film advance key are on the lens board – not that there are many controls: only one shutter speed, one aperture and a fixed focus lens. So, the camera body is an unadorned rectangular box with curved ends. The only ornamentation on the front are two rectangles, one above and one below the lens board. The back has eleven parallel grooves. These are broken at the top by a curved box bearing the legend “ONLY RAJAR NO 6 SPOOL WILL FIT THIS CAMERA”

Towards the other end of the back is the circular red window for viewing the frame numbers on the film backing paper. although this window would have been a very definite red when new it has faded over the last 90 years to a pale orange. At the other end of the body to the red window is the film advance key. This is made from nickel plated brass and has a slight twist to it to make it fit the hand better.

To use the camera, it is necessary to extend the lens board. this pulls out and is held on four folding struts. It is a little hard to start it moving but once it has moved a bit it is easy to pull out to its final position. The four struts hold the lens board securely in place and parallel to the film.

The lens board is essentially rectangular with a curved cutaway at the top for a finger grip when extending the camera. At the bottom of the lens board is a semi-circular extension which has no function – it is entirely decorative.

In the centre of the lens board is the lens and shutter. The lens is a meniscus lens – one piece of glass – and is not usually visible as it sits behind the shutter blades. I am told by Collection Appareils that the lens has a focal length of 85mm and a fixed aperture of /12. This is a rather small aperture but is needed to give the required depth of field to compensate for the non-focusing lens.

The shutter is a very simple everset shutter offering just one speed –I – and timed exposure – T. deferring again to Collections Appareils, I (for Instantaneous)gives a shutter speed of between 1/50 and 1/30 seconds. This is not a precise speed and nor does it need to be. this camera relies on the film’s exposure latitude to produce usable pictures.

The shutter release lever protrudes from behind the semi-circular extension – it is a flat serrated metal tab. This works in two directions – moving it left to fires the shutter and moving it right fires the shutter. The T setting – Time – causes the shutter to open when the shutter release is moved and the shutter then stays open until the shutter release is moved again. To use the T setting you need to be able to keep the camera steady on a table. There is no tripod socket but there is a folding leg hidden away behind the bottom of the lens board. This allows long exposures in the portrait orientation but not in the landsca[[e orientation.

Beneath the lens on the lens board is a triangular plaque bearing the legend “RAJAR No 6”. This looks as if it was originally silver and red but now is mostly murky brown.

At the top of the lens board is a 7 mm (actually 3/10 inch as this is a British camera) hole behind which sits the viewfinder. This is a Brilliant finder which I never really like. this one is marginally better than the run-of-the-mill Brilliant finders as the top piece of glass is ground glass rather than the usual plain glass which gives a clearer (but not clear) image. This Brilliant finder is on a swivel so you can move it through 90º for when you are taking landscape pictures.

The back is held in place by two sturdy wire clips. These are a very tight grip and require significant effort to remove. When they have both been unclipped and moved to the front of the camera the back comes away in one piece.

The inside of the back is completely plain – no advice as to film, no patent numbers, no nothing. The only feature is a cutaway near one corner to allow for fitting around the film advance key.

The inside of the body is dominated by the film gate. This measures 82 by 56 mm which is about what you would expect from 120 film but this camera uses Rajar’s own Rajar 6 film. My camera has an empty spool in it and I can measure the width of the backing paper which is 62 mm. It would seem like Rajar No 6 film is the same as 120 film although the Rajar spot is very different. The Rajar spool has an extension on one end with a square hole for the film advance key. Apparently, adapters were available to allow 120 film to be used.

Neither the film spool nor the take-up spool are fixed in any way. The only concession to the spools moving is a nickel-plated leaf spring in each spool chamber which will be mostly about keeping the film snug on the spools.


Soho Model B

My instinct is to call this a folding camera but it does not actually fold; rather, it collapses. This is an Art Deco camera dating from the 1930s. In fact, I think it could be called Streamline Moderne as it has plenty of curves and no angles. From my Interweb searches, it would seem that this camera dates from 1935.

This camera is almost entirely made from Bakelite which is a very early plastic invented in 1907 and used for all sorts of things in the first half of the 20th century. After WWII, other plastics displaced Bakelite although it would appear that it is still being made. The Bakelite here is coloured dark red with a tortoiseshell pattern – the red is so dark as to look brown to me and the tortoiseshell pattern is only discernible in good light. There is a pattern moulded into the Bakelite which simulates (poorly) a leather covering.

There is only one control on the camera body and that is the the film advance. This is a folding metal key which is chrome plated brass. The key is slightly twisted – at first I thought this was a defect on my camera but looking at pictures of other cameras of this model, it would seem to be a design feature. This key is on a ratchet – it will only turn in one direction. The key will also pull up slightly to release the film spool inside the camera.

The rest of the controls and features are on the lens board. With folding cameras, this lens board is hinged and pulls the shutter/lens assembly out to its operating position as it hinges open. This is not a folding camera – the lens board pulls out on four folding struts remaining essentially parallel to the body as it does so.

When the camera is fully collapsed ity is rather hard to start lifting the lens board. There are semi-circular cutaways at top the bottom of the lens board to help you get a hold of the lens board. Once it starts moving, it lifts easily and snaps into place on the four chrome struts. Collapsing the camera involves pushing the four struts slightly further out and pushing the lens board in. When the lens board is extended, the shutter and lens are attached to the camera body with a collapsable bellows which are made from Burgundy leatherette.

At the top of the lens board is a round hole behind which is the viewfinder. This is a hinged Brilliant finder. If you are using the camera in the landscape orientation, the finder swivels out from behind the hole and sits just outside the corner of the lens board. These Brilliant finders are hard to use – see the photo of the image.

The centre of the lens board has a moulded circle. Inside this is both the shutter and the lens. The lens is right in the centre but is not visible from the outside as it sits behind the shutter blades. The lens has no name and would appear to be a simple meniscus lens. The people at Art Deco Cameras have measured this lens and say that the focal length is 100 mm which is ‘normal‘ for a medium format camera. They also have worked out that the fixed aperture is ƒ/14 – this will give the necessary depth of field for such a simple lens.

Above the lens is the legend “MODEL B” and above this the two letters “I” and “T” – and above these two is a tab to select between them. “I” is instantaneous and is the setting for everyday use. Those nice people at Art Deco Cameras have measured the shutter speed to average 1/50 second which is about what I would expect. On the left of the lens is the shutter release lever. This has two positions – up and down. The shutter fires when this lever is moved from one position to the other – both moving up and moving down will fire the shutter.

“T” is time. With this setting, the shutter opens when you move the shutter release lever and stays open until you move the shutter release lever a second time. Underneath the lens is the maker’s name: “SOHO LTD LONDON”. The shutter is the everset type and there is no cocking lever.

Behind the bottom of the lens board are two swivelling legs – one long and one short. The long leg swivels through 90º and provides a support for the camera in the portrait orientation. This long leg is offset to one side and provides a very unstable support – unstable to the point of being next to useless. This is not helped by the camera having to rest on the chrome fitting for securing the back. The short leg swivels through 180º and provides support for the camera in the landscape orientation. This short leg provides very stable support.

To open the back of the camera there is a large sprung catch on the top of the camera. To open this, you slide it towards the film advance key and then lift it. The back of the camera comes away in one piece – the bottom of the back is held in place in a clip which doesn’t need opening.

The outside of the back is plain apart from the moulded ‘leather’ and the circular red window for reading the frame numbers off the film’s backing paper. The inside of the back has information on the type of film required (“any 2 1⁄4 x 4 1⁄4 or 6 x 9 cm film”) and the patent number (330403/29). Also on the inside are four metal studs near to the corners. It took me a while to work out why they are there. Turns out that they line up with the flanges of the two film spools – as the metal flanges turn they are prevented from wearing away the Bakelite.

The inside of the body is dominated by the film gate. This measures 82 by 55 mm which gives quite large margins around the negatives on 90 by 60 mm film. The outside edges of the film gate are nicely rounded to prevent the film from being scratched as it moves across the film gate.

Either side of the film gate there is a chamber for the film spools. At the bottom of these is a T-shaped steel spring to keep the film taut on the spools. The film spools sit loosely in the chambers apart from the inside of the film advance key locating in the end of the take-up spool.

Kershaw Eight-20 King Penguin.

This is a folding medium format camera of a style that that was state of the art through the first half of the 20th century. When this camera was made in the early 1950s, the design was rather passé. By the end of the 1950s, folding cameras had disappeared from mainstream photography.

The camera measures 170 by 80 by 40 mm and weighs 543 g. The outside is covered in black leatherette with the edges of the lens door painted gloss black. The viewfinder, tripod boss, leg and catch are bright chrome plated.

As is usual with folding cameras, there is little to see when the camera is folded. On the top, on the right, is the film advance knob. This is black plastic with a chrome metal insert in the top. The metal insert has an arrow cut into it to indicate the direction you turn the knob in – the knob will only turn in the one direction. The knob also pulls up to release the take-up spool inside the camera.

Beside the film advance knob is the folding viewfinder. The chrome part lifts from the back. As the chrome part is raised, the rear part rises under spring power. To use these 2-frame viewfinders, you line up the square holes in both frames. This is not an accurate system and works particularly badly if you wear glasses.

The back of the camera is plain black apart from the red window for viewing frame numbers on the film backing paper. As this camera produces 6 by 9 cm negatives, the red window is on the edge of the camera – for 6 by 6 cm negatives, this red window would be central.

The front of the camera has the lens door. This measures 95 by 72 mm. On the face of this is a 3/8 inch Whitworth tripod socket. This has a chrome slug screwed into it to provide a 1/4 inch Whitworth tripod socket. Also on the lens door is a folding leg. This allows the camera to be placed on a level surface in lieu of a tripod.

The lens door is opened by pressing on a chromed spring on the left hand edge of the lens door. On my camera, the lens door needs a helping hand to open, but it is sprung and probably opened itself when new 70 years ago.

When opened, the lens door is held in place by a fairly complex system of struts – there are far more struts here than on a Zeiss Ikon or Voigtländer folder. Once extended, the shutter/lens assembly is held rigidly in place. To close the lens door, it is necessary to press down on the two machined portions of the struts near the top and then lift the lens door to close it. The shutter/lens assembly is connected to the body by a collapsable leatherette bellows.

The shutter is a very simple everset type shutter with two speeds: I (Instantaneous) and B (Bulb). This is set by turning the black plastic notched ring around the shutter assembly. There are two indications as to which of I or B is set: on the front of the shutter housing, near the top, is a small window and on top of the shutter housing is a pointer which moves between I and B.

On the right of the shutter housing, as you are using the camera, is a chrome plunger – this is the shutter release. This is easier to use in portrait format but is still quite usable in landscape format.

On the left side of the shutter housing is a small lever right by the struts. This alters the aperture: only ƒ/11 and ƒ/16 are available. The lever changes the aperture by moving a metal plate so that one of two holes is in line with the lens. These are called Waterhouse stops. The reason that only two rather small apertures are available is that the lens is fixed focus and a small aperture is required to give sufficient depth of field in the photos.

At the base of the shutter housing is a strange protuberance. It took me quite a while to work out what this was for – it is the first time that I have ever seen one. It is an ASA terminal for a flash gun and serves the same purpose as the usual PC socket.

The lens is entirely anonymous but must consist of at least two glass elements as glass is visible in front of the shutter and also inside the camera behind the shutter. I cannot see any hint of a blue tint to the glass to indicate a coating on the lens and this might be one of the last camera lenses to be made without coating.

On the right hand edge of the camera is a leather carrying strap. Beneath this is a small chrome slide which releases the back of the camera. The back comes away from the camera – there is no hinge. On the inside of the back – which is painted matt black – is a yellow and red sticker exhorting the user to use either Ilford, Kodak or Ensign 120 film. What is missing here is a pressure plate to keep the film flat against the film gate. Only about half of my 120 folding cameras have such a plate.

Inside the body of the camera is dominated by the film gate. This measures 81 by 56 mm. The nominal size of a full framer 120 negative is 60 by 90 mm but some of the film must be sacrificed to keep the film flat against the film gate. Either end of the film gate is a black roller to prevent the film getting scratched whilst being advanced.

The new film goes in a chamber on the left of the film gate. In this chamber is a hinged cradle to take the spool of film. using this hinged cradle makes loading the new film very easy. When loading new film, after fitting the spool in the cradle, it is necessary to pull the backing paper leader across the film gate and fit it into the slot in the take-up spool. For people new to medium format photography, the take-up spool is the empty spool from the previous roll of film. The take-up spool does not fit into a cradle but in order to fit the spool into the chamber on the right of the film gate, it is necessary to first pull up on the film advance knob to retract the advance key. Once the take-up spool is in place, you need to push down on the film advance knob again, making sure that the advance key has located in the slot on the end of the spool.

I usually like to try out my cameras with film but the cost of 120 film together with the cost of processing the film –and only eight pictures on each roll of film – means that I am going to pass up on the opportunity to test the camera.

VP Twin

A neat Bakelite camera from 1930s Britain.

This is a camera of superlatives. It is very small, very simple, very basic and, when new, very cheap. The first part of this article comes from my “research’ on the Interweb so I cannot vouch for its veracity.

The camera was made by E. Elliott Co in Birmingham. The maker’s name is not anywhere on the camera but their logo of a yacht with a capital ‘L’ superimposed on it is in the inside of the moulding. This camera was sold by Woolworth’s (a very common and cheap shop – every high street in Britain had a branch). It was the proud boast of Woolworths that nothing they sold cost more than 6d (six old pence) which equates to 2.5p in modern money. To get around this price limit, Woolworth sold expensive items in parts – this camera was sold in three parts as 6d each, giving a price for the whole camera of 1‘6 (one shilling and six pence or 7 1⁄2p in modern money).

This camera was introduced in 1935. In 1952, it was re-issued with an updated finish. The lens is a meniscus lens – a single piece of glass, concave on one face and convex on the other. The focal length is reported to be 35mm. The single, fixed, aperture is ƒ/12 which will give good depth of field with the non-focusing lens. I have no idea as to the shutter speed – but on similar cameras shutter speed is around 1⁄30 second.

The rest of this article comes from my own observation of the actual camera that I have just bought myself and so is completely reliable.

The camera is small – too small for me to use comfortably. It measures 85 by 70 by 50 mm and weighs an astounding 115 g. The camera is made from Bakelite – an early hard plastic. The colour is brown and it has a textured surface to imitate leatherette. The two exceptions to the plastic are the shutter and the viewfinder, both of which are metal.

Controls are basic – there are only two: the shutter release and the film advance. On the top of the camera, on the left, is the film advance knob (which is broken on my camera). This connects to the take-up spool inside. That is all there is on the top.

The back of the camera is more involved. There are two red windows which are there to allow the user to read the frame numbers off the film backing paper. There are two windows because this is a half-frame camera – the camera takes two images on each normal sized frame of film. Each frame number on the film is used twice, once in each red window. Between the two red windows there is a moulded rectangle bearing the legends “VP Twin” and “Made in England”.

On the left edge of the back is the viewfinder. Actually, the word “viewfinder” is not really appropriate. It is more a view-hint. It consists of one bendy metal frame which hinges at one end. When opened, it does not locate to any particular position which means that the precise limits of the view are academic.

The lens/shutter assembly is on the front, as is usual. Both are very simple. The lens is a simple meniscus lens with no focusing facility. The shutter is a very simple leaf shutter. It is actuated by a lever on the right hand side of the shutter assembly. Pushing this lever down fires the shutter and pushing it up again fires the shutter again. There is no double exposure prevention here – you can take as many exposures on each frame as you wish.

To open the camera, there is a moulded groove on the left hand edge. You need to put a small coin in this groove and twist. The back comes away in one piece – no pesky hinges to bother with. Inside the back there are two plated steel springs, one on the outside of each red window. These springs hold the film snug on the spools. There is no pressure plate to keep the film flat over the film gate. In fact, the film gate consists of four thin bars of Bakelite.

Inside the body are three chambers. In the middle is the film gate. This gives onto a circular steel plate with a fairly small hole in the centre which allows the light from the lens into the camera. On the left of the film gate is the space for the film take-up spool. The end of the spool links to the inside portion of the film advance knob. On the right of the film gate is the space for the roll of film. The roll of film is not fixed in this space but is inhibited from moving by the spring in the camera back.

I have no intention of using this camera. I can almost certainly source some 127 film to fit, but it will be expensive and the results are bound to be very poor. Yet this camera is a keeper as it is interesting in its crudity – it is the most basic camera that I have yet to purchase.

Puma Special

This is an innovative English camera – I nearly said British but it is clearly labelled ‘Made in England’. It has several features I have never seen before on another camera and do not expect to see again. The camera is called a Purma – there is no indication as to who made it. McKeown’s and the Hove Blue Book both say that this camera was made by R.F. Hunter in London but information on the Interweb suggests that Hunter’s only sold the camera. Camera-Wiki on the Interweb says that this camera was made by Purma Cameras Ltd. In 1939, R.H. Hunter were offering this Purma Special for 50/’ (that is 50 shillings in the old notation!).

Camera with lens cap.

The body of the camera, and the removable back, are made from Bakelite which was an early plastic. The insides are made from matt-black steel. The Bakelite is an amazing, sturdy, if brittle, plastic. In this case, the Bakelite is very nearly black (actually, very dark brown) even though my photographs show it looking decidedly blue. The Bakelite was dull and not very interesting when I got the camera but five minutes with a can of aerosol polish and this camera looks impressive and almost new.

Camera with lens extended.

The only beef that I have with the exterior is that a it was not designed by a photographer. While it all works, nothing is where a photographer would want it to be – I think engineering needs were more important.The only beef that I have with the exterior is that a it was not designed by a photographer. While it all works, nothing is where a photographer would want it to be – I think engineering needs were more important.

The cross-section is rhomboid with two very curved ends. Its maximum dimensions are 6.75 by 2.75 by 2.25 inches (it is an English camera so I am using English units; sorry,  metric people), not including the lens. The lens protrudes 3/8 inches when closed and one inch when open for use. The camera weighs 12 ounces. The camera uses type 127 film which is no longer made but it can still be found for sale on the Interweb. The resulting negatives are 1.25 inches square (31 mm).

Top of camera.

Such controls as there are (three of them) are on the top of the camera. All are made of Bakelite. On the right is the film advance knob. This has a milled edge and can easily be turned with your thumb. Near the middle, at the front, is the lever for cocking the shutter. This lever is pear-shaped. The lever needs to be pushed to the left to cock the shutter. On the top at the left is a pear-shaped recess. In the deepest part of the recess is the shutter release button. Ergonomically, this is not a good position. This button is also Bakelite.

On the front, beside the shutter cocking lever, is the viewfinder window. This is 1/4 inch square (approximately 6 mm). In 1936, this was a normal size for most cameras. It is certainly usable and more than adequate for snap shots of families and holidays which is the intended market for this camera. Below the viewfinder window is the legend “PURMA SPECIAL” In the centre of the front is the lens. There is no shutter housing as this camera has a focal plane shutter. When not in use, there is a screw-in lens cap. Not only does this protect the lens but it also pushes the lens into the body, making the camera more pocketable and also acts as a shutter lock to prevent unwanted photographs. When the screw-on cap is removed, the lens pops out for use.

The lens is made by Beck. They are no longer a well known name in consumer optics but are still in business as Beck Optronic Solutions Ltd. Beck were a major player in camera lenses back in the day. When I was a boy in the 1950s, my father’s microscope was a Beck. The lens has a focal length of 2.25 inches which is about 60 mm – it is a three element lens. A ‘normal‘ lens for this camera would be 42 mm so this lens is significantly long for the film format. The minimum aperture is ƒ/6.3. Actually, this is not the minimum aperture, it is the aperture as the aperture is not adjustable. The lens is also fixed focus, so I would imagine  that the lens is pre-focused at the hyperfocal distance. Usually, cameras with a fixed focus lens have a lens that has a shorter focal length than ‘normal’ focal length to give a larger depth of field, so using a longer focal length is a bit strange.

As this camera takes 127 film which is very hard to get hold of, I shall not be trying this camera out.

Welcome Exposure Guide

The is a sturdy, paper-based guide to exposing film correctly. The guide was published on 30 November 1945 and purchased by an unknown photographer on 29 July 1946. At this time, calculating exposure was made difficult as there was no standard way of measuring film speed. This guide makes no mention of either ASA or DIN, which we have come to think of as usual – and was well before ISO him speeds. The guide has several pages of “exposure factors” for each type of film likely to be found in 1945. Ilford films, as an example, were advertised with “speed groups” which were only used by Ilford as well as H&D and Scheiner speeds. Barnet films were given an H&D speed rating, Kodak films had º Kodak. Weston meters used Weston speeds which were not used by any film makers. It must have been a nightmare – even Sunny 16 would be difficult without ASA speeds!

Welcome exposure guide

Enter the Welcome Photographic Exposure Guide. This has twenty pages of information, four pages of example photographs and a handy exposure dial. This guide is rather complicated – very much so for those of us used to modern automatic exposure cameras.

First, you need to ascertain the current light value. There are tables to enable you to do this – one table for each month which is divided by time of day vertically and weather horizontally. So, I am typing this on 4th May on a cloudy day at 5.00 pm. The May table gives me row four (7 a.m. and 5 p.m.) and column three (Sun obscured by light cloud or slight mist). The light factor for this is 1 with a note that this number must be used with caution and might need to be increased by five or ten times.

Second, I need the exposure factor for the film I am using. If I am using Ilford FP2 (it is likely to be FP4+ in real life) I need to go to the list of films and plates starting on page ten and find my film – page 13, miniature films (=35mm) – where I find that my film has an exposure factor of 1/24 or 1/32. 1/24 is the shortest exposure that will give a fully-graded negative and 1/32 is the shortest exposure that will have any hope of success. I want a good negative so I go with 1/24.

Third, I need to decide if my subject is ‘normal’ or not. If not normal, there are several options: Distant landscape, open beach, snow perhaps or Heavy foreground or maybe Portraits, groups. Well, I like landscapes and so will go with that.

Fourth, I need to know what aperture I am going to use.  It will be ƒ/5.6, usually so I will go with that.

To use the dial on the inside of the back cover, I line the green 1/24 against the black 1. Next, I look at where the black pointer is pointing (1/4 in this case) and move the word ‘landscape etc’ against the 1/4. At the other end of the dial, I find ƒ/5.6 and read the red shutter speed off – 1/200 seconds.

If I wanted to decide the shutter speed rather than the aperture, I could decide to use 1/500 seconds, look at this in the red figures and read the aperture off – between ƒ/3.5 and ƒ/4

Actually, this is not so hard to do. If you habitually use the same film you would soon memorise the Exposure factor – 1/24 in my example as this will not change for the entire film and probably not for most films. Again, you will only need to check the light value every hour or so. Indeed, once you have got your exposure settings, you need change nothing for the entire sessions in most cases. At the time, this was probably useful for serious photographers but I much prefer my Zeiss Ikon Ikophot hand-held meter.

To help you decide on the classification of your subject, there are eight reference photographs to compare with your subject. These photographs, together with the other pages of the guide can be found below.

Welcome exposure guide 1
Welcome exposure guide 2
Welcome exposure guide 3
Welcome exposure guide 4
Welcome exposure guide 5
Welcome exposure guide 6
Welcome exposure guide 7
Welcome exposure guide 8
Welcome exposure guide 9
Welcome exposure guide 10
Welcome exposure guide 11
Welcome exposure guide 12
Welcome exposure guide 13
Welcome exposure guide 14
Welcome exposure guide

Ilford Manual of Photography

The Ilford manual of Photography was the bible for analogue photographers for many years. Here is a review of the book.

This excellent book was long the photographer’s bible. A number of editions were produced. My copy, the edition this review is based on, is the fifth edition published in 1958 – a mere 62 years ago. Obviously, in 1958 all photography was what we now call analogue photography – based on exposing light sensitive chemicals to light, usually silver bromide although other systems did exist. Even so, 30% of this book is still relevant in our digital age.

_1010609There are 31 chapters over 604 pages followed by a further 90 pages of appendices. The first 200 pages, 11 chapters, deal with light and optics and various camera designs. The first 10 chapters are thoroughly relevant to modern digital photography and most of chapter 11 is also relevant as it covers types of shutters and their actions.

Chapters 12 to 17 cover the chemistry and physics of film in more detail than most people can use. This is followed by two chapters on colour theory and the effects of colour on black and white film.

Chapters 19 and 20 deal with the mechanics of actually using a camera to produce a picture. These two chapters are still relevant to digital photography.

Chapters 21 to 31 are about developing and using negatives. Nothing here is even slightly relevant to digital photography but is still interesting to read. Of course, for those of us still using film these chapters are quite useful.

At the back of the book are 20 appendices. These are concerned with tables of technical information and useful formulae. Even for film photographers these appendices are too out of date to be of much use to anyone – but are still interesting to read.

I am not going to review each chapter but I am going to précis the main contents. This book makes some assumptions about the reader. It assumes a good level of literacy and uses longer sentences than are usual today. A second assumption is the the reader has  good intelligence and is reasonably well educated. There is plenty of maths and chemistry with the assumption that the reader will follow the discussion with little explanation.


Chapter 1.

This chapter gives very brief details of what photography is. It occupies six pages so is clearly rather scant.

Chapter 2.

Here we have a similarly scant exposition on what light is. This is worth reading for any photographer – it also is only six pages long.

Chapter 3.

Where does light come from? What are the differences in the light from differing sources? All is made clear.

Chapter 4.

This is the first chapter on optics. Refraction is introduced and the basis of complex lens design explained – this involves algebra! A very useful chapter for any photographer. Only eighteen pages long so no reason not to read it.

Chapter 5.

This chapter of 22 pages is about the speed of a lens. That is mostly (but not entirely) about apertures. There is a good and mathematically rich explanation  of an ƒ/number and the ƒ/number series.

Chapter 6.

Twenty eight pages here with the heading “Image Size, Angle of View, Perspective and Depth”. This chapter basically describes the functions and usages of different focal lengths of lenses. Every photographer would benefit from reading this chapter.

Chapter 7.

This chapter deals with the various aberrations all lenses are prone to.  Modern lenses are designed by computers which allows the lens maker much finer control over the details of lens design – these modern lenses are still subject to all these aberrations but to such a low degree that they are usually not visible. The thirteen pages here are less mathematical than some previous chapters and are well worth reading.

Chapter 8.

The seventeen pages here are about the types of lenses used in photography. This chapter is fairly technical and probably rather outdated. It is still interesting to read, mind.

Chapter 9.

This chapter describes thick and compound lenses and how to calculate the two nodal positions. This is mostly academic for practical photography but does help the photographer to calculate the image nodal point which is essential for taking multi-image panoramas.

Chapter 10.

Here we learn how to choose a lens and, having chosen it, how to test the lens. For practical pictorial photography (i.e. what we amateurs do) this does not really matter at all but for those involved in technical photography it is rather more important.

Chapter 11.

What camera do we buy? There is much less choice today than there used to be. Today, the choice is between a DSLR, a ‘mirrorless’, a digital rangefinder or a compact camera. The main choice we have is sensor size and lens mount. It used to be much more complex. 35mm or roll film or sheet film? Leaf shutter or focal plane shutter? Fixed lens or changeable lens? Reflex or viewfinder? Type of flash synch? Hand held or tripod based? Price?

The rest of this book is entirely film (aka analogue) based but still very interesting.

Chapter 12.

Film is a complex material. This was even true in 1958 when this book was written, before the advent of cheap colour film and T-grain Black and White film. This chapter describes the manufacture of film and photographic paper. Obviously, as major makers of film and paper, Ilford have kept this chapter to generalities – they give away no trade secrets.

Chapter 13.

There are only seven pages to this chapter which deals with the structure of a film image after development.

Chapter 14.

The study of the response of photographic materials to light is termed ‘sensitometry’ which is what this chapter is about. There are fifty six pages here – sensitometry is fundamental to photography including digital photography but this chapter is pretty much dedicated to film.

Chapter 15.

This chapter is about measuring the speed of film. This is an interesting chapter for those of us with a mathematical mind and a technical bent. Even for those of us still using film, this chapter is basically irrelevant as ISO speed measurements have a different technical base to the older ASA speeds even though the speed numbers are the same. Digital speeds are completely different again.

Chapter 16.

This chapter is still relevant even though it is based on black and white film. This is of use to us film users as film has changed little since 1958 but still has information useful to digital photographers.

Chapter 17.

This is about recording colours with black and white film. Again, more interesting than useful.

Chapter 18.

This extends the topic in chapter 17. The parts relating to our visual response to colour is technically incorrect – human biological stady has progressed massively since 1958.

Chapter 19.

Twenty three pages on the use of filters. An interesting read – filters used to be very important in photography.

Chapter 20.

This chapter is basically a very brief introduction to the techniques of composition and lighting. It is worth reading for a complete beginner but is rather basic. There are some example photos to illustrate various lighting techniques which are worth studying.


Chapters 21 to 28.

These deal with processing film and printing the positives.

Chapter 21.

This is about developing the film and goes into quite a bit of theoretical detail over 38 pages. There are brief details of the ingredients of developers followed by a discussion of the various developer types in use in 1958. This is followed by the techniques of actually developing the film and some of the image defects encountered.

Chapter 22.

This deals with fixing and washing the film. This is not as involved as developing and it only occupies eighteen pages.

Chapter 23.

The title of this chapter is ‘Intensification and Reduction’ and is mostly about improving poorly exposed negatives.

Chapter 24.

This is the analogue version of Photoshop! Hand-work on Negatives is about removing small defects from the image before printing. This was always specialist work.

Chapter 25.

Entitled The Darkroom, this chapter is about the design and layout of a darkroom with thoughts on the equipment required.

Chapter 26.

Papers. There are as many types of photographic paper as there are types of film. As well as discussing types of paper, this chapter also mentions development  and – more importantly – washing of the print.

Chapter 27.

This is about printing on the paper. There is discussion on enlargers and light sources together with determining exposure time. When I started out with photography in 1973, I found this chapter very useful.

Chapter 28.

Eight pages on toning prints. This is the act of converting a black and white image to a single coloured image, usually brown and white  – called sepia – but other colours were used as well.

Chapter 29.

Here we learn about presenting the print once we have produced it. Strange to say, in this age of smartphones, pictures used to be framed and hung on walls or placed on mantlepieces. This chapter spends some 24 pages explaining how to do this well, together with pictures of some examples.


Chapter 30.

This is about the faults that are commonly seen in photographs. While much of this chapter is about analogue photography I found it very interesting to read.


Chapter 31.

This chapter was already archaic when this book was written in 1958 – making lantern slides. By 1958 it had become normal to use slide film which came back from Kodak mounted in frames ready for projection.


There are twenty appendices over 79 pages. The information in these pages would have been very useful back in the day but 62 years later it is all horribly outdated and irrelevant.

  1. Recommended meter settings for Ilford films and plates
  2. Ilford films and plates suggested for different subjects
  3. Daylight exposure guide for Ilford films
  4. Ilford world-wide daylight exposure tables
  5. Exposure table for interior photography by daylight
  6. Flash exposure guide numbers for Ilford films
  7. Photoflood exposure guide for Ilford films
  8. Exposure tables for artificial light
  9. Exposure tables for copying
  10. Filter factors for Ilford films and plates
  11. Recommended development times for Ilford films and plates
  12. Useful formulae
  13. Reversal processing of Ilford roll and 35 mm films
  14. Physical development for fine grain
  15. Weights and measures
  16. Logarithms
  17. Trigonometrical ratios
  18. The pH scale
  19. Some outstanding dates and names in the early history of photography
  20. British Standards on photography.

Ensign Selfix 420

English medium format folding camera from Houghton-Butcher.

  • lens: Ensar
  • focal length: 105 mm
  • apertures: ƒ/4.5 to ƒ/22
  • focus range: 4 feet to infinity
  • lens fitting: fixed
  • shutter: Epsilon leaf
  • speeds: 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/150, B, T
  • flash: No!
  • film size: 120

When closed, the camera is a rectangular box with rounded ends. It measures 164 mm (6.5 inches) by 83 mm (3.25 inches) by 34 mm (1.4 inches) and weighs 802 g (1 pound, 12.25 ounces) – I have added the Imperial measurements as the camera was made in England using Imperial units. The end of the box its extended by the catch and a small leather handle.

_1010552The top of the camera, on the right, has a small knurled knob. This pulls out to facilitate loading a new roll of film. At the other end is a larger knurled knob which is the film advance knob. Between the two is the viewfinder. This is just two hinged frames with no glass. The larger is chrome plated and the smaller is painted black. These are sprung so when you lift the chrome frame, the two snap into position. Between these two is a third frame which is not sprung. This is a mask with a square hole for use when taking square pictures – more later. The last thing on the top is a bright plated shutter release button. This is right by the film advance knob and is operated by the left hand.


The back of the camera is plain apart from the red window – and there are two of these. each of these red windows has a shutter to prevent light from entering and fogging the film. These shutters are far from essential – many medium format cameras have no shutters – but they are a nice touch.

One red window is right in the centre of the back and is used when using the internal mask to take 6 x 6 cm pictures. The shutter on this window is marked ’12’ as that is how many 6 x 6 negatives you get on a roll of film. The other red window is on the lower right and is for when taking full-frame 6 x 9 cm pictures. The shutter on this red window is marked ‘8’ as that is how many 6 x 9 negatives you get on a roll of film.

The base of the camera has two items on it. In the middle is a tripod socket which has the standard 1/4 inch Whitworth thread (not UNC at this age). Also on the base is a small button to release the lens door. According to the manual, the shutter/lens assembly should snap forward to the shooting position under spring [power. My camera needs a helping hand but it is over 70 years old – I am a few years younger than this camera and I no longer do much springing.

The shutter/lens assembly is connected to the camera body with leatherette bellows which appear to be in good condition – I can detect no light leaks but my test film might well tell me different. There are two chrome struts holding the shutter/lens assembly in place which will have been rigid when new but now have some play in the joints. I do not know what the design life of this camera was in 1946 but I expect that it was rather less than 70 years so I cannot complain about a bit of play.

_1010550The shutter issue an Epsilon leaf shutter which was made in England and I suspect was made by Ensign (or, rather, Houghton Butcher – the makers of Ensign cameras). This Ensign Selfix 420 was offered with a choice of two versions of the shutter. My camera has the cheaper option with only four speeds plus B and T. The speeds are the usual (for the time) 1/25, 1/50, 1/100 and 11/150 seconds. The first three are one stop apart but the last, 1/150, is only half a stop faster than 1/100. I assume that the basic design did not allow for 1/200 seconds.

‘B’ is for Bulb (or Brief, according to the manual) and with this setting the shutter will remain open while the shutter release button is depressed. ‘T’ is for Time and this setting opens the shutter which will remain open until the shutter release button is pressed a second time. This is useful for long exposures. On many cameras, there is no need to cock the shutter for B and T but here the shutter must be cocked first. The cocking lever is on top of the shutter housing, at the front, and must be pulled as far as it will go towards the cable release socket. There are two shutter speed scales, one on the front and one on the top of the housing. Speeds are selected by rotating the milled ring at the front of the shutter housing.

There is a useful range of apertures available. These range from ƒ/4.5 to ƒ/22. There is a serious weakness in the design here as the positions of the index marker for ƒ/16 and ƒ/22 are hidden beneath the brilliant viewfinder. There are two sliders available to adjust the aperture. The one on the top is the easiest to use between ƒ/4.5 and ƒ/11 but for ƒ/16 and ƒ/22 it is almost impossible to use. The second slider is underneath the housing and is hard to find by feel – it is just a flat tab – but is necessary for ƒ/16 nd ƒ/22.

The lens is an Ensart which was probably made by Ross. research on the Interweb tells ne very little about this lens. I got the feeling the Ensign used the same name for a number of lens designs. My assumption is that it is a triplet – going by the number of reflections in the lens from a point source of light – four in the front of the shutter and two behind – six reflections = six surfaces = three pieces of glass. This is not a foolproof method of determining the number of lens elements b ut does usually work. There is a slight blue tint to the glass so I think that the lens is coated at least on the front surface but, again, this is not a foolproof method  – it is the best I have available.

The focal length of the lens is 105 mm which is ‘normal‘ for 6 x 9 negatives and a bit long for 6 x 6 negatives. The focal scale runs from five feet to infinity but the closest focus is nearer to four feet.

On the top of the shutter housing is the brilliant viewfinder mentioned earlier. I really do not like these and I find it hard to understand why they added one when they already had the easy-to-use folding frame finder. This brilliant finder is on a swivel so its can be used in either portrait or landscape orientation.

The front of the lens door has the standard folding foot to enable the camera to be used on a firm surface together with a cable release for long exposures. For any indoor photography in 1946 this would be essential as typical film speeds were around 50 ASA (aka ISO). Also on the lens door is a second 1/4 inch Whitworth tripod socket. This socket has a chromed screw-in cap.

The back of the camera is secured by a sliding catch at one end under the small leather handle. Inside, there are two spool chambers, one each side of the film gate. When loading the camera, the new film goes on the right and the spool is located on two pegs – the top peg can be retracted to facilitate insertion by lifting the small knurled knob on the top of the camera. The empty spool from the previous film must be moved to the chamber on the left. Again, there are two pegs and the top one can be retracted by pulling up the film advance knob. This top peg is a key which locates in the slot on the end of the spool.


Before loading the film you need to decide whether you are wanting to take 6 x 6 or 6 x 9 negatives. If you wand 6 x 6 negatives, you need to fold out the two masking flaps that are stored inside the the top spool chambers. If you want 6 x 9 negatives you need to make sure that the masking flaps are tucked neatly out of the way in the two spool chambers. Once you have loaded the film, it is no longer possible to change your mind.

Test film:

I have finally developed the test film – Ilford FP4+, using the square format. Unfortunately, I had a mishap with my changing bag when loading this film onto the development spiral and managed to cut the fabric as well as the end of the film – this allowed a small amount of light in, sufficient to ruin most of the frames. But a few are not fogged and I will present them here.

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

Agilux Agima

This well designed 35 mm camera was made in Britain in the mid to late 1950s. I would like to say that it is an example of superb British design but it is, in fact, a close copy of a German Paxette camera from Carl Braun in Nurnberg.


lens: Anastigmat
focal length: 45 mm
apertures: f/2.8 to f/16
focus range: 3 feet to infinity
lens fitting: Agima specific
shutter: Agilux
speeds: 1 second to 1/350 seconds
flash: PC socket
film size: 35 mm

The camera has a coupled rangefinder which was a rather upmarket option for the time – the Paxette II only offered an uncoupled rangefinder. I am not able to find any reference to this camera in either Wallace Heaton’s Blue Book or the Photography Almanac for the late 1950s so I have no idea as to price or available options. Sylvain Halgand’s Collection d’Appareils website has technical details of the camera – in French but rather easy to understand.

The shutter housing has no name on it and I assume that it was Agilux’s own design. The design is rather innovative. The shutter release is a lever on the top right of the shutter housing. This lever depresses a short way to fire the shutter. It then travels to the base of the housing to advance the film one frame. This allows for very fast shooting – I can manage two frames a second.

The other main feature of the shutter housing is that the lens is removable. The mount is based on a two pronged bayonet and must include a linkage for the coupled rangefinder but for the life of me I cannot see how this is achieved. Actually, I have just had a closer look at the lens – part of it came away and it is now clear that the front of the lens is missing and that the focus helical is not held securely in place. There may be other things missing which impinge on the rangefinder mechanism. Sadly, this means that the camera is unusable and I shall not be able to test it with film.

This is my second Agilux camera. My first is the Agilux Agifold folding medium format camera that was not well designed. The Agifold camera gave the impression that its was designed by an engineer who had a clear brief but had never actually used a camera. The chap who designed this camera had clearly used a camera – a Paxette!


Time for a detailed description. The camera measures 4.5 inches by 3 inches by 2.5 inches (this is an English camera and no pesky millimetres were used). Its weighs x ounces. The ends of the camera are semicircular (or, to be specific, semi-cylindrical). The top plate is satin finished pressed metal – I think it might be stainless steel. The immediately strange thing is that there is no film advance knob or lever. On the right hand end of the top plate is the frame counter. This counts up from zero to a maximum of 40. Only the multiples of five have a number, the intermediate frames having a line. At least one actual number is visible at any one time and frequently two. This counter is reset to zero by hand – there is a thumbwheel for this purpose just behind the numbers.

Dead centre on the top plate is the accessory shoe. This has no electrical contacts and so is a cold shoe. halfway between the accessory shoe and the left hand end is a small hole towards the front. This goes nowhere and is immediately blanked by chromed metal. Just behind this is a small screw. I am thinking that this is some sort of adjustment. I am unable to make it do anything.

To the left of this hole is a small window which gives onto a rotating disc with black and white segments. This is very useful. The film cassette fits onto a two-pronged shaft. When this shaft rotates so does the disc in this window, giving a visual indication that the film is moving. This is useful when advancing the film as its confirms that the film is firmly attached to the take-up spool. This disc also rotates in the opposite direction when rewinding the film. Just behind this window is the camera name – Agima – stamped in the metal.

On the heart of the top plate on the left is what looks for all the world like a film advance lever. It is, in fact, a film rewind lever. I have cameras with a rewind knob and cameras with a rewind crank but this is the first time I have seen a rewind lever. The advantage is that it is not at all fiddly. It has two drawbacks for me. It has to be used left-handed and for most of us that is awkward. It also needs to be used 38 times for a 36 exposure film which is both slower and more tiresome than either a knob or a crank.

Just behind the accessory shoe is the viewfinder eyepiece.This is reasonably large and bright. It also does duty as the rangefinder eyepiece.I can make no comment on the rangefinder as there is clearly visible in the viewfinder the half-silvered mirror for the rangefinder in two separate and loose pieces.

There are bright lines in the viewfinder. A large set which almost fills the viewfinder is for the standard, 45 mm, lens. The other, smaller, set are for use with the optional long focus lens. On the far right of the rear of the top plate is a small hole. This gives onto a small screw and I am sure that this is for adjusting the rangefinder.

The front of the top plate has a raised bezel. This is black plastic and should be covered by a metal fascia which is missing on my camera. This bezel has three windows. On the left (while looking at the front of the camera) is the small circular rangefinder window. On the right is the large square viewfinder window. Between them is a matt grey window. This has the function of providing the light for the bright lines in the viewfinder.


The front of the camera is, as always, dominated by the lens/shutter.These are of Agilux’s own make – at least there are no marks to indicate otherwise. The lens has no model name but is marked as an anastigmat with a focal length of 45 mm and a maximum aperture of f/2.8. The glass has a blue tint indicating that it is coated. As mentioned above, the front element is missing together with its fitting. This has the knock-on effect that a the rest of the glass (at least two elements) and their fixing is now loose enough to come off. It also means that the camera is unusable.


The lens is designed to be replaceable. There is a small, unobtrusive, lever on the left side of the shutter housing. Pulling this up as far as it will go releases the lens. The lens is held inplace by an idiosyncratic bayonety fitting with only two tabs. The lens housing includes the iris diaphragm which has eight blades and offers apertures from f/2.8 to f/16. The focus helical offers distances from 3 feet to infinity.
Once the lens is removed, the shutter blades are exposed. There are only two of them – they are blued steel – and they move with a scissor action. Shutter speeds range from one second to 1/350 seconds. The last is only half a stop faster than the slower 1/250 seconds and probably represents the limits of Agilux’s design. On the top of the shutter housing is a flag. When the shutter has been fired the flag is white and when the film has been advanced the flag is red. On the top left of the shutter housing is a cable release socket. This is not standard and will not accept a standard cable release. The standard is a conical/spiral thread but this socket has a helical thread. I presume that Agilux could have provided a suitable cable release.


On the top right of the shutter housing is the shutter release/film advance lever. Pressing this down about 1/4 inch fires the shutter. Pressing this lever all the way down advances the film one frame. This is quite a nice feature which is both easy and fast to use. The big drawback of this is that there is a long, wide slit down one side of the shutter housing – 1/8 inch wide by 1.75 inches long – which means that there is no water or dust resistance at all.

Right at the bottom of the shutter housing is a small peg. This is there to allow the camera to stand stably on a flat surface.


To gain access to the insides to load film it is necessary to remove the back and base in one piece. To this end, there is a small slider at the bottom of the back. Sliding this to the left releases the back/base.



With the back removed the first thing I noticed was that the pressure plate is not fixed to the back but is a hinged plate – the hinges are at the top of the film gate (copied straight from the Paxette!). Lifting this plate up reveals the film gate itself which is pretty much standard. At the base of the film gate is a large sprocket wheel. It is this sprocket wheel which actually moves the film. In most cameras, the sprocket wheel/shaft will only turn in one direction and there is a button which needs to be pressed to free this to allow the film to be rewound. Here, the sprocket wheel can freewheel in either direction which makes rewinding much easier.


The take-up spool has two slits in it to take the film leader – there are no tabs or springs to hold the film in place but the system works well. The film cassette sits on the left and engages on a two-pronged shaft at the top. There is nothing to hold the cassette securely until the back/base is replaced. The casting details at the base of the cassette chamber suggests that Agilux had originally considered a hinged bracket as in the Paxette they so clearly copied.

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