As you can tell, I've taken a break from blog posts over the last few years. While I remain active with antique and classic cameras, life intrudes and I havent been able to free up time to post. Rest assured, posts will resume soon !
April 17, 2016
The Rolleiflex Twin Lens Reflex Camera was basically an instant success from the time the first model reached the market in 1929. After producing many different models with continual upgrades, in December 1949, Franke & Heidecke introduced its first f/2.8 taking lens into a Rolleiflex, namely the 80mm Tessar 2.8 (of pre-war manufacture). The camera that featured this lens is known as the Rolleiflex 2.8 A model. Only sold in the US, this camera with its fast Tessar lens was poorly recieved and was frequently cited as being soft. One source* states that half of these cameras were returned to Franke & Heidecke as part of a recall. Supposedly, the construction of these Tessars was faulty and the Rolleiflex 2.8 A was a commercial flop for Franke & Heidecke which resulted in the creation of the Rolleiflex 2.8 B camera (Feb. 1952) with a new lens; the 80mm f/2.8 Zeiss Biometar constructed with 5 elements. Again, this model was only sold in the US with a mere 1,250 models produced (versus 9,870 model 2.8 A cameras) given issues with post war supplies. While the Biometar produced much better results than the Tessar 2.8, given the tiny production, it wasn't until Franke & Heidecke brought to market the Rolleiflex 2.8 C in December of 1952 with a Schneider Xenotar 5 element lens, that Rollei proved it could produce a f/2.8 TLR that could compete with the resolution of their f/3.5 models while providing a lens speed advantage.
Shortly after the "C" model came to market, in May of 1953*, Modern Photography magazine published the following article by Arthur Kramer:
The New Rollei. How Good is the New $385 Model 2.8C "The camera's most important feature is its new 80mm, air-spaced five-element f/2.8 Schneider Xenotar lens. The f/2.8 lens on a previous model was a four-element objective [80mm f/2.8 Tessar on the Rolleiflex 2.8A] which often gave trouble when used wide open. The makers of the Rolleiflex claim this trouble has been eliminated in the Xenotar lens. Optical and practical tests (which we will get to later) indicated that this was true - at least on the cameras tested....
Finally we get to the most important of all the improvements - the lens. This is not the first f/2.8 lens ever put on a 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 Rollei. Many photographers who have used or tested the previous f/2.8 model, which this new camera supersedes, felt that the definition was not up to their acceptable standards. Wide aperture lenses which must cover comparatively large film areas are often notoriously poor in edge definition at full aperture. Practically all Automatic Rolleiflexes have up to this time been supplied with four element Tessar or Xenar f/3.5 or Tessar f/2.8 lenses. The new Xenotar is a five-element lens of the air-spaced type. It was not until the advent of modern optical coatings that the full advantage of such a design could be exploited.
The camera was taken to a well-equipped optical laboratory and placed on an optical bench. The lens appeared to be free of astigmatism. It showed no shift of focus when stopped down. There seemed to be the faintest trace of flare at f/2.8 but this disappeared when the diaphragm was stopped down to about f/3, a definite improvement in this respect to what we had previously seen in other lenses of similar focal length and aperture. The definition at the edges was far above that of the old four-element f/2.8. This individual Xenotar lens looked excellent in bench tests, but that did not guarantee excellent pictures. Only extensive tests on actual film could tell about that….
The camera was also checked for lens, film, and ground glass alignment. Then it was ready for the film tests. An f/3.5 Rollei of known image quality was used as a control unit The first test was made on a cross-lit brick wall A series of shots was taken at various distances and apertures with both cameras. Negatives were carefully enlarged to about 30x30 inches and examined over the entire field. Results showed that the Xenotar f/2.8 lens wide open was equal in most respects to the f/3.5 lens wide open. It did not noticeably lose definition when stopped down to f/22. A second Xenotar tested actually had better definition at f/2.8 than the older type lens had at f/3.5! The tests were repeated on various objects and at varied distances with the same result. Twenty rolls or film were used on a variety of subjects. Results were consistently good.”
* Most online sources of this article incorrectly date this article to May 1952 but its actually May 1953
The model C with a Xenotar lens would be made until 1955. In 1954, Rollei also produced the model C with a Zeiss Planar lens of 5 elements. This would be the first appearence of the famous Rolleiflex 2.8 Planar lens. All in all, over 30,000 model C cameras were produced; more with Xenotars than Planars given their later appearence in the production run.
Rollei's next 2.8 camera was the model "D" produced in 1955. Also, produced with either a Xenotar or Planar 2.8 taking lens, just over 20,000 of these cameras were made. In general, Rollei priced their cameras with Xenotar lenses as slightly less expensive than those featuring Planar lenses.
In 1956, Rollei brought out the model "E" 2.8 cameras - yet again making these available with either a Xenotar or Planar 2.8 taking lens. By 1960, over 45,000 model E cameras were made. Also in 1956, Rollei began producing new f/3.5 model cameras featuring either the 5 element Planar lens or 5 element Xenotar lens - slower versions of their bigger sister f/2.8 lenses. These models are known as the Rolleiflex 3.5 E cameras.
All of these exciting improvements to the Rolleiflex line further solidified their position as king of the Twin Lens Reflex cameras. Inevitably, this led to questions as to which Rolleiflex cameras performed better - the 2.8 or 3.5 cameras ?
In May of 1956, Modern Photography published an article comparing the new 5 element Xenotar on the Rolleiflex 3.5E compared to older Rolleiflex models with 4 element Tessar lenses. Are the new Rolleis Really Better? "Now lets take a look at that five element f/3.5 lens. It's no secret that there was a cry from professional photographers for a Rolleiflex with an f/2.8 lens and that these camera enthusiasts only got what they wanted when a five element optical system was developed.
With a maximum f/3.5 aperture in 75mm focal lengths, the story has been quite different. The four element Zeiss Tessar and Schneider Xenar 75mm f/3.5 lenses have long been standards of excellence for Rolleis and many other cameras. What more can the new Xenotar five element offer? For all but the most persnickety professional, a good Xenar or Tessar will do nicely. Testing the new Xenotar against a good example of a Schneider Xenar, the resulting picture definition with both lenses was almost identical. This is not to disparage the new Xenotar but rather point out that a good four element Xenar or Tessar can be a very good lens indeed. Perhaps the Xenotar proved a shade sharper in the corners at full aperture than the Xenar. However, in actual photographic practice we doubt that this difference would be perceptible. Xenar or Xenotar? They're both fine lenses."
In 1957, more interesting comparions were done by Modern Photography;
Great Cameras? Fact or Fiction Rolleis have always had a great reputation. Do they still deserve it? "Which Lens is Best? Four or Five Element, F/2.8 or F/3.5 A. 80mm f/2.8 Zeiss Planar is a five-element alternative to the Xenotar on the Rolleiflex 2.8E. Although the line-up of optical elements is rather different from the Xenotar, performance is similar. It produces excellent definition to the corners of the negative, even at full aperture.
B. 80mm f/2.8 Schneider Xenotar has five elements and can be had on the Rolleiflex 2.8E. In extensive tests with this lens Modern found it extremely sharp in overall definition. The five-element 80mm f/2.8 lenses are considerable improvements over the discontinued four-element 80mm f/2.8 Tessars once available on the Rolleiflex 2.8.
C. 75mm f/3.5 Zeiss Planar is a five element alternative to the Xenotar on the Rolleiflex 3.5. It shows excellent definition even at full aperture.
D. 75mm f/3.5 Schneider Xenotar with five elements has now completely replaced the four element Xenar on all Rolleiflexes. Differences in definition between the discontinued four-element Xenar and this five-element Xenotar at f/3.5 are almost impossible to see, even with great magnification of the negative corners. Definition, to say the least, is excellent in the 75mm f/3.5 Xenotar.
E. 75mm and 60mm Schneider Xenar are available on the Rolleicord Va and Rolleiflex 4x4 respectively. The Xenar design is of a traditional four-element Tessar-type construction. Performance at such moderate aperture (f/3.5) and focal length (75mm) is excellent compared with that of the 75mm f/3.5 five-element Xenotars and Planars."
The 2.8 and 3.5 Planars and Xenotars would continue to garner acclaim from professionals, amateurs and photography magazines through the late 1950s and 1960s. These have been called the golden years for Rolleiflex.
Once again, Modern Photography decided it would test the various models with different lenses to try and settle what had become (and remains) a debate; which is better, the Planar or Xenotar. In many ways by pricing the Xenotar slightly (~5%) cheaper than the Planar, many thought Rollei themselves signified the Planar was superior, but many people (including modern users) will argue which is better. At the end of the day, both lenses are highly capable and it really comes down to quality control and owning an excellent example of either lens type.
Here's Modern Photography's October 1963 testing from the article, 4 Different Rolleis, 4 Different Lenses
As a summary to the test above, it appears that the 2.8 Xenotar is "better" for center sharpness overall than the Planar, but the Planar is moderately superior for edge sharpness. For the 3.5 lenses, it appears that the Planar is superior both in center and edge sharpness. But again, this is not a large sample size and I bet in normal shooting, the differences are hard to see.
The model 2.8 E would go on to be produced until 1965 with about 53,000 total units produced. The 3.5 E model cameras were also produced until 1965 but at some point before 1965 (probably 1962 +/- 1 year), the 3.5 Planar and Xenotar lenses were further developed into 6 element lenses. It remains a mystery as to why this was done. Some Rollei experts mention the additional element was a UV or color correction filter* to produce warmer images. Others state Franke & Heidecke wanted to improve the resolution** of the 5 element Planar and Xenotar lenses. And finally, another group of people state this was done to lower production costs.My sources indicate that the switch to the 6 element lens on the 3.5 E models occured after lens serial # 2753002 for the Planar and after # 2299547 for the Xenotar.
* Ian Parker ** Claus Prochnow
After the 2.8 E model camera (which ran until 1965), came the famous 2.8 F model in 1960 which sold all the way until 1981, again fitted with either a 80mm 2.8 Planar or Xenotar lens. For the 3.5 camera line, the 3.5 F models arrived in 1958 with either a 75mm 5 element Planar or Xenotar lens, but just like the early 1960s E models, the switch to 6 element lenses came into play. Again, my sources indicate that the switch to the 6 element lens on the 3.5 F models occured after lens serial # 2753002 for the Planar and after # 2299547 for the Xenotar.
Today, many collectors and users seek out the late model 3.5 E and 3.5 F model cameras that have a 6 element lens. Their remains a premium for these models given they are the only Rolleiflex TLRs produced with a 6 element normal lens.
The Minolta CLE ("Compact Leica Electronic") is one of those late model classic cameras that is almost universally appreciated by those who've used it. The CLE origins date back to 1973 when Leica and Minolta collaborated to produce the Leica CL ("Compact Leica") rangefinder camera. In 1980, the CLE was produced as a follow up to the CL, which Minolta marketed by highlighting its quietness, compactness and quick focusing. Minolta also highlighted the CLE's increased use of electronics and LEDs - which at the time - made it seem a perfect combination of the classic and modern.
Below is Popular Photography's September 1981 test report on the CLE and ts line up of 3 lenses; the 28mm f/2 Rokkor, 40mm F/2 Rokkor and the 90mm f/4 Rokkor. This article is copyright Ziff-Davis Publishing Company.
It has taken me some time to branch out to social media such as Facebook and Pinterest, but after a year or so, I've become addicted to these sites like many other people. Most of my time on Facebook is spent on camera collecting related groups and for the most part, its been very enjoyable and certainly interesting. One gets a truly global perspective on the hobby and its fairly easy to spot trends (like Rolleiflex TLRs remain hot; Retinas seem to also be having a resurgence).
Another benefit of Facebook has been reading articles written by other collectors - one such collector and writer I've enjoyed is Mike Eckman. Mike has written a series of camera reviews/articles which I have found to be enjoyable to read, thoughtful and insightful. Mike has graciously allowed me to re-post some of his articles and we also hope to build on a relationship where I provide him some more exotic cameras in order for him to write more articles in the near future.
Below is an article on the YashicaMat TLR cameras. More articles to come in the near future. Enjoy.
Yashica Yashicamat TLR (1957)
By and Copyright 2011 - 2016 by Mike Eckman
What is it?
This is a Yashicamat twins lens reflex (TLR) camera made by Yashima Optical Company in 1957. Although not considered to be a direct copy, the Yashicamat took a lot of design and features from the German Rolleiflex TLR such as the auto-cocking shutter and folding advance lever. It uses 120 roll film and produces 12 6×6 (56mm x 56mm) frames per roll.
I go into a somewhat detailed narrative of the history of the Yashica company in my review of the Yashica Electro 35 GS, so rather than repeat myself, I’ll only mention the part that pertains to this camera.
The Yashima Seiki Company started making cameras in 1953. Their first model, called the Yashimaflex borrowed heavily from the German Rollei TLRs of the time. The Yashimaflex was quickly followed up with a model called the Pigeonflex. It is hard to find information about these two cameras as they did not sell well, especially outside of Japan. Copies in good condition are extremely rare these days.
Throughout the 1950s, Yashima (Yashima wouldnt adopt the corporate name Yashica until after their takeover of Nicca in 1958) made several models of TLR cameras called the Yashicaflex, sticking with this style of camera as it was a popular design of its day. SLRs hadn’t quite made a splash yet, and rangefinders were already pretty common.
Although the Yashima TLRs were nice cameras that were capable of great shots, Yashima struggled with sales of these models, especially outside of Japan as the world was not yet ready for a Japanese made camera based off a German designed camera.
In 1957, Yashima released the Yashicamat, which was its first attempt at a “premium” model. It borrowed features from the higher end German Rolleiflex such as an auto-cocking shutter, wind lever, and frame counter. Combined with a state of the art (for its time) Copal MXV shutter, the Yashicamat was a pretty nice camera and really helped open the eyes of the rest of the world to Japanese made cameras.
The Yashica TLR site has a huge amount of information about the different models of Yashima TLRs and it suggests this model went on sale in April 1957 and was sold through March 1973. If true, this means that Yashima/Yashica had over a dozen different TLR models in production at the same time. This must have been pretty confusing for buyers trying to decide which model to buy.
Later Yashica TLRs added features such as the ability to use 24-exposure 220 film, and even some had adapters to use standard 35mm 135 film. Some even had light meters. The earliest ones came with selenium based light meters and eventually battery powered CdS meters were used. Yashica continued to make TLRs into the 1980s way past their peak of popularity.
From my research, some Yashima/Yashica TLRs are more desirable than others. The Yashicamat is near the top of the more desirable models to buy. Some of its strengths are that it had the more advanced features like the film counter, auto cocking shutter, frame counter, and it was made entirely of metal. Later Yashica TLRs had more plastic parts making them less rugged. Also, the Yashicamat was made at a time when light seals were still made out of yarn, as opposed to black foam which degrades over time and needs to be replaced. As a result, if you can find a Yashicamat in good condition, other than wiping it down to get the dust off, there is likely nothing else that needs to be done to it before you can start shooting.
Today, TLR cameras are very popular with collectors because of their unique design. They dont look like any other style of camera ever made and they make great conversation pieces. Another reason for their collectability, most TLRs use 120 roll film which is still commonly available today. Some TLRs used discontinued 127 film, and Kodak made a line of TLRs that used discontinued 620 film, but otherwise, most TLRs from the 50s and 60s can still be used today.
When I first got into old cameras, I saw a couple of Rollei TLRs and loved the design. What I didn’t love was the price. No matter how much I looked, I could not find one in good condition for under $100. Rollei makes great cameras and they deserve the high prices they fetch, I just wasn’t willing to pay that much for an old camera that I knew little to nothing about.
After learning more about TLRs, I discovered Yashica. These were high quality, Japanese made cameras, that came from an era when Japan was still recovering from World War II. I was intrigued that I could find a camera similar to the Rollei, but for much cheaper, so I started looking for Yashica TLRs. As I mentioned earlier in this review, Yashica made many different models and some are more desirable than others. I didn’t start out looking for a Yashicamat, but I am happy that I wound up with the one I have.
This was my first 120 film camera and I was eager to not only try out a cool looking camera, I also wanted to try out rolling my own film. Its easier than it sounds, but there is still a bit of a learning curve to get the film loaded correctly. Another intriguing factor was that 120 has the capability of taking pictures with a MUCH higher level of detail than any 35mm film camera can.
When 120 film is used in a 6×6 TLR such as the Yashicamat, it produces a negative that is 56mm x 56mm for a total area of 3136 sq mm. Comparatively, 35mm film has a negative that is only 36mm x 24mm, or 864 sq mm. That means that the negative on 120 film has an area 3.6 times larger than that of a negative on 35mm film. Having a larger negative means that more detail is captured in the film, and therefore capable of larger prints. To put that into modern terms, if you compared a digital camera with a 12 Megapixel sensor to one with a sensor 3.6 times larger, you would need a digital camera with a 43.5 Megapixel sensor.
Another great feature of this camera is that it was built in an era where things were made to last. Unlike some other vintage cameras, there really aren’t any common problems with Yashica TLRs. Other than making sure that the camera is in good physical shape, the shutter still fires, and the lenses aren’t scratched or full of fungus, there is very little that needs to be done to shoot film in these cameras. On mine, a simple wipe down of the body, the viewfinder, and the lenses, and mine was ready to go.
The unique look of TLR cameras, combined with their larger negatives and therefore more detailed pictures, means that these cameras are still very desirable, especially the higher end ones. If you search eBay for Yashica TLRs, the Yashica-Mat 124G is the most popular. It has modern features like a battery powered CdS light meter, a flash hotshoe, and all of the internal electrical contacts are gold plated. This makes it much more expensive however. If you manage to find a Yashicamat in nice condition, I would take the Yashicamat for its all metal design, yarn light seals, problem-free design, and lack of electronics any day.
The Yashicamat is an entirely mechanical camera with no electronic aids like a light meter or automatic anything. You have to set your aperture size, shutter speed, and manually focus. This all might sound intimidating to someone who is used to modern cameras that do all of this for you, but something I’ve started to really learn is that film is pretty forgiving. Its not really all that critical to get everything perfect. Get it close, and 9 out of 10 times, your picture will turn out fine.
Focusing the TLR is in some ways like an SLR. You set your focus and frame your image through the viewfinder which is on top of the camera. The top of the camera folds out and reveals a screen inside of the camera.
When you rotate the focus wheel on the left side of the camera, both the viewing and taking lenses move together. The whole reason a TLR has two lenses in the front is that the top lens is what the viewfinder sees, and the bottom lens is the taking lens which is what exposes the film. So even though you are not looking through the taking lens like on an SLR, you are seeing approximately what the film will “see”.
You have a couple options to set the exposure. If you are a pro, you can probably guess. I imagine that people who have been doing this for many years can probably just look at a situation and get it right.
Since I am nowhere near that level, I needed other options. There are external light meters that you can buy that will measure the light in a scene and give you the correct camera settings that you should use for your shot. While this is a very good way at measuring exposure, external light meters aren’t cheap. You can try to get a used vintage one on eBay, but you run the risk of the same problems that old camera light meters have, in that they might not be accurate.
So, if you’re not good enough to guesstimate the proper exposure and you’re not willing to invest a couple hundred dollars on a new light meter, another option you can use is a digital camera. Any digital camera will work, as long as it shows you the aperture and shutter speed settings of a shot before you take it. When you are composing a shot with your TLR, take your digital camera and hold it right in front of the taking lens of the TLR, point it at your subject and see what it recommends for aperture and shutter speed. There are even apps on modern smartphones that use the camera on your phone to give you this same information. As I mentioned earlier, film is pretty forgiving, so its not critical to get the settings perfect. Just get them close and your pictures will be just fine.
There is one more method called the “Sunny 16” rule. This is the method I like using the most. This rule is more of a set of guidelines that allow you to approximate correct shutter and aperture settings of any outdoor shot without using any external equipment. As easy as it might be to use a digital camera or your smartphone to estimate exposure, it still requires another gadget. If you master the Sunny 16 rule, you can shoot outdoors without the distraction of fuddling around with another device.
There are a lot of websites out there that explain the Sunny 16 rule, but the most comprehensive one (perhaps too much) is the Ultimate Guide to the Sunny 16 Rule. There are two parts to the guide, only part 1 is relevant to amateurs. You can skip reading part 2.
My incredibly basic interpretation of the rule is that when shooting outdoors, take the inverse of your film speed and that becomes your shutter speed. So if you are shooting with 100 speed film, your shutter speed should be 1/100 sec. 200 speed film should be 1/200 sec. Not every camera will have the exact shutter speed you need, so just pick whatever is close. For example, if you are shooting 200 speed film, and your camera has 1/250 sec, use that. If you have 400 speed film and the closest is 1/500, use that.
The other half of Sunny 16 says that at the inverse of your film speed, on a bright sunny day with no clouds, proper exposure is at f/16. So if you have 100 speed film in your camera, the settings of 1/100 sec and f/16 will get you a perfectly exposed shot in bright sunlight.
If your scene has a hazy, or partly cloudy sky, change aperture to f/11
If your scene has an overcast or mostly cloudy sky, change aperture to f/8
If your scene is entirely in shade or near sunrise or sunset, change aperture to f/5.6
It sounds incredibly basic, and in some ways it is. Theres no need to over complicate exposure because it doesn’t really need to be. If you follow these simple guidelines, you should be able to get properly exposed shots 90% of the time outdoors. Obviously these rules are designed for outdoor shots, so they don’t help as much indoors. I recommend sticking to outdoor only shots if you are new at this, but if you really must get some indoor shots, I recommend using an external aide.
Two additional tips that I’ve learned when shooting outdoor photography without a light meter:
If ever in doubt about which aperture to set, its better to slightly overexpose than underexpose
f/11 and f/8 are the apertures you will use the majority of the time
Now that you have your image composed and in focus and you’ve set an appropriate exposure using one of your options, you are ready to take your picture. Like most cameras of the period, the Yashicamat must be wound and the shutter cocked. Earlier I said this camera has an advanced feature that auto-cocks the shutter. All you have to do is wind the film advance lever. To do this, you first fold it out, then wind it clockwise until it stops, then wind it counterclockwise until the handle is 180 degrees opposite of the recessed hole, then fold the handle back into it’s stored position.
Doing this simple step not only advances the film and cocks the shutter, but it also advances the film counter which is another convenient feature of this camera. Older TLRs have a round plastic red window on the back of the camera that allows you to see number markings on the back of the film. While this works fine, its rather primitive and on some cameras, the red window isn’t completely light tight, which can lead to light leaks on your film.
After the film is advanced and the shutter is cocked, you fire the shutter by pressing the button on the front bottom right corner (facing the camera away from you). When you have taken a shot, it is advised to not advance the film to the next frame until you are ready for your next shot. Leaving the shutter in a cocked position can cause the spring to weaken and fail.
As a testament to how easy this camera is to use, the picture on the left of me sitting in the recliner was the very first frame of the very first roll of film shot with this camera. My wife took the picture, and even though its an indoor shot, it came out wonderfully.
The Yashicamat can take both color and B&W film, and although I haven’t yet tried a roll of color film, I have been very happy with the results in B&W. The sharpness and detail of the lens is as good as any other camera I own. I can’t say enough how easy it is to get good shots out of this camera. But even more important, shooting with this camera is a fun experience. The unique style and method of looking down through the top viewfinder is great. If you take this camera to a public place and take some shots with it, you will definitely draw some attention from younger people who have never seen a TLR.
If you enjoy old cameras, I highly recommend getting a TLR of any kind. The Yashicamat is as good as any out there, and doesn’t have features you don’t need. Theres no need for a hotshoe for flash photography, and I wouldn’t trust any light meters that were made when these cameras were new, so their omission takes absolutely nothing away from the experience. As a matter of fact, in my personal opinion, I think the light meters look a little out of place and take away from the classic aesthetic of the camera.
As far as camera collectors go, most can be separated in two camps; those who collect Kodak and those who don't. Count me in as someone who doesnt. My main beef is that George Eastman put many other camera makers, that I do appreciate, out of business in the 1890-1910 period ! Eastman was brilliant, but also a bit ruthless. Having said that, I do appreciate Kodak's long and complicated history as well as many of the very fine cameras it produced. The most interesting Kodaks for me are those that are from the early days. Recently, I picked up a No. 5 Folding Kodak, also known by collectors as a "Satchel" Kodak because the long strap it came with allowed the camera to be carried around by ones shoulder.
After reseraching the No. 5 Folding Kodak, I realized there were many variations; in fact more than most collectors know about. Below is the camera I purchased as well as the information I gathered in my research.
After Eastman's success with the "original" Kodak Camera in 1888, he followed up in 1890 with, "an entirely new style of Kodak embodying the Kodak principle but folding up into about 2/3 the space. It is self contained,when closed, and can be opened and focused in two motions. It is the most compact and simple folding camera ever made and can be used either for tripod or detective work." New Kodaks and The Transparent Film catalogue from 1890.
Two models were brought to market, the No. 4 Folding Kodak for 4x5 and the No. 5 Folding Kodak for 5x7 images. This original model, sold in 1890 and 1891 featured Kodak's Sector Shutter with Bausch & Lomb lens. These cameras were meant to utilize roll film via Walker's Film Holder. Below is the first version of the No. 5 Folding Kodak.
Image courtesy of http://www.earlyphotography.co.uk/
Image courtesy of http://www.earlyphotography.co.uk/
In 1892, both the No. 4 and No 5. Folding Kodaks were updated to now feature a Barker Shutter. Other changes included an improved "key" rather than a dial to turn the film holder and a peep sight (window to see the film counter). It appears the earliest 1892 models only utilized the roll film holder but soon thereafter, models began to be produced with the rear of the camera featuring a drop down door that allowed for focusing on the ground glass. This allowed the camera to utilize glass plates via plate holders or the roll film holder.
This was all carefully explained in Kodak's 1892 Catalogue, see http://www.kodakcollector.com/images/catalogpdf/1892%20rdwm.pdf page 33.
Second Version No. 5 Folding Kodak
Second Version No. 5 Folding Kodak showing door for focusing so Plates or the Roll Film Holder could be used
Second Version No. 5 Folding Kodak for Plates or Roll Film Holder. Image courtesy Larry Pierce
Interestingly, the 1893 Kodak Catalogue now shows the No. 4 and No. 5 Folding Kodaks with the following improvements:
A new shutter - the Bausch & Lomb Diaphragm shutter, a reversible finder now up on the lensboard, a " new arrangement" for adjusting focus when using the ground glass, the front of the camera bed had both horizontal and vertical movements, a double swing back, a folding (sliding) front board to use wide angle and/or stereo lenses, and an automatic film counter. Gone is the winding key and window to view the film counter. At this time, the No. 6 Folding Kodak, for whole plate images (6.5x8.5"), was also brought to market.
1893 Version - Image courtesy of KodakCollector.com
Video of an 1893 No. 5 Folding Kodak.
The 1894 Kodak Catalogue now shows yet another version of the No. 5 Folding Kodak. Although quite similiar to the 1893 version, there is now a focusing knob.
And of course, in the 1895 Catalogue, the camera again is slightly different with a longer tab to pull the front standard of the camera and a different (flush) lensboard.
1895 Version - Image courtesy of KodakCollector.com
1895 Version - Image courtesy of http://www.woodandbrass.co.uk/
1895 Stereo Version - Image courtesy of http://www.ignomini.com/
The 1896 Catalogue uses the same image as the 1895 catalogue so we can assume there were no more changes that year. However, in 1897 (the final year for the Folding Kodaks), the models changed dramatically and were now called the "Improved Folding Kodaks" which Kodak described as "making them smaller and lighter than former models, though sacrificing no valuable features."
1897 Verison - Image courtesy of KodakCollector.com
But wait, where is the version I recently purchased ? Kodak was obviously constantly tinkering with their cameras and producing updates at a rapid pace in the 1890s. By looking at the features of my camera - namely the Bausch & Lomb Iris diaphragm shutter and featuring the drop down door for plate holders, we know this version was made after the Barker Shutter version in 1892, but it doesn't have the features shown in the 1893 version (ie..., the sliding lensboard, finder on top of the lensboard etc...). thus we can surmise this variation was likely made in late 1892.
The Folmer & Schwing Manufacturing Company is best known for their classic Graphic and Graflex View and SLR cameras that became standard tools for professional photographers from roughly 1912-1970. However, Folmer & Schwing started selling cameras as early as 1896. Their pre-1900 cameras are rarely seen today compared with other makers. This is most likely due to fairly low production from F&S during its first few years in the market. While camera collectors would not necessarily consider a pre-1900 F&S camera to be "rare" they are in fact quite scarce. Below is one such pre-1900 model, a 5x7 "Graphic" camera. At an original selling price of $ 40.00, this was not inexpensive, but the build quality is quite high. And, while the camera may not be "rare," I would suggest the original box - particularly in this condition - is quite rare.
Images courtesy Randy Fallen
Advertisement from August 1900
February 17, 2016
Matthew ("Matt") Isenburg is known far and wide as one the world's greatest camera and image collectors. Advancing in age, he famously sold his unbelievable collection a few years ago to AMC Toronto. That story can be found here on my August 18, 2012 blog entry.
In addition to assembling perhaps the greatest private collection of photographica ever, Matt shared his passion generously with anyone who showed a similiar passion. In fact, my own relationship with him began in earnest in 2011 through a series of phone calls. I wanted to purchase my first American Daguerreotype camera and I asked for his assistance to ensure I knew what I was buying and what to look for to ensure the camera's originality. After that, Matt and I spoke off and on and he would also email me images from his collection. He also sent me a short story that I would like to share regarding his own purchase of an American Daguerreotype camera. I believe this has been published elsewhere in the past, but its probably been many, many years.
Matt was quick to provide me (and others) with blanket permission to share his story and images - thank you, Matt !
Story and Image Courtesy Matthew R. Isenburg
Sweet, Wallach & Co. was a large photographic dealer out of Chicago. With roots back to 1865, this large photographic house remained in business for many decades (at least until the 1950s as far as I can tell). Some special images of their business - dating to the 1920s - recently surfaced from the collection of Phillip Foss. An early history of the company is also shown below.
Collection Phillip Foss
Collection Phillip Foss
Collection Phillip Foss
1910 Catalogue cover courtesy Larry Pierce
February 8, 2016
While my main collecting focus is on cameras and lenses, I also enjoy collecting photographic ephemera, including early invoices - also known as billheads. Below are some examples:
The Scovill Waterbury lens is a simple two element landscape lens, produced from 1881 to the turn of the century and was the primary lens sold on Scovill's inexpensive amateur view cameras. Given the long production run, this is one of the more common antique lenses found in the marketplace today. The most common size was sold as "B", which was fitted to 5x7 and 5x8 cameras. Less common is the "A" lens for 4x5, "BB" for whole plate cameras and "C" for 8x10 cameras.
Early versions were nickel plated and featured waterhouse stops that were inserted inside the front of the barrel and were held in place by tension provided by a round spring. Brass examples were with these type of stops were also produced - presumably a few years later. This type of Waterbury lens was produced from 1881 to about 1887. In 1888, Scovill produced the Waterbury lenses with an attached wheel with stops of varying apertures. This prevented the user from losing the insertable round stops. Lenses featuring wheel stops were sold from 1888 until about the turn of the century.
Earliest version Waterbury lenses (stereo and single)
Brass version of the Waterbury with insert-able stops
Later version Waterbury Lens
Most Waterbury Lenses sell in the $ 100 to $ 250 range depending on condition, size and if the original flange is present.
For those of you who have even a passing interest in Daguerreotypes, I highly recommend reading Sean Nolan's FREE ebook, "Fixed in Time."
Sean has spent countless hours documenting and dating Daguerreotypes and has produced a very valuable research paper that helps collectors and historians more accurately date the oldest form of photography. This can be downloaded for FREE via dropbox. Please note you do NOT have to join dropbox to download. Click on the image of the book below, then click the DOWNLOAD button. If Dropbox asks you to sign up, just click NO THANKS, and you will be able to download the pdf file.
CLICK TO DOWNLOAD BOOK
Below is a recent addition to my collection, a business card from William F Hardy of Hartford, CT. Hardy is recorded as being active in 1854 and 1855 on John Craig's Daguerreian Registry.
Hardy is also recorded as having won a silver medal for "best Daguerreotypes in crayon style" at the Hartford State Fair in 1855.
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The New York father and son team of William and William Henry Lewis were early pioneers in the photographic equipment industry. In fact, many members of the Lewis family were involved in photography from its inception through the turn of the century. The Lewis clan hold many photographic patents including Patent # 8181 from June 24, 1851 for “Fastening Pedestals to Columns.”
Click to see the full patent
What was actually patented was a feature found on what would become known as Lewis’ Jenny Lind Table. In short, Lewis designed a nifty twist and lock system for its table column and base. This would make it quick and easy to put the table together (or apart) by separating the column from the base with a mere twist of the column. The table was described in this 1852 Lewis advertisement:
“JENNY LIND TABLES,
By the application of various tops can be converted into Laides’ or Gentlemen’s Toilet Tables, Lamp Stands, Artists’ Easels, Reading, Writing, and Music Desks, Ladies’ Work Stands, Fire Screens, &c., &c.”
Jenny Lind was a famous Swedish singer who toured the US in 1850, managed by PT Barnum, and just caused a sensation - read more about her here at this link.
The text in the patent further defined aditional applications Lewis saw for their product, including those for photographic use:
Essentially, Lewis designed and produced a solid cast iron pedestal with a detachable fluted column that held a rod that could be fitted with different [table] tops which would serve many purposes including photographic applications. As such, the Jenny Lind Table (usually with a round top) is frequently seen in Daguerreotype, CDV, Tintype and other 19th century images. The table was a place for the subject to lean on to gain stability and/or add compositional balance. In most 19th century images, the table is commonly found with a fancy tablecloth draped over it, but many times the table was left bare by the photographer. This very practical table could easily be raised or lowered and could be broken down quickly – making it a staple of the photographers studio.
In the 1852 book, Photography: A Treatise on the Chemical Changes Produced by Solar Radiation, and the Production of Pictures from Nature, by the Daguerreotype, Calotype, and Other Photographic Processes By Robert Hunt NY Published by S. D. Humphrey, 1852; the table is illustrated with the following text:
Below are some images of a Jenny Lind Table from a 2015 Ebay auctions courtesy of seller wwolst12 (sold for $ 2,620). This example is fully original and features a rectangular top. These very detailed images show what a beautiful product Lewis brought to market. We also see that the wooden table top was covered with a Rosewood veneer – identical to Lewis’ Daguerreotype cameras. Note the beautiful bronze finish to the cast iron. Unfortunately, many of the extant examples are found with the columns and base painted; with green being a common color.
This photos shows the locking mechanism that was one the features of Patent # 8181.
The other significant photographic use for Lewis’ column and pedestal was as a head rest or head clamp. Instead of a rod with a wooden table top, this product featured a rod with a head clamp and a larger base and column. The same 1852 book illustrates Lewis head rest with the following text:
While many other posing aids and head-rests ("clamps") were made by other makers through the end of the century, the Lewis product is the most popular and highly sought after. Complete and original examples of posing tables and head-rests continue to climb in value. Currently, most are in the $ 1,500-2,500 price range.