Rob Niederman Focuses on Antique Wood Cameras

July 14th, 2008

In this interview Rob Niederman talks about collecting antique wood cameras from the late 1800s. Based in Minnesota, Rob can be reached via his website, Antique and 19th Century Cameras, which is a member of our Hall of Fame.

How did I start collecting cameras? Actually, I had an interest in photography as a kid and owned a darkroom by the age of 12 or 13. My interest in photography grew. I spent lots of time in a Chicago gallery learning about black and white photographs by the old masters and was very fortunate to study with Ansel Adams in one of his workshops in the mid 1970s. My first exposure into antique cameras occurred in the late 1970s. I was given a beautiful, large wooden Century No.7 studio camera as a birthday present. As it happened, the studio camera had quite a history and was used by a portrait photographer in Oconto, Wisconsin, who photographed the townsfolk in the early 1900s.

Gennert Montauk Self Casing camera

The Folding Montauk, Style 1, c. 1899 by G. Gennert Company

I became fascinated with the concept of a wood camera. It looked nothing like the metal cameras that I was familiar with, and it certainly didn’t use rollfilm. Most people don’t stop and think that before metal and plastic cameras, cameras were made out of wood. The great expanses of polished wood set with brass hardware and knowing that highly skilled craftsman lovingly hand-built wood cameras was intoxicating.

A little later on I was traveling in Door County, Wisconsin, and happened to stop into a camera shop to pick up 35 mm film. Behind the counter I spotted an old wood and leather camera. The body was covered in dark, deeply pebbled black leather while the interior glowed from what appeared to be highly polished rosewood adorned with bright nickel plated hardware. My curiosity was piqued and I had to know more. The camera was a 1907 Conley that included lots of original developed glass plates showing images of times gone by. It then occurred to me that cameras had a story to tell and I decided to seek them out.

As time went on, I started seeing the diversity in their designs. About 10 years ago I met other collectors who shared the enthusiasm of wood and brass cameras. They also knew a great deal of the history of pre-1900 apparatus. It was my first exposure to learning the true history of photography, and as a result, I got serious and passionate about collecting. Having been raised around antiques most of my life, I realized that to fully understand older cameras, research needed to be done. And with the explosive growth of the Internet and e-mail, it became much easier to make new acquaintances and learn from those who had already been collecting for years if not decades.

Pearsall Compant Camera c.1883

Pearsall Compact Camera c. 1883 by New York Photographer, Frank Pearsall

I’m not collecting just to collect; I have very specific themes that give me direction on what to seek out. I want to understand the lore and legacy of the camera itself, to know more than just who made it and the approximate date of manufacture. Each camera has a story that enriches the collecting experience. I want to know why it was made, who it was marketed to, and if there’s any historic background to it. This type of information is beyond what appears in antique references and books.

Case in point, I acquired a camera earlier this year, an 1883 Compact View made by a well known Brooklyn photographer by the name of Frank Pearsall. The camera is quite rare with only three known examples. The collecting community already knew of Pearsall as a prominent artist and that his Compact View was historically important because it set forth an innovative design pattern that literally fostered in a new era of portable cameras. Was there more to learn, I asked myself? As it ended up, the answer is a resounding “yes!”

Diligent research uncovered a great deal of fascinating information about Frank and Alva Pearsall, brothers who had competing studio / galleries in 1880s Brooklyn, NY. But an unexpected bit of information slowly disclosed itself. Frank had a connection to American baseball in the late 1880s. Aside from being an avid fan, he was also the personal photographer to Henry Chadwick, widely regarded as the “father of baseball.” Pursuing this further, I uncovered information in an obscure book by baseball historian Peter Nash that included a comment by Chadwick noting that, “Pearsall had invented a portable camera appropriate for baseball.” From there it started to come together.

Quta-Photo Machine

Quta Photo-Machine c. 1904 – 1911 by Quta Camera & Plate Company, New York

From a historic point of view, it simply didn’t make sense for a studio artist to suddenly create a portable camera for use outside of the studio, let alone a design that changed the industry and fostered a new generation of cameras in the 1890s. Uncovering new information like this is incredibly exciting, especially when it links two collecting communities together. And once you start digging deep into the history and legacy of these things, surprises abound.

Ironically, two months after making this connection, I was contacted by a baseball historian doing research for a new book he was writing on a rare series of 1880s baseball cards. He wanted to learn more about the photographic equipment used to create cabinet photographs of players that were used to produce the baseball cards. He also felt it was important for baseball historians to understand the photographic “tools of the trade” that produced baseball cards and decided to include a side-bar in his book on the topic. After explaining what I uncovered about Pearsall and his connection to baseball, the author also found this information exciting. In summary, we both learned a lot and I ended up authoring nearly the entire side-bar for the new book; which will also include a picture of the Pearsall Compact Camera.

Collectors Weekly: Are many of your cameras one of a kind?

Niederman:As I became more immersed in the history of photography, a greater appreciation for rare and historically interesting items grew. It is a common “symptom” with serious collectors; the desire to move your collection up the antiques food chain so to speak. At this time, my drive is to acquire the best rare examples of interesting cameras, especially those that are relatively unknown and have good stories to tell. As it happens, these are often the most difficult to find because very few exist and that other collectors may already have acquired the pieces.

Collectors Weekly:What are some of your favorite models?

Niederman: The camera that really turned me from an aimless collector into a passionate historian is an 1891 model of a self-casing camera by the American Optical Company called the Henry Clay Camera. There are estimated to be three known examples of this particular 1891 model. When first acquired, I didn’t realize its significance or that it had an odd design. Upon realizing that it was an undocumented model and unknown to the collecting community, I felt compelled to find answers. It was hard work at the time because not everyone was using e-mail.

The Henry Clay Camera c. 1891 – 1899 by American Optical Co., Scovill & Adams Co., props

I have a couple other favorites. One is the Pearsall Compact Camera that I spoke of earlier. It’s historically important because this is the camera with a new design that launched a whole new style of cameras. Kind of like the first mini van, that opened up a whole new realm of car design. Part of the love of collecting is that you get these unexpected crossovers. Besides, Pearsall’s camera is simply gorgeous.

Another favorite of mine is an 1882 Blair Tourograph, of which there are also only three examples known. This camera is almost borderline mythical and a good example of a great idea for amateur photographers that was poorly executed. It was made at about the same time as the Pearsall camera, but was unnecessarily complicated for to use. Even though it’s historically important, it was an utter failure as a camera and its design became an evolutionary dead-end.

Another camera I acquired, a Trick Camera made by DeMoulin Bros., is not even a real camera. It’s an early version of a squirt camera. Part of the fun is not being so serious about collecting. It was so silly and fun when I saw it at auction; I decided I had to own it. Even though I like to target pieces made before 1900, I thought, “how can you not love a wooden camera that squirts water?” And the camera really works. One evening I loaded it up with water and tested it on my son. The darn thing squirts about 10 feet with the power of a super soaker! How fun is that? Not everything has to be serious.

Collectors Weekly:How do you find these cameras? Do you research them first or just come across them?

Demoulin Bros Trick Camera

Trick Camera c. 1910 – 1930 by DeMoulin Bros. & Company

Niederman: It’s both. I have themes and a focus as well as a wish list. But I do come across some unexpected items, like the Trick Camera. Before eBay, you had to meet people, scour magazines and visit antique shows. Today, the best way to get the super rare, interesting cameras is through a network of contacts. I do that because I don’t want them to appear on eBay and have to fight over them. The five most recent cameras I acquired had nothing to do with eBay. That doesn’t mean something nice doesn’t show up from time-to-time on eBay, the problem is that eBay has done a great service to collecting communities and educated a lot of people. And it’s good for the seller when a lot of people fight over a highly desired item, yet it can also get to the point where inexpensive cameras sometimes go for a lot of money.

Last year was a bad year for me, I think I only acquired a couple cameras; but this year I’ve already acquired five significant pieces. These latest cameras became available privately through a network of contacts. For example, one collector and close friend is slowly selling off his collection. We have a special relationship and he has kindly given me and a few others an opportunity to pick and choose items that fit our collecting themes. In this particular situation, the seller feels that the integrity of the buyer and his dedication to collecting (as opposed to being a dealer) is an important factor in making a decision to part with a camera. Although it’s a difficult decision to sell any camera, the seller is happy because he can “visit” his former cameras on my website.

Collectors Weekly: Where do you end up finding most of the information about these rare cameras?

Shew Xit c.1898 London View Camera

Shew Xit c. 1898 by James F. Shew in London

Niederman: The Bible of camera collecting is McKeown’s Price Guide to Antique and Classic Cameras. It is an imposing book and the latest edition typically costs over $100. This reference has become a reliable source for collectors because of the number of people who contributed their knowledge over the years. I am also a major contributor to McKeown’s. There are 12 editions from probably over 24 years. It covers just about the complete history of cameras and includes over 10,000 photos and probably information on over 30,000. It’s a terrific reference, but like everything else it might be right or wrong, and therefore should be treated as a “guide.”

“The Pearsall Compact Camera was kind of like the first mini van—it opened up a whole new realm of design.”

I also try to buy the original catalogs and other references issued by the camera manufacturers. Some makers issued books on how to make photographs. These have a wealth of information and often include large sections of advertisements, articles about the cameras, information about newly issued patents, and profiles of new cameras introduced to the market. You can learn a lot not only from the manufacturer’s ads but from retailers catalogs, so I try to buy as many as possible.

I also get a lot of information from books that have been scanned and presented in Google’s books area. While it takes the challenge out of the hunt, Google’s impressive book search service makes things go a lot faster. You still have to do a lot of work and dig around, but it is much easier today. I also know the technology curator at the George Eastman House and have been out there a couple times to go through their library. I can also email him for research assistance. Another source of information is from my network of friends. The camera collecting community is pretty friendly and we help each other out a lot. There are also discussion boards. Even with the new technology search tools on the Internet, you still have to work hard to search out information on early wood cameras because it’s not like going to Barnes & Noble and looking for a book on Nikon cameras.

Collectors Weekly: How do you keep your cameras in such good condition?

Anthony's Clifton Camera c.1898 - 1906

The Clifton Camera c. 1898 – 1906 by E. & H.T. Anthony & Co.

I do what I call preservation. Cameras that are over 100 years old will have dry leather that might need a bit of TLC. Not wanting to cause harm to a rare camera, I contacted some leather and restoration experts for advice on how to care for antique leather. Some cameras may have leather that is already deteriorating, and once started, it cannot be stopped. But I do want to slow the process of deterioration through careful preservation. The problem with getting cameras in the best possible condition is that you end up paying a higher price. It’s not about what makes it expensive, it’s about what makes you happy. As a collector and a historian I’m a purist.

Collectors Weekly: How do you display your cameras?

Ingersoll Sure Shot Detective Camera with dry plates c. 1897

Shure Shot Detective Camera c. 1897 by Robert H. Ingersoll & Bro. (shown with dry plates)

Niederman: I’m in my office right now, and every camera I own, I can see. I also contracted a carpenter to build a display case, however many are on tables and a couple in book shelves. Nothing is hidden away in drawers. I know people that have over 4,000 cameras, but how do you enjoy them if they can’t all be on display? The fragile cameras are under glass.

I have a rule; any camera I own is on display. If I ever reach a point where I have cameras stuffed away in drawers, I’ll have too many cameras, or too little room. Not everybody agrees with that, but it keeps me from becoming a junk collector. I am also starting to add a couple knick-knacks like ground glass viewers and early meters.

Collectors Weekly: Any other advice for someone just starting out with camera collecting?

Niederman: My advice is really no different than recommendations for anyone new to collecting. First and most important, take the time to learn about what you want to collect and seek out information from others. The more you know the better prepared and protected you are. Focus and spend some time on developing a theme or collecting direction. Don’t collect as an investment because you’ll never win. Collect what you really enjoy and make it something you want to live with, but don’t collect because you think it’s going to go up in value. Just make it fun and enjoy the experience. In many cases, others will not understand our collecting passion, so be patient and don’t try to impress everyone. Finally, join collector groups, read books, and go to shows.

Collectors Weekly: Can you give some examples of “themes”?

Niederman: If someone says they collect cameras, the first question I’ll ask is what kind of cameras they collect. Many collectors do not have a theme or focus, and I’ve heard several tell me that they buy anything with a lens. In contrast, my focus is on wood cameras, preferably pre-1900 cameras – and that’s still a big theme. Although I like to cap off around apparatus built up to the year 1900, anything newer is not considered unless it’s really strange, rare, or historically interesting. I also have sub-themes such as acquiring the very first models of self-casing cameras by each major American manufacturer. After nearly 10 years in pursing this target, I have managed to acquire first version examples made by Kodak, American Optical, Blair, Scovill and others.

Blair Tourograph c. 1880 - 1882

Tourograph c. 1880 – 1882 by The Blair Tourograph & Dry Plate Company

This also brings up an interesting collecting conundrum in deciding what first to buy. Collectors often find themselves unable to afford interesting items – including me! One internationally famous collector summed it up best when I asked him about it. His reply was to go after the most difficult and rare cameras first, and after that everything is easier. I found this to be excellent advice that shaped my collecting habits. I became more selective and patient. Instead of buying cameras that I know will appear several times a year for years on end, I put money aside in preparation for rare cameras on my “most wanted” list. I am happy to say the strategy works and I’m enjoying collecting and researching cameras more than ever.

(All images in this article courtesy of Rob Niederman’s Antique & 19th Century Cameras website)

109 comments so far

  1. steve Says:

    I have a Blair tourograph 8×10 view camera –without a lens—and I was wondering if you know if its worth anything without the lens and if there’s a possibility of me being able to purchase a lens for this camera.
    Thanks for your time
    Steve S

  2. Rob Niederman Says:

    Hi Steve … sorry about the slow reply. The value of your camera depends on the model and overall condition. The good news is that it is possible to find an appropriate lens for the camera. Feel free to e-mail pictures of the camera and we’ll take it from there. – Rob

  3. anita margrill Says:

    Hello: I am building a small model of the eye, which will be enlarged for a large museum exhibit, walk-thru version.

    For the model, I am trying to locate a shutter leaf diaphram, one that opens and closes (creating a central occulus) approximating the iris of an eye. From diagrams I have seen, the mechanism consists of, say, 5 shutter leaves whose motion is controlled by a perimeter actuating ring. The drive element can be hand operated (in fact that wld be preferable for the model.)

    Do you have a shutter leaf diaphram (it’s size might be 5 to 6″ dia) or can you suggest other sources?

    I appreciate your help…….thank you.
    Anita M

  4. Rob Niederman Says:

    Hi Anita. What you need is an iris shutter made from an extremely large studio camera. When the shutter is set to “T” (time) to remain open, you can turn a ring (“rimset”) or move a lever and watch the diaphragm blades open and close. Alphax, Betax and Ilex are shutter brands that come to mind, but I am not aware of versions with 5″ – 6″ openings. For example, the largest commonly found shutter size is a “No.5″ (2.5 inch iris opening). A No.6 would have a 3″ opening. Post 1900 shutters aren’t my expertise, but even so, I’m not sure if bigger shutters were ever made. – Rob

  5. anita margrill Says:

    Rob: On google, I just found your response to my query about iris shutters! To clarify my request for information: I want to build a small model of the eye, for a much larger version for a museum exhibit. I wanted to obtain an iris shutter, only to use as a template/construction guide. All drawings I have seen are too schematic, and so are not helpful. Do you know of any historical(?)drawings/engineering details, which describe the mechanics of the iris shutter?

    I’m wondering if I cld impose upon you to e-mail your response directly to me @ above address. Thank you for your consideration. Anita

  6. Joy W Says:

    I have an antique camera that I am trying to date. The leather handle has the markings of NSCo which I took to be ansco and from which I began researching. I know they were only known as Ansco from 1902 until the later part of the 1920s. I have had no luck dating it or finding this camera’s history. It looks like the Eastman Kodak Brownie camera but an earlier version.

  7. Eluria H Says:

    Do you know where I can find a lense for Century 7A Kodak studio camera?

  8. Rob Says:

    Hi Anita. There a plenty of inexpensive iris shutter (or lenses with iris apertures) on eBay. Taking them apart will give you a good idea on how they work. You e-mail is not in the note, but you can e-mail me directly from my website. Thanks. – Rob

  9. Rob Says:

    Hi Joy. If you can e-mail pictures of the camera, I should be able to assist in identification. – Rob

  10. Rob Says:

    Hi Eluria. I assume the camera is 8×10 in format. For a studio camera such as this, you can go with a vintage of contemporary lens. As an FYI, I like the softer contrast of vintage lenses. Portrait lenses in the Petzval formula are very nice for portraits (if you like softer edges and some light drop off). Otherwise, vintage and contemporary lenses often appear on eBay. I also have a Ross No.3 Cabinet that might cover 8×10, but would need to check. -Rob

  11. Ryan Says:

    Good afternoon. While cleaning in a family members attic, I found a Kodak Ektagraphic EF VisualMaker in excellent condition, complete with all original accessories and gray carrying case, also in perfect condition. I could find only one other for comparison on the internet, and that was on Ebay. I was wondering if you knew anything interesting about this item and curious of its value (if indeed there is any) and how to best go about advertising it for sale (besides Ebay).
    Thank you,

  12. Rob Says:

    Hi Ryan; Sorry, I don’t have information about the Ektagraphic EF VisualMaker or it’s value. – Rob

  13. Janet Kelly Says:

    I have a 5×7 rapid rectilinear field camera optical lens by Wollensak Co.
    It is still in the orginial box, has two plates and the hood. I was wondering if this is worth anything and how would I go about selling it?
    It is my parents camera and they wanted me to see if it was of any value.
    e-mail address is
    Thank You Janet

  14. Rob Niederman Says:

    Hi Janet; The information you provided appears to only be the lens/shutter of the overall camera. These were popular and sold on many different types of cameras. I can assist if you e-mail pictures of the camera. Refer to my website for the e-mail address to contact me. – Rob

  15. Roger Greenslade Says:

    Looking directly at the front of the camera,I am seeking the right hand locking unit,& central’springy’pull for an otherwise mint Sanderson Junior plate camera. Can you assist, or point me in the direction of someone who can? For any and all help, thank you.

  16. Rob Niederman Says:

    Hi Roger. Try contacting Lionel Hughes (a well known U.K. based camera dealer) at: … he probably sees a lot more Sanderson cameras than we do in the U.S. – Rob

  17. Amber Says:

    Although this is about a wooden enlarger I am wondering if you know or can point me to find out more information about a solid wood enlarger in beautiful shape made by ansco company I am guessing from 1907 -1928. I can not find any information on the internet on antique darkroom equipment.


  18. Rob Niederman Says:

    Hi Amber. Unfortunately I am not aware of any references or other information about vintage enlargers or darkroom equipment. – Rob

  19. Darlene Mageors Says:

    I have a Century Studio Camera #7A on a #1A Semi Centenial stand. It is frome the Eastman Kodak Co. The shutter says #5 Universial Sync. I would like to find out more about it and what it might be worth. Thank you for any input.

  20. Janet Perry Says:

    I was given this old camera recently and I am trying to find out something about it. It is marked Kodak Master Camera 8×10. It has bellows and folds up. It appears to be very old. Most interesting is the lens that is attached. It is marked Carl Zeiss Jena, Tessar, Nr. 3550474, 1:9 = 375mm.
    I know nothing about cameras or lenses. I find lots of info re Carl Zeiss Jena, but nothing about this particular size. Can you help me? Thanks for any info. Janet

  21. Rob Niederman Says:

    Hi Darlene: Century studio cameras were popular ‘work horses’ used from 1904 through the early 10’s. Many of these cameras were used for decades and the Universal Sync shutter is probably something that was added much later. Value is very much a consideration of completeness, condition, and usability. Century studio cameras do not have much appeal to collectors because of the display space needed. For example, I’ve seen many fine Century Studio cameras on stands fail to attract interest at $250 – $350. At this time, there is a renewed interest in large format film work by a small group of users. However, they are looking for something very inexpensive to see what it’s like to shoot vintage equipment. – Rob

  22. Rob Niederman Says:

    Hi Janet; The Master View is a metal bodied large format camera that replaced the wooden 2d (1920s – 1950s). The camera is much newer than something I would normally research, but a quick check on the Internet yielded lots of information. It appears to have good value even in this digital age – but I’m not sure why. And most websites cite dates in the mid-1950s. Lenses were chosen by each photographer, but a ‘standard’ 8×10 lens is typically 360 mm. This means that the Zeiss Tessar is the appriate size for the camera. – Rob

  23. Anne King Says:

    My father was a camera buff. He left me a wooden box camera in really good condition. I am trying to find out about it. Blair Camera Co. manufactured Boston Mass USA. On the outside of the wooden camera it has a sticker CornBelt Exposition Sept 28th to Oct 6th. Inside when you pull the plates out (total of 5 plates) on the plates it states patented May 15, 83. Do you know what the worth would be or give me some idea

  24. Rob Niederman Says:

    Hi Anne; Blair cameras are among my favorites. Unfortunately I’ll need need to see JPG images of the camera to assist. Blair-as with most any prominent American camera company-made hundreds of cameras and model variations. The vast majority of Blair cameras are inexpensive models, yet there are a rare few with significant value. Go to my website ( and use the e-mail link to send images. I look forward to seeing your camera. Be sure to take good, clear shots showing the various sides. And of course I would love to see a pic of the CornBelt Exposition sticker! – Rob

  25. jerry tobin Says:

    i have a antique wood developing exposer box dovetail in excellent shape i am wondering who built this devloper and what year they started using electricity it has mazda light bulbs and the craftmanship of the box is extremly well done the only marking i have found is on the switch
    it seems to be around 130 yrs old.the guides for the photo appear to be silver. i can send a email with pictures

    thank you

  26. Rob Niederman Says:

    Hi Jerry; There were quite a number of these boxes made in a variety of countries. It would be best to e-mail me pictures. – Rob

  27. Amanda C. Says:

    Hi, I recently purchased a Kewpie 2C which requires #130 Eastman film or #260 Vulcan film. Do you know if I can still get either of these film sizes??
    I’ve looked online without any luck so far. Or are there any substitute sizes that would work in a box camera? Other than no film, it’s in really good condition and I’d love to use it!
    Thanks, Amanda

  28. Rob Niederman Says:

    Hi Amanda; If you haven’t already done so, maybe contact “Film for Classics” ( I don’t see 130 rollfilm listed but suggest contacting them regardless. They might be able to do custom spooling or suggest options. – Rob

  29. Elaine Rhodes Says:


    I have acquired a mahogany bellows stereo camera with the plate of ‘Ross London’ on the front.

    The aperture size is 7 3/4 inches by 9 3/4 inches.

    I cannot seem to find any reference to it any where have you any ideas?

    It comes with two telephoto lenses and the focusing is by the front rack and pinion.

    I have looked in the McKeown’s guide, nothing. We are beginning to wonder if it is a prototype.

  30. hoookline_sinker Says:

    I have a kewpie 2c camera. Can someone please tell me where I can take this particular camera to be properly cleaned and get ready for use.
    you can email me at

  31. Rob Niederman Says:

    Hi Elaine; Ross is one of the earlier English builders but around for a long time. McKeown’s price guide pretty much tracks cameras with verifiable sales, therefore not all models are listed. Wood cameras are not as well documented as later apparatus, yet the presence of a maker’s label would confirm your camera to be a production model. Interestingly, many early stereo models were made by other builders (such as Ottewill) to Ross’ specifications. As a suggestion, check with Lionel Hughes a well known U.K. dealer. He can be found in a Google search. – Rob

  32. tammy Says:

    T have a rochester NY. wood camera with aunicum lens,boush&lomb opt pat. jan 6,91. pony premo d.It is in mint condition nothing broken. Also has a slide for it. Where can I find more about this camra?

  33. Rob Niederman Says:

    Hi Tammy; The camera dates to around 1900 and is stereotypical American self-casing camera. The “Pony” series of cameras was sold as a lower end version of the well known Premo series. The Unicum shutter with Bausch & Lomb lens was standard. If you would like an estimated value, feel free to e-mail images of the camera. – Rob

  34. John Hursh Says:

    I own a R O & C Co Tele-Photo Cycle POCO B 4×5 passed down from my father.
    The leather on the body and red bellows are in good shape. The lenses are
    Bosch & Lomb. There are two glasss negative holders and a film pack
    adapter (last used by me in the 50s). The leather case leaves something to be desired since it has dried out and the lacings have broken. There is also a Wollensak wide angle lens. Should I put it on eBAY?

  35. Rob Niederman Says:

    Hi John; The condition of the camera itself is more important than the leather case. The specific model is not historically important or valuable, but there are always collectors looking for nice examples. If you send me images, I can assess the value and then you will have enough information to decide if eBay is a good place to sell. Then again, eBay has been a pretty good venue! – Rob

  36. Linda Says:

    Hi Rob;

    I was wondering if you knew the value on a historic camera of E.H.T anthony .I think it is a anthony wooden bellow plate camera no tripod with does have the gold plate in front with the E&H.T.logo the bellows are dusty but not rip or torn..Glass is fine Lens intact .Can you tell me anything about this camera .There is one on ebay now that is the exact same but with a tripod.

    thank you


  37. Rob Niederman Says:

    Hi Linda; I’ve owned numerous Anthony cameras and tracked their value for many years. However given the number of different models (and variations), it would help if you could e-mail images of your camera. Although the camera might look like the one appearing on eBay (either an NPA or Champion), there could be subtle differences (i.e. lens, condition, format size, model variation) that influence its value. For example, the eBay camera is in fair condition and has a lens that probably came from a “New Model View” by an Anthony competitor (Rochester Optical). It should instead have an Anthony lens with ‘EA’ marking, or better yet, an Anthony Achromatic ‘cone’ style lens. – Rob

  38. Estban Santana Says:

    Sir: I was given in 1965 a wooden Kodak enlarger. I was told the enlarger
    was made in 1929. How can I get info on this item.

  39. Rob Niederman Says:

    Hi Estban; Unfortunately I do not have information about Kodak enlargers and not aware of any references or resources to assist. – Rob

  40. Taylor Thomas Says:

    Hi I currently bought an old camera for 5 dollars at a flea market. I brought it home, cleaned it up and got it working again. It is a Bausch & Lomb Pony Premo No. 6 by Rochester Optical Co. with a Victor shutter. It still has it’s leather, bellows are in nice condition and I’m looking to sell it on ebay. Could you tell me how much it is worth?

  41. Rob Niederman Says:

    Hi Taylor; As with any vintage item, the overall condition will influence the value. So … sight unseen, I cannot give you an estimate. However, the camera is somewhat common and not historically important. As such, it doesn’t have a great deal of value, but definitely worth more than the $5 you paid. Feel free to e-mail pictures of the Pony Premo and I’ll help out. – Rob

  42. Rob Niederman Says:

    Hi Taylor; As with any vintage item, condition is important to the value. I can assist in giving you an opinion of the camera’s worth if you e-mail pictures. Otherwise, it is probably worth more than the $5 paid but I’m unable to say how much more. – Rob

  43. Richard Short Says:

    Hello. I’d like to send you a picture of a wooden camera. Can you send me an E-mail address please. Thanks Richard

  44. Richard Short Says:

    My wooden camera is made by American optical. Rochester, New York. My hometown. I’d like to send you a picture of it. Thanks Richard

  45. Rob Niederman Says:

    Hi Richard. I received the images and identify the camera as a “Reversible Back Premo” made by the Rochester Optical Company. I have the same camera with info posted on my website at: Thanks! – Rob

  46. Dennis Kennedy Says:

    Hi Rob,

    I have a early 1900s Wood Kodak Home Enlarger and Manual, in working condition, and was wondering if you(or any posters) knew of anyone who collected wooden darkroom equipment. I have looked on the internet and the only other one I’ve seen was all broken and missing parts so I couldent tell much about it.

  47. Rob Niederman Says:

    Hi Dennis; Wooden enlargers by Kodak and Elwood appear frequently, yet in my years of collecting I have never met someone who collected darkroom equipment. They seem to be novelty items as opposed to a mainstream collectable. Maybe someone on this forum will come forward and prove me wrong! – Rob

  48. Jason Says:

    Hello Rob,

    I recently purchased a Century 8 x 10 No. 2 camera. All the hardware works and wood is in pretty good condition. Of course the bellows has some pin holes so the bellows needs to be repaired or replaced. The camera seems pretty solid and from what I understand has a Cherry Base, Mahogany Upper Standards, and Brass Hardware. Right now I am trying to figure out what the actual value of the camera would be if the Bellows is replaced would would make this camera very usable. Any help in that area would be appreciate. Also am I going to hurt the value of the camera if I do things like replace the worn leather handle, fix any scratches in the wood, refinish the wood, polish the brass, or do anything to restore it new condition? What is ok to do and what is not? This camera was produced between 1907 and 1915 and I have no. 210. From what I understand even though George Eastman acquired controlling interest in the Century Company in 1903-1904 he did not label this particular camera or change its name to the Kodak 2D until 1916.


  49. Rob Niederman Says:

    Hi Jason; Value of your No.2 Century is based on the usual factors (condition, completeness, etc.). Let’s assume your camera is in truly excellent condition (visually appealing) with a nice bellows. Replacing the bellows will significantly lower its value because collectors want cameras with original parts. Making the bellows light-tight for shooting will not increase the collector value. As far as replacing the bellows, the cost might approach the value of the camera. Today, as a collector camera, a truly beautiful No.2 Century averages about $250. The value is relatively low because it is somewhat common and not historically important. As a disclaimer, the collector value I mention is not to be construed as the value of your camera since I haven’t seen it. Otherwise, I do not have an opinion of its value as a ‘shooter.’ Interestingly, years ago before digital photography, 8×10 ‘shooters’ with a good usable lens often sold for twice collector value to photographers looking for an inexpensive work camera. However this is no longer the case due to the large numbers of photographers now selling off their old cameras. In summary, if the camera is a collector’s item, leave it alone and enjoy! Hope this helps. – Rob

  50. Jason Says:

    Rob, I appreciate your answer. Could you suggest where I might find one of those beautiful Century No. 2 Cameras for $250 so I could consider buying it. I actually bought this camera with hopes of just getting my feet wet in 8 x 10 photography at a reasonable price. I have been scouring the web for weeks in an effort to locate information on the Century No. 2 but have found very limited information. I have not seen another for sale. I also thought the Century company went out of business in 1920 but then information on the internet is not always accurate. I also have been looking for where I might find hardware like ground glass brass clips and screws. I really did not buy this camera for a restoration project but I have become very curious about this model, the company, and its history. I have seen there are different models of the wooden Century. Are all of them Common? The information I have gathered shows there was a Century No. 1, then the Century No. 2 which finally became the Eastman View camera. If they are common why is it seen little mention of the Century 2 model. I would like to know why it has three grooves in the front and rear bed rails when only two are used. Can you point me to a book I can buy or reference to find out more about the Century 2 model? Better yet can you point me to a website that has in depth information on it? How many of the Century No. 2 cameras with the round label on the front would you say have been produced?

  51. Rob Says:

    Hi Jason: As far as finding an 8×10 Century No.2, eBay is always a good place to look. The No.2 was a basic field camera offered in two sizes: 6.5 x 8.5 inches (whole-plate) and 8 x 10 inches. The body sold for $26 and $30 respectively. According to a Century catalogue (when Century was a division of Kodak); the No.2 “incorporated many of the features of the No.1-and they are all good ones-and these, with a number of new and valuable improvements, have given the No.2 an acknowledged and deserved prestige.” – Yep, the usual marketing hype.

    The listing continues: “An exclusive Century idea is the auxiliary base which is, in reality, a supplementary bed on which the entire camera moves forward or back by rack and pinion, so that the weight is evenly distributed and the camera always in perfect balance when on the tripod, no matter whether an extra long focus or wide angle lens is employed.”

    This also answers your question about why there are three groves in the rails. The top groove is for the front standard, the middle for the rear standard, and bottom for a sliding tripod mount.

    The Century Camera Company was acquired by George Eastman in 1903 (he obtained controlling interest). “Century” as a Kodak ‘division’ appeared in a variety of forms until 1925. In 1926, the name changed to “Folmer Graflex Corpration”: The last time the name Century appeared.

    As far as availability, Century field view cameras are not uncommon and show up frequently for sale. Over 10 years ago, I owned and sold a fine whole-plate version of the No.2. I also see various models of the Century field camera at camera shows.

    Otherwise, there is no information about how many No.2’s were produced.

  52. Dale Jorgensen Says:

    Hi Rob…Maybe you can give some idea of value? I have a 1897 to 1918 ROC wooden view camera with a brass lens by Burke and James and a wood tripod that goes with camera; the tripod has a wood 2 inch post in the center of three legs (mahogany) including a F & S collapsible wood stand. All seem to be complete and in excellent condition….Thanks…Dale

  53. Rob Says:

    Hi Dale. I would be happy to help, but more information is needed. ROC made a lot of view cameras and their value varies widely. More importantly, pictures of your camera are needed so that I can assess its condition and completeness. I can be contacted directly through my website. Thanks! – Rob

  54. Pearl Tempy Says:

    nicely said!!!

  55. Lance and Linda Says:


    I just found an Old wood Camera (Korona/Betax at a neighborhood sale…I just put it on e-bay today 10-13-2010
    Can you check it out if you have time and tell me something about it…my e-bay name is tabby123linda


  56. Lance and Linda Says:


    I meant to say it was just listed on e-bay 11-13-10
    e-bay name is tabby123linda


  57. Rob Says:

    Hi tabby123linda; The Korona view you have on eBay is difficult to date, but it was build and sold from the late 1920s to the late 1950s. It isn’t historically important or something a collector would covet. “Shooters” might have the most interest. I see the camera has a replacement lensboard and a completely rebuilt back with some type of rollfim holder (definitely not original to the camera). Value is subjective and the Korona would probably appeal to someone looking for parts or play with non-digital stuff. Hope this helps. – Rob

  58. Kathy Hierholzer Says:

    I have an 8×10 kodak improved seneca wood with brass camera. Good condition, fairly new ground glass and bellows. I have to sell it because of my present living space. What is the worth. It has all the original parts. a new lens board with a wide angle lens. I have it stored in a hard pelican case.

  59. Rob Says:

    Hi Kathy; The Seneca Camera Company (different than Kodak) made a variety of field view cameras. Regardless, I can assist in providing a collector estimate if you e-mail pictures of the camera to assess its overall condition, completeness, accuracy of parts, etc. My e-mail address can be found on my website. Thanks. – Rob

  60. Mike Papsin Says:

    Hello Rob – Still trying to find the best method for preserving the leather on antique cameras. My camera condition ranges from very brittle/dry to good. I’ve heard of some products as Venetian Ceam and White Hide Food. Can you please provide your recommended approach?

  61. Rob Says:

    Hi Mike … didn’t I e-mail some basics about leather care a month or so back? In summary, there is no specific ‘formula’ for leather care because it depends on the condition of the material. However for most problems in which leather is simply dry, use Venetian Cream. Do not use anything that has synthetics (i.e. silicone) because it impedes the water/air exchange in leather pores. Don’t use thin liquids such as Neets Foot Oil, Lexol and the like. These shoot right through the leather and disolve the underlying hide glue. In situations in which leather rot has started, it cannot be stopped, but can be slowed down by using a special compound that is difficult to make. For truly museum grade archival work for special and historically rare cameras, I buy supplies from Talas (Brooklyn, NY) – Keep in mind that leather preservation is a combination of science and art.

  62. Mike Papsin Says:

    Rob – Thanks for the tips.

  63. Tom Davison Says:

    Rob – My dad gave me his dad’s circa approx 1895 camera – I am curious about the approx value and how best to protect it. I also have about 10 glass family photos from it; I’d like to know how to get those made it to prints or scanned for digital viewing. I can send photos if that would help; it is made by Rochester Optical Company and looks very much like the wood camera on your website’s home page. It has a Victor labl on the lens and a Bausch and Lomb patent referenced. It also has Premo B on it. thanks!

  64. Rob Says:

    Hi Tom; As far as camera value, it is best if you can e-mail images. This will let me confirm the specific model and assess condition. Protecting a vintage camera is straight forward if in reasonable condition. Keep it out of direct sunlight and do not over extend the bellows. It’s always best to keep the camera closed if not on display. Do not use liquid leather conditioners because they soak through the paper thin leather and disolve the underlying hide glue. If the leather looks a little bit dry, carefully apply venetion cream or something that does not have synthetics (i.e. silicone). Products with lanolin (a naturally occuring substance) are preferable. Do not polish the wood or metal hardware, however, cleaning the wood with a mild conditioner is fine.

    Images can be made from glass plates in the same manner as how it was done with film negatives if you know someone who still works in a traditional darkroom. Things are easier because the plates are large enough to contact print (as opposed to enlarging).

    Digital scans to create images is also possible, but a bit tricky to use a scanner because a light source needs to illuminate the negatives. Another option is to put the plates on a light box and carefully photograph with a digital camera. If you don’t have a light box, find a piece of white opaline glass, back the plate with it, illuminate with a light source and photograph. The image can then be manipulated using your favorite photo editing software to produce positive images. – Rob

  65. Paul Says:

    Hello Rob, My son would like a wood body camera in the style made by Rayment Kirby. Kirby has information on his web site but it’s not detailed enough for me. I’m able to work in metal and wood but do not have an extensive photography background. If I have a blueprint I can buil it. Do you know where I can find detailed instructions/dimensions for a flat bed Field camera. Any help would be appreciated. Regards, Paul

  66. Rob Says:

    Hi Paul: Unfortunately I am not aware of any detailed blue-prints for this type of camera. However, the biggest challenge you will face is making a bellows; it is really difficult and I know only a few people who can do it well.
    – Rob

  67. Jan Says:

    Hi, sorry to bother. I’ve been collecting antique cameras for a bit now, but have never had the opportunity to buy an antique wooden camera. I just found one locally,
    And can’t find any information on it. I know the seller doesn’t include a lot of information, but maybe you could direct me in the right direction? It’s about $500, would it be worth that much?
    Thanks for any help! I appreciate it.

  68. Janet Says:

    Do you know anything about the Elwood Pattern Company? I have a wooden camera made by them, but can’t find anything about their cameras. I know they were known for enlargers, but nothing is said about the cameras they made. Any information would be greatly helpful!

  69. Rob Says:

    Hi Janet; My apologies for the slow reply, but I’ve been traveling for business. Unfortunately I do not have any information on Elwood and unaware if the company made cameras. However I assume the Elwood posted in the “Show & Tell” section is yours and the reason for this inquiry. The item looks different than other Elwood products and it could be their version of a combination enlarger and ‘copy camera.’ This implies that the item is not a typical photographic instrument per se. Regardless, it appears to be in reasonable condition. – Rob

  70. Rob Says:

    Hi Jan; My apologies for a slow reply, was traveling on business for several weeks. This reply be after the fact, but I briefly looked at the Maison wooden camera. It is in a generic body style known as “Chambre de Voyage,” and these are somewhat common. Most do not have maker’s names. Given that they appear quite frequently, in the United States they typically sell in the range of US$175 to US$450 depending on the model, maker, condition and sophistication. More informati0n about these cameras can be found on my website at: – Rob

  71. marie butler Says:

    Hi Rob. I’m doing a research paper and was wondering if you could tell me how much a bellows camera weighs. I did some research on Wilson A. Bentley and how he used a bellows camera and microscope to take macro photos, but it didn’t say what brand he had. I am wanting to compare the weight of the bellows camera to the weight of a DLSR camera. Any information you could provide would be greatly appreciated.

  72. Rob Says:

    Hi Marie. Bellows cameras have a weight range from 1 to 10 lbs. Then again, field cameras that shot ‘mammoth’ format plates could weigh up to 40 lbs. Some of the smaller folding bellows cameras (1 – 3 lbs) had adapters for microscopes. Moreover, dedicated microscope cameras were also made. I’ve seen some very large wooden examples that were over 18″ long and probably weighed 5 to 10 lbs. Additionally, some enterprising photographers build their own cameras to use with microscopes. Most of my literature is packed up at this time, but I do recall seeing articles written about microscopic photography. You’ve piqued my curiousity so I’ll dig around to see if the articles mention anything in particular. – Rob

  73. christa Says:

    I have a Premo SR that has been in the family for a long time. I am not interested in it’s value before or after restoration. In my care(or lack of) the bellows has deteriorated and I would like to replace. Where do I go or where do I buy a new bellows? Christa

  74. margaret nigro Says:

    I have a Bausch and Lomb wood camera with Agfa on the top. opt co. pat. Jan. 6 1891 Unicum . It has a glass plate on back . It is accordian style but feels stuck and I dont want to try to force it out. Any info would be appreciated. Or where could it be brought to be appraised? Thanks for your help.

  75. Rob Says:

    Hi Margaret; The best way I can assist is to see pictures of the camera. Thanks. – Rob

  76. Bob Says:

    Hello Rob,

    I recently uncovered a Unicum Cycle Poco No 3 camera and know nothing about it or it’s value. I plan to display it in my family room along with an Argus and another early movie camera. What range of value might it hold?

  77. Rob Says:

    Hi Bob; The Cycle Poco No.3 was made by the Rochester Optical and Camera Company. It dates from c.1898 to 1901+. In 1901, the 4×5 inch format version without rack and pinion focusing was advertised for $10. As with any antique, its value is very dependent on condition and completeness. In near perfect condition with excellent red leather bellows, working shutter, clear lens, leather side-by-side case and plateholders, the value would be roughly $150. Average condition cameras showing leather wear typically sell for $70 – $85.

    When on display, keep out of direct sunlight and limit the bellows extension of the front standard only to the infinity focusing mark. This keeps the bellows from being over-extended which could lead to tearing (the leather is very thin) and/or separation from the inner liner.

  78. chuck meyer Says:

    I have a small collection of wood cameras and will be attending the Puget Sound Photographic Camera Collectors annual meet this spring. One of the fun features of this meet is that we are able to fhave tables that display parts of our collectons that are not for sale. This year I am doing one on early wooden film holders. One that I want to show is a 13X14″ one sided piece. It has an unusual roll top desk type of dark slide and the film holder is for glass plates but is composed of two spring adjustable end holders. Patented on 23 April 1902 by K. Nelson, Chicago. Because of the adjustable film holders, I assume that you could use different sizes of film?
    Any information you might have or leads would be greatly appreciated.
    chuck meyer

  79. Rob Says:

    Hi Chuck; A quick search turns up a patent by Knud Nelson. (Then again, a mutual friend told me this – more later.) According to the patent, the adjustable mechanism is used to fit various sized plates (as opposed to cut-film). You probably would like to know what cameras would use the holder. The best way to answer the question is to see pictures of the holder. There might be clues in the construction. BTW; I know many of the collectors in the Pacific Northwest – and our mutual friend is Milan Z. I’ve heard your name over the years. Small world, no? Anyhow, I have your e-mail and will write.

  80. Lynn Says:

    do you know anything about a Rise Print Straightener.
    Patented 4/17/1923 Size 18 Model 5A Serial #362

    I have one that was my Uncles or Grandfathers, and would like more
    information about it.


  81. Rob Says:

    Hi Lynn; The device is used to flatten prints because they curl when drying. It solves a problem because the emulsion would crack if a curled print is flattened after it dries. Some are motorized while other less expensive models are manually operated (i.e. hand cranked). These appear for sale from time-to-time. I don’t track this type of accessory but suspect if in excellent, working condition it would be worth about $15 – $25 (or so).

  82. Heath Munn Says:

    I found this old wood enlarger and a new enlarger at Good Will.I found one on ebay that looks like it for $325. It looks like a #1 Kodak Enlarger .But the one I have seems different with no markings on it.It looks like it takes big film negatives .It has a piece of glass from Germany. It has four sides that you can adjust for the paper print.It looks to be before 1900.The other looks to be from 1920s . It is an Omega. I found one on B&H that was priced at $2786 on page 34 of used equipment.Can you help me know what I have?Thanks

  83. Rob Says:

    Hi Heath; The best way I can assist is to see pictures of the enlargers. Thanks.

  84. Menelok Says:

    Yes … the design is clearly needed to be changed :)
    The dark green color would fit perfectly xD

  85. Steve Gaeth Says:

    We have exchanged messages on the “Lost and Found” section of this website. I did not realize until I reviewed this article that you grew up in Chicago. Do you still reside in the Chicago area? I have been curious as to why a city such as Chicago has no History of Photography Museum. At least, I am not aware of one. I know that we have a museum of Holography, Silent Film Society and a Movie Palace Museum. Let me know if you are in the area and want to brainstorm some ideas for such a place. If you are no longer in the Chicago area… thank you for providing such enjoyable essays.

  86. Rob Says:

    I moved out of Chicago a long time ago; but now that you mention it, I don’t recall seeing anything dedicated exclusively to photography. The Art Institute of Chicago has photography (from 1839) and the Chicago Historical Society (their history museum) dabbles in it – they have a prints and photographs department. Columbia College is known for arts and media and has photography and film programs. And there is the Chicago Photographic Collectors Society. It’s been a while since I corresponded with these folks; but their website is:

  87. Harriett Viereck Says:

    Appreciate locating your website with your vast knowledge of cameras. My husband owned and used for a period an old Ansco Studio Camera that he purchased from the University of Houston as they were eliminating their school of photography. I have the camera, different backs, film holders and old cast iron stand which rolls up and down. He used it in the 60’s photographing portraits in a little studio we had. As of now, the bellows and the rubber bulb have deteriorated, but the different lenses, backs, film holders, etc. are still in good condition. As I have no use for the camera, is there any value to what I have. Thank you for your help. Harriett Viereck

  88. Rob Says:

    Hi Harriett; Large studio cameras are somewhat common, and most are in excellent condition. Collectors do not have much passion for these because they take up a lot of room and aren’t overly pretty on display. As such, studio cameras were attractive to users before digital took over.

    Most outfits such as yours appear in camera shows for $250 – $400 but rarely sell. Unfortunately you indicated the bellows is deteriorated. Sadly, the bellows is predominantly the most important part of the camera and, in many cases, more expensive to replace than the value of the camera. Given this, the value for your outfit would then reside with the lenses for someone else.

    Since I don’t know the kind of lenses you have, the body, stand and accessories would have an estimated value of about $50 – $95 or so (for parts or someone who already has a replacement bellows). Lenses are still interesting to photographers, and if in good condition would be worth much more than your Ansco. Thanks for writing!

  89. Judy Wynne Says:

    My father has an E & H.T. Anthony & Co. Ascot No. 13 camera. It looks like it reads Bausch & Lomb OPT CO PAT JAN 6.91. Does that mean the patent date was 1891? The lens has UNICUM on it. I can’t find much information on this camera. It looks to be a plate camera. Can you offer any additional information on this camera? I’d really appreciate it.


  90. Rob Says:

    Hi Judy; The 1891 patent date is for the B&L Unicom shutter. Anthony made several folding plate cameras (these typically have black leather outer bodies, nicely polished wood interiors and red leather bellows) and the Ascot series are somewhat uncommon. Ascot cameras are hard to pin down datewise, but they are known to be for sale in 1899 and 1900. And yes, it would shoot glass plate or cut films if adapter sheaths are found.

  91. Robert James Elliott Says:

    Hello Rob, I have a few old wooden cameras,but one in particular that I would like to fire up and start taking some pictures. It appears to be in reasonable good working order, the bellow seems ok and the lens seems to fire at different shutter speeds and the iris also seems to be in order. My problem is I would like to shoot some glass plates, however I cannot seem to find the size on any reference material that I have looked up on the internet. (Would like to buy some ready made glass plates). The double darks seem to hold 3.5″ x 5.5″ which could also be interpreted as 3.25″ x 5.25″, however I cannot find either of these size which should be around 1/4 plate. The camera is British made but has no other markings apart from a serial number. I have some pictures which I will also try to post, any help would be appreciated as I want to start taking some pix with the old beauty, I realize I might also have to prepare my own glass plates with light sensitive emulsion, but not finding the size is a concern…kind regards, robert

  92. Rob Says:

    Hi Robert … earlier this morning, I posted a comment about your camera in Show and Tell … here it is: Handsome camera. Try measuring the ground glass. This should give a fairly accurate idea of the format size. To shoot, you probably need to coat your own glass plates, unless there is someone selling prepared plates. Glass plates need to be really clean and free of dust, etc. There is a company making an emulsion product called Liquid Light; but I think it is for printing. You might want to Google the folks and check to see if they also make emulsion for negatives, or if their emulsion can be used for plates. As far as identifying the camera, Eric Evans is a British camera collector who posts here on CW. Chances are good he can identify your camera. I hope this helps. – Rob

  93. Kevin Haarmann Says:

    I have an old Century camera that was owned by my great grandfather. It closely resembles the Feild cameras on some of the websites for the Century Co. but I cannot find a model # on my camera. The lense and shutter assembly on mine is different from all the ones shown on the sites I’ve looked at. Germany is stamped on the casing. Also, there is no wooden mount for the lense and shutter. Can you help me? I can take a pic of the camera if you want.

  94. Rob Says:

    Hi Kevin … I would need to see pictures of the camera to help. Century made a lot of various models and some are difficult to distinguish from one another. It’s probably easiest to post pictures of your camera in the Collectors Weekly “Show & Tell” section. Be sure to categorize the post as Cameras>Wood. I look forward to seeing your camera. – Rob

  95. Barb Gile Says:

    I have an antique half plate camera from an estate. I have no idea how to open it. I am afraid of damaging it. I think it is from 1900 or so. There is nothing on the outside to identify the maker. It looks to be in very good condition. Any suggestions

  96. Rob Says:

    Hi Barb. Please post the camera in the Show & Tell gallery and I’ll take a look at it. Thanks. – Rob

  97. Fernando B. Corrada Says:

    I am collecting Kodak cameras like Brownies (box & folding), VPK, Bantam, Retinas and others. It is impossible to get them all so I would like to know which models I should add to my collection that represent all of the major categories of Kodak cameras.

  98. Rob Says:

    There are many ways to collect Kodak, and I’ve seen several. In other words, collecting themes are highly personal. Using myself as an example (collecting pre-1900 American wood cameras), as you note some cameras are simply impossible to acquire. Yet you can collect most. In my case, I acquire first versions of historically important cameras; specifically 1890s folding cameras. I keep ‘wanted’ lists. The first is cameras possible to acquire. The second is a list of cameras that should be impossible to acquire. Yet over the years, I’ve (ironically) acquired several cameras on the ‘impossible’ list – so there’s always hope. Most collectors start with whatever they can acquire and upgrade along the way. I hope this helps.

  99. Steven Says:

    I have an old wooden Eastman Kodak Co. camera. It says “Pat. May 22-94″ and also says made in Rochester NY. The outside is peeling the black skin but the bellows seem okay, and the inside still looks very nice. There is also a 4-digit number carved inside. The doors still open and close and handle is intact. Is this a rare camera? Does it have any value or collectors appeal? Any info you could give would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

  100. Rob Says:

    Hi Steve; Kodak made hundreds of cameras (each with numerous model variations) before 1900. The vast majority found are quite common, but you never know. My recommendation is for you to post the camera on the Show & Tell forum (under Kodak Cameras) and I will take a look.

  101. Chirs Wade Says:

    I have just been going through all my junk after a move, and found and old lens with some smaller lenses. The lens is an patent Jan 8th 1981 Bausch and Lomb this one still has what i believe to be the original rubber hose attached. Are these still collectable and are they easy to clean?

    Thank you in advance for any information you can offer me.

    kind Regards


  102. Rob Says:

    Hi Chris; It sounds as though you have a lens in a brass shutter. Maybe something such as a Unicum? Anyhow, there are many different styles, models and sizes. They are moderately collectable yet somewhat common and often found in excellent working condition. I’m unsure what you are asking in reference to cleaning. Are you referring to the lens, brass casing, or …? It would be terrific if you posted a picture of the lens in the Collectors Weekly Show & Tell forum. I can then look at it and tell you more. Thanks!

  103. Roger Says:

    Hi Rob,
    I was given a camera by an older gent neighbor when I was in my early 20’s and I am 72 now. I had always thought it was a Kodak, for what reason I don’t know but in viewing your cameras, it looks very much like the first camera at the top of your page with the label “The Folding Montauk, Style 1, c. 1899 by G. Gennert Company”. Although there is what appears to be a serial number on the plate below the lens, and a Bausch & Lomb identification on the shutter release, I do not find an actual brand or model on the camera. Is there any way to properly identify it? I can send a photo of it if you think you can help.
    Thanks, Roger

  104. Rob Says:

    Hi Roger; You probably have one of the classic red-bellows American self-casing cameras. The Gennert you refer to is a nice example and there were many companies that sold this style. Please post images of the camera in the Show & Tell forum and I will do my best to identify it. Thanks!

  105. Eastwestphoto Says:

    Is there any way to soften up the bellows material on a 5×7″ Seneca City view camera? Thanks, Don

  106. Rob Says:

    Hi Eastwestphoto; Good question and it depends on the bellows material for this particular camera. Some are leather. Others are rubberized cloth. If leather, it is possible to soften up the material very carefully. The problem is that the leather is probably dried out and there is risk that leather rot might have set in. The problem typically resides in the bellows liner. The hide glue and liner could have dried out. A very careful application of a leather cream might help. Do not use a liquid because the leather is thin. It could soak through and dissolve the glue. If this is rubberized cloth, I would need to handle the camera to determine the best approach. In summary, it takes a lot of experience to deal with a stiff bellows without causing damage. Feel free to post the camera on the Show & Tell board so that I can get an idea of what you’re dealing with. Thanks!

  107. Lew Zickefoose Says:

    Hi Rob,
    I am an antique collector of all sorts. I am currently re-arranging my collection. Thought I would set all my cameras up according to their introduction into photography. In other words establishing a display of the evolution of the cameras. My question, Is there an old box camera where it always showed the photographer with a hood over his or her head? I can’t seem to find one or any information on the internet.

  108. Rob Says:

    Hi Lew; In reply to your question, I assume you are asking if there are examples of solid body cameras (as opposed to bellows designs) that required photographers to use dark cloths (viewing hoods) to compose pictures.

    The short answer is that the vast majority of solid body (i.e. box) cameras, by their nature, did not require dark cloths because they are self contained. For really early cameras, in most cases the ground glass was positioned in a recessed chamber built into the camera’s body that created a dark room (so to speak) to view a faint image on ground glass.

    However there were solid body cameras that would require photographers to be under dark cloths to view a ground glass image. This is because the ground glass was placed on the outside of the body instead of inside a darkened viewing chamber.

    For example, August Herzog invented two uniquely designed solid body cameras that would probably require photographers to be under a dark cloth to see the ground glass image. The 1876 model (Popular Photograph Camera) is a ‘square-ish’, truncated box-form cardboard body mounted on a stand. Cardboard as a primary body material was found to be too fragile and in 1881 Herzog created an improved version, the American Gem No.2. It used a bell shaped, metal body (not truly box shaped but a solid body camera nonetheless) in place of cardboard. My website shows both versions (the 1881 example is in my collection): A summarized version excerpted from my website post is also here on CW at:

    Another example of solid body (box form) cameras that would require dark cloths as viewing hoods are the New Gem and Ajax cameras made by Simon Wing. An example of the Ajax can be seen on my website at

  109. Lew Zickefoose Says:

    Thanks Rob

    Extremely helpful information. I will continue to build my evolutional display of the camera from the late 1800’s to current date of the Smart Phone.

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