Posted 4 years ago
Today, we take for granted the ability to make lots of pictures, and copies of pictures at practically no cost. This wasn’t the case back in the mid-1800s when making tintypes because each image was unique - there was no negative!
A solution in lowering the cost of making pictures was to shoot many images on a single plate; which required specialized photographic equipment called ‘multiplying cameras' by collectors.
Shown here is a mid-1860s collodion ('wet' photography process) camera with a set of 9 portrait lenses mounted. Small pictures produced by this type of camera were referred to as ‘gem’ images. Although a 9-lens outfit is rare, 16-lens and 36-lens cameras are also known.
Strangely, picture taking with multiple lenses was quite difficult because each lens had to be carefully mounted to have the exact same focal point as all the others. This also meant that each lens had to be optically identical to the others; which posed a challenge for lens makers because they had to spend a lot of time going through their inventory to pair up lenses.
From a collecting point of view, it took me nearly 8 years to find a lens set that matched the camera body. Ironically, the lenses were an eBay auction win (something that I haven't seen since).