Posted 8 years ago
The American Optical Company (1858 – 1902) was one of America’s earliest camera companies. It is best known by collectors for making important cameras of exceptional construction with fine wood finishes.
The camera shown here is the elusive St. Louis Reversible Back model. “Reversible” means that the back can be removed and turned to shoot landscape or portrait oriented images without flipping the camera on its site.
The 5 x 7 inch format body is made of beautifully finished mahogany mounted on cherry rails. For those who are curious (I know there’s at least one of you out there), the lens is an equally scarce Steinheil Group Antiplanet lens; an asymmetrical formula to fix a specific optical aberration characteristic of symmetrical designs. The lens has US Patent No. 241437 (May 10th '81) indicating it was manufactured for export to the United States.
All-in-all, this is a handsome example of a classic 1880s American field camera.