Posted 6 years ago
Is this apparatus for a 19th century James Bond or a view camera on steroids? Take a close look. Lurking under all the gizmos is a field view camera named the “Universal” made by the Rochester Optical Company.
Offered from 1891 - 1902, the Universal is constructed of finely polished Honduras mahogany in formats ranging from 3¼ x 4¼ to 17 x 20 (that’s huge!). Shown here is a 4 x 5 inch model, single-swing model advertised for $28 in 1892.
But this camera is very cool because a photographer accessorized it. Yep ... some 19th century photographers liked to customize their cameras. The most noticeable accessory is a rare W.H. Walmsley brass viewfinder. Perched atop the lens board, this straight-line viewfinder is eerily reminiscent of a sniper's spotting-scope. The brass lever rotates a miniature ground glass inside the viewfinder for landscape and portrait orientations. The purpose of this small device is to aid in taking instantaneous pictures of moving objects by observing the scene on the miniature ground glass.
The fancy brass shutter is very exotic for what was available at the time and is marked "Wale & Mathein, Marksboro, N.J." Most cameras of this time had cheaper, simpler brass barrel lenses in which photographers made lens cap exposures.
The last noteworthy item is the Thornton Pickard rollerblind shutter. How much more interesting can an American camera get than having an English focal plane shutter mounted on it? Then again, the camera has two shutters – very odd indeed! Thornton Pickard, known for their finely crafted cameras is also famous for rollerblind shutters. Most were mounted either behind or in front of a lens. As can be seen here, the Thornton Pickard shutter accessory fits between the body and ground glass frame.