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Bell's Straight Working Panorama Camera, c.1912

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Wood Cameras71 of 278Antique Paris-Hall cameraMiall, F. | Fallowfield's "Facile". | 1887 | Magazine camera | Quarter plate.
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    Posted 7 years ago

    (329 items)

    No ... it's not an Eastman Kodak Folding Pocket Brownie Camera that got caught in a taffy puller; this is a Bell's Straight Working Panorama Camera. Although 16" in length, it still has a strong resemblance to the Folding Pocket Brownie.

    This is really cool as far as panoramic cameras go (for those who like this kind of stuff) and quite scarce. It is historically important as the first roll film camera to make panoramic pictures without spinning lenses, curved film backs, rotating tripod mounted bodies, and other gimmicks - hence the term "Straight Working" in the name.

    The camera is also more elaborate than it appears. Hidden within the body is a clever yet simple duel format feature for making full-sized 11 inch wide panoramas or 5½ inch postcard sized images. A pair of levers mounted on the body rotates velvet cloth masks into the film plane to reduce the image size. For standard panoramas, the masks are rotated out from the film plane to the inner bellows wall.

    And it's a camera I now regret selling many years ago.

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    1. Kydur Kydur, 7 years ago
      You sold this! I can understand the regret -- this one is a keeper, as are all of your amazing cameras.

      Did you ever see a print produced from the negative of one of these? Was there much edge distortion and general image curvature? It doesn't seem that the bellows extend far enough to avoid the use of a wide-angle lens.

      At 11" per frame one would have to pack a lot of film when out on a panoramic expedition! I'm curious, do you have your own darkroom in order to process film and print images from cameras in your collection?
    2. walksoftly walksoftly, 7 years ago
      The name is as long as the camera!
      An amazing camera, love it!
    3. rniederman rniederman, 7 years ago
    4. SEAN68 SEAN68, 7 years ago
    5. rniederman rniederman, 7 years ago
      Thanks, Kydur and fortapache!

      Kydur ... thanks for the comments. It's not unusual for me to sell cameras to acquire, rarer examples. I've never seen an attributed image made by a Bell’s panoramic. In regards to your questions about the bellows being extended, it's exactly correct. Wide angle lenses have shorter focal lengths and therefore the distance to focus at infinity is also quite short. This is a specialized camera that only used the super-wide angle lens and didn't need a long bellows. Also, a picture by this camera would not have any distortion if it was level with the horizon. That’s the reason why it didn’t have a curved back or moving lens (ala Al Vista or Cirkut cameras).

      Roughly 25 years ago was the last time I shot some of these older cameras and developed-printed the negs. I had a first darkroom at about 11 years old and eventually stopped due to a lack of time (work does get in the way). By the time packed away the darkroom, I was shooting up to 11x14 inch sheet film.

      Here is an example of an 8x10 image I made with a 1904 studio camera:
    6. Kydur Kydur, 7 years ago
      Most of my 19 years working in the photo industry were spent in photo labs (B&W and colour) and during that time I would have jumped at the chance to process film run through some of your cameras and make contact prints to compare the results!

      I only ever had an Omega D5 Super Chromega Dichroic 4x5 enlarger (the workhouse of it's day) though, so contact prints would be about it for any negative wider than 5". I did a lot of retouch work for a photographer who had an 8x10 camera (similar to the one in the link you provided) setup on display in his studio. I managed to see a few contact prints generated from it that were quite stunning -- it really put 35mm in its place as a the miniature format it was originally intended to be!

      I only ever once saw a (non-functional) 8x10 enlarger; was there such a beast even made for your 11x14 sheet film? The only camera I ever saw that could handle that size of film (and larger) was a "process camera", but they were generally used to generate half-tone film and metal plates for the print industry, not print from them.

      I sometimes miss the technical/mechanical lab days, but not so much the dark with glowing safelights and definitely not the chemical smells. I reckon it took at least two years for me to detox from all that stuff, especially the fixer.
    7. rniederman rniederman, 7 years ago
    8. rniederman rniederman, 7 years ago
      Thanks, Sean!
    9. rniederman rniederman, 7 years ago
      Thanks, vetraio50!
    10. rniederman rniederman, 7 years ago
      Thanks, Eric and pops52!
    11. rniederman rniederman, 7 years ago
      Thanks, petey!
    12. rniederman rniederman, 6 years ago
      Thanks, Camera_turk!

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