Posted 4 years ago
Although straightforward in appearance and function, there is an understated beauty to American tailboard (rear focusing) field cameras made of polished cherry or mahogany woods. While I try not to acquire cameras that are too similar to each other, which makes a boring display, there are times when an example appears with a truly unique feature or design such as this No. 33 Eclipse by E.I. Horsman (purchased years ago).
At first glance, this cabinet image format camera looks like most any other American tailboard camera (including others I have posted here on CW). What makes this particular model special is the factory addition of a distinctive feature in which the front lens board has a rotating secondary board. This seemingly simple design was patented by H.W. Hales (#423,682).
Hales’ rotating lens board patent allows a photographer to fine-tune the composition without having to move the camera and tripod. Similar tailboard cameras typically have a lens board that only shifts in one direction; either vertically or horizontally and rarely both. In contrast, a rotating lens board gives photographers greater flexibility by being able to rotate the secondary lens board at any angle (as shown in the patent illustration) and then shift the lens.
While an ingenious idea, it does not appear to have been popular. In fact, this No. 33 Eclipse with the Hales patent is the only example I am aware of.
As background, E.I. Horsman was one of several American camera builders that offered entry level field view cameras for beginners and students. In addition to cameras, the company also sold lawn tennis equipment and bicycles.