Posted 5 years ago
For my first post of 2017, I thought it should be something unusual and special. As background, it took me nine years to acquire this camera after first seeing it in another collection and, as far as I can tell, it’s the only example the collector community has seen. It defied my attempts to identify it back then, and still does now. Yet what a wonderful design. There are no markings and I do not believe it is a prototype. Most concept and prototype apparatus are typically crudely built and non-working. This 4¼ x 5¼ inch format camera (close to the 1/2-plate dag format) has first rate craftsmanship and the brass hardware fabrication has a lot of precision.
This rack and pinion, front focusing design mimics what is known as an English Compact body pattern, yet the hardware is more advanced and complex. (This design means that the front lens standard lies against the bed when being closed and, after the lens is removed, everything packs into the rear portion of the body.) There is an odd shutter-like assembly inside the lens housing, two unusual shutter blade controls, and a rather large accessory viewfinder.
Brass hardware is substantially more robust than what is typically seen on cameras of this style. The disproportionate use of heavier brass and inclusion of “bindings” (hardware added to reinforce wood corners to prevent wood warping and splitting) is rare for American cameras.
For those of you into traditional view cameras, this particular example has a full range of movements such as front rises/falls and front and rear tilts/swings. There is also an incredibly novel ground glass extension mechanism that also relies on excessively heavy brass.
In summary, whoever made this knew what they were doing and what they wanted. There are no miscellaneous or unnecessary construction points. It's also known that some craftsmen working for major makers (i.e. Anthony, American Optical, Scovill, and Rochester Optical) built their own personal cameras using the factory’s fabricating equipment. This camera has traits from all of those competing makers. Yet nearly all one-off apparatus are unmarked. This could be such an example.
This camera will probably remain unidentified, but it has character and is enjoyable to fiddle with.