Posted 5 months ago
The Blair Combination Camera is one of the first field bellows cameras produced by the Blair Tourograph & Dry Plate Company, and this particular example might be one of the earliest examples. Thomas Blair was an inventive builder who produced a variety of field cameras to meet the needs of practically any photographer.
In particular, Blair’s “Combination” cameras are traditional field designs offered with a unique [patented] accessory plate-holder extension mounted at the rear. (As a note, the camera model shown here only appeared in 1882 and 1883 catalogues.) According to Blair’s 1882 pamphlet; “By means of the extension, the camera is made capable of carrying plates double the size of its original capacity without sacrificing any of the advantages.”
In summary, attaching a plate-holder extension adapts this camera’s 4x5 inch format body for larger 5x8 inch glass plates. Plate-holder extensions were also offered to upgrade 5x8 inch formats to 8x10 inch and so forth. Although a clever idea and available through the early 1890s, plate-holder extensions are scarce.
Recognizing that his plate-holder extension could lead to decreasing sales of larger cameras (a classic market cannibalization scenario), Thomas Blair later amended his comments noting that “this adjunct to photograph apparatus” was not intended to be a substitute for a larger camera “because it would be more desirable to have an 8x10 Camera proper, but the idea was to furnish an attachment for the use of the operator, who used 5x8 plates as a rule, and occasionally desired to use an 8x10 plate, etc.”
The Combination Camera is made of finely polished dark mahogany with nickel-plated brass hardware. The unmarked achromatic landscape lens is a very rare pillbox form with a pivoting metal cap that was also used as a shutter. (As a note, this same lens form is mounted on a Blair Tourograph in the George Eastman House's collection.) This 4x5 inch format model with 5x8 inch plate-holder extension was selling for $28.00 in 1882 (about $706 adjusted for 2016).