Show and Tell 2003

moderated by Mike Robinson

Moderator Mike Robinson presented another roster of interesting items and commentaries from our members. Featuring Stan White, John Linsky, Sammy Samuels, Bill Kantymir, Ed Warner, Bob Wilson, Ron Anger, and Mike Robinson.

The evening began on a whimsical note with Stan White reading from an eclectic collection of poems about photographers and photography.

Stan led off with a poem written by photographer Julia Margaret Cameron. This was followed by a John Whiting parody of author/photographer Lewis Carroll’s Jaberwocky called Camerawocky.

Stan noted that poems were often featured as an introduction to photo-albums encouraging friends and relatives to contribute images to the album. Itinerant photographers used poems in their broadsheet advertisements - some even sang the words.

Poems were used to convey complaints and laments such as the 1939 ditty Sellotape urging the 8 and 16 mm movie takers to avoid using the ineffective transparent sticky tape to splice their films together.

Stan wrapped up his presentation with a poem about stereo and this limerick of his own creation:

John Linsky was up next with a sad tale about an American 35mm camera designed in the late 1930s and manufactured for a brief six years after the end of WWII. The Clarus MS-35 was rushed into production in 1946 with the result that over 20,000 of the cameras experienced mechanical failure. John explained that the company worked hard to rectify the camera’s defects and by 1949 the failure rate had fallen to an acceptable level. Unfortunately, the camera’s reputation was badly tarnished by then and coupled with competition from Germany and Japan, the company sank into bankruptcy in 1952. The camera design was sold to another firm, but it was never manufactured again. Today the camera goes for a quarter to a half of its 1951 list price of $116.25 US.

John referred to the out of print book 'Glass, Brass & Chrome - The American 35mm Camera', by Kalton C. Lahue and Joseph A. Bailey. 1972, Univ. of Oklahoma Press, Norman OK. ISBN 0-8061-0968-8 for information on this legacy of mid 20th century 35mm cameras. Co-author Joe Bailey was our guest speaker in May 1996 when he spoke on “Some American Manufacturers” of cameras.

Jackson (Sammy) Samuels spoke on a new Kodak B&W 16mm reversal film for motion pictures. He informed the group that B&W is the new ’in’ medium differentiating images from the ubiquitous colour products on TV, cinema, and in print.

To promote the film, Kodak used this image which features two girls using a c1960 Kodak movie camera like we have in the Sinclair collection.

Reversal film processes directly to a positive image ready to project reducing the cost. This is a useful process for creating one-off films. The new product is available in two speeds, 160/200 and 80/100 (indoor/outdoor).

Cinematographer Jackson Samuels
Kodak Ad - Click to visit Kodak site

Bill Kanymir took the podium next, introducing a rare 1889 German detective camera. Dr. R. Krugener of Frankfurt, Germany made a number of especially well constructed cameras in the late 1800s. Three of these, including this ’Simplex Magazin Camera’ are described in Eaton Lothrop’s book ’A Century of Cameras’. (Eaton has been a member of the PHSC from time to time and was our guest speaker most recently in June, 1999).

Bill Kantymir

This wonderful polished mahogany twin lens 24 plate magazine camera becomes a detective camera in its (rare) leather case. Bill spent time showing the clever construction and operation of the camera which has a string set shutter complete with a docking pin for time exposures and a lens that can be set in a number of positions presumably for infinity or close up use - there is no focussing scale, and the viewer lens is fixed focus. Dr. Krugener’s company became part of Ica in a 1909 merger. And in a later merger Ica became part of Zeiss Ikon. Bill told us he has had a wanted list of rare cameras for some time. His son John has a copy and like this case, advises his dad if he spots any of the listed cameras on the market. This one turned out to be on the Canadian Ebay site. Bill feels that listing in Canadian funds in the section for magazine box cameras (vs. in the detective camera section priced in US dollars) aided him in being the successful (only) bidder. He picked up the camera (s/n 117) from an Ontario camera store on his way to a PHSC meeting in early December.

Want to see more pictures of Dr. Krugener's Simplex? Just click here.

Ed Warner with his restored gems - photo by Bob Lansdale

Ed Warner delighted us with another tale of resuscitating three basket cases. His lesson for us was to ’never over-look’ any ’junk’ cameras or parts at a show or auction. To prove his point, he won the bid for lots 4 (parts of three wooden cameras) and lot 14 (two lenses - one a Lancaster, the other a Dallmeyer).

For the first camera (Anthony Clydesdale half-plate), Ed made the missing brass rails, wooden parts and lens board. He fitted the Lancaster lens from lot 14 to finish the camera.

For the second camera, Ed found a Zeiss Tessar in his junk box along with a film pack holder with a wooden slide handle. He made a matching wooden back to hold the film pack, a paper bellows, and wooden guides for the sliding back and his second camera was finished.

The third camera received the Dallmeyer lens from lot 14, a coating of CTC ’rubberized’ black paint on the bellows, and a few brass bits to complete the restoration.

Shean Auction lot 4 - camera parts Shean Auction lot 14 two lenses 'as is' restored cameras - rear of second camera camera one from side camera two showing tessar

Take two junker lots, add some parts from the junk box, apply some skill and elbow grease...

restored cameras - front of camera two showing showing plate holder in place camera two

Ontoscope - Shean Lot 353

Robert Wilson was next with his - what else - demonstration of the c1934 French Ontoscope Stereo camera made by Cornu of Paris, France. This metal stereo camera could be quickly converted a panorama camera by shifting the lens assembly over, flipping up an alternative post for the sports finder, and moving the septum to the side. Bob was the successful bidder for this camera in the recent Shean mail auction. There will be an extensive coverage of this unusual camera in the next issue of Photographic Canadiana.

Bob Wilson describing the Ontoscope - picture by Bob Lansdale

Ron Anger provided information on restoring leather coverings and bellows. Ron responded to a recent request for ways to remove mould from an old camera. Ron recommended TALAS Leather Dressing for the job. This inexpensive mixture of lanolin and Neat’s Foot Oil is used by libraries as a leather dressing for book covers (any necessary applications of dye or glue should be done before applying the dressing).

Click to visit the TALAS web site in NYC

The second product Ron suggested was potassium lactate (also listed on the Talas web-site under ’chemicals & deacidification’) as a leather protection and means to neutralize mould and mildew. He cautioned the audience to avoid using potassium lactate on bellows since it may dissolve leather glues. The British Library prefers potassium citrate instead (British Museum leather dressing formula).

Moderator Mike Robinson wrapped up the evening with an enlightening look at (very) early camera lenses made by Voigtlander. A lecturer at Ryerson University in Toronto and a modern day Daguerreotype photographer, Mike has made his own cameras equipped with authentic mid 1800s lenses.

The first lens ever calculated for use on a photographic camera was the 1841 Petzval portrait lens. Petzval, a mathematician, arranged for Voigtlander & Sons in Vienna (Wien) to manufacture the lens. At f/3.6, (three elements - one a cemented pair), the lens reduced exposures for the early Daguerreotypes to about one minute in sunlight. The first 500 or lenses were incorporated in an awkward metal camera that had to be focussed, removed from its stand, taken to the darkroom to be loaded, then returned to the stand for the exposure. This ’brass cannon’ is shown on the cover McKeown’s 11th edition.

Click to visit the McKeown web site

The lenses were subsequently mounted on more traditional wooden camera bodies. Around 1844 the first batch of the new lenses was imported by the United States. Opticians in New York promptly disassembled the lenses and made copies for sale as equal or better than the European lenses (some copies were even signed Voightlander - note the spelling error, adding the letter ’h’). To this day, the two spellings are confused...

The European lenses of the era all used tangential focussing drives while many of the American lenses had radial drives. Early lenses were sold by coverage (maximum plate-size the lens would expose) rather than by focal length. Since the daguerreotype needed maximum exposure, the lenses were not equipped with apertures.

The earliest aperture system (Waterhouse stops) were introduced c1858 in the wet plate era as 2 or 3 exchangeable plates, followed by the 6 or 7 exchangeable plate versions when the so called instantaneous dry plate became popular. Moving on to the wet plate era, some photographers simply sawed a slot in their lenses to accommodate the Waterhouse stops. Others returned the lenses to Voigtlander to have a slot machined into the barrel. A Lens factory-made for use with Waterhouse stops had a longer outer tube surrounding the lens barrel to provide space for the stop across the full focussing range of the lens.

2/4 plate (left) and 1/4 plate lenses

Mike began with his quarter plate (1/4) lens which cost $75 in 1848 (the camera would have cost $12). The second lens he showed was a half plate (2/4) version. The shorter outer barrel signifying a stop-less Daguerreotype lens - with a slot roughly cut into the barrel close to the front of the lens to add stops. His third example was a 3/4 plate model from around 1874. This lens was factory made with the Waterhouse stops. When Mike came across it, the lens was fitted to a copy camera. Mike managed to buy the lens alone. (It was the wrong kind of lens for a copy camera).

The final example of the Petzval design in Mike’s studio was a massive full plate (4/4) version from 1852 with excellent glass and almost 100% of the original lacquer. This lens while from the Daguerreotype period, was slotted for stops. In this case the very neatly made slot appeared to be a factory retrofit. The lens came from a source in Denmark via the wonders of Ebay and the web.

All four lenses are f/3.3 (Kingslake quotes f/3.6, McKeown f3.7) making it easy for Mike to use the same lighting and exposure regardless of plate size. Mike’s presentation gave an interesting perspective on the challenges faced by the early practitioners and the modest evolution of the lens mount as it became necessary to ’stop-down’ the light reaching the ever more sensitive wet and dry plate media.

4/4 plate (left) and 3/4 plate lenses
The four petzal portrait lenses (plus an odd lens on the far left)

The images were taken with a Nikon Coolpix 990 except where noted and adjusted and sized in Photoshop CS. Clicking some images will bring up an enlarged version. All images are copyright PHSC or Robert Lansdale and may be used with permission. Questions? Please contact me at

Robert Carter

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