stretching it

Universal Focussing Bellows (Bellows I) by Leitz

Toronto. In 1951, Leitz offered a Universal Focussing Bellows (Bellows I). This bellows worked with the 13.5cm lens head and Visoflex mirror box to make photographs from infinity down to 1:1. A 5cm lens head and the focoslide focussed from about 3 feet down to about 2.5x magnification.

The bellows offers scales for both lenses to permit rapid settings. Many other manufacturers also made bellows. The design goes back to the early days  of photography when a bellows was used to correctly set the distance between the lens and sensitive media to correctly focus the desired subject.

Leitz later replaced this bellows by the Bellows II which brought a special 65mm lens (or longer) into focus at infinity. Shorter focal length lens heads can be used as well for copy work.  The scales were for a 9cm lens head. Both versions of the bellows eliminate the need for extension tubes and their discrete steps in focussing.

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mirror, mirror

c1950 Visoflex I mirror box by Leitz

Toronto. Leitz is a perfectionist company. The original screw mount and bayonet mount rangefinder cameras used a rangefinder (RF) focussing mechanism. This RF was most accurate for 13.5cm lenses and shorter.

In 1935, Leitz introduced the Telyt 20cm lens and a mirror box called PLOOT for focussing. Using the PLOOT and the Telyt made the tiny Leica into an SLR. Post war the PLOOT was replaced by a Visoflex – later called Visoflex I. This mirror box was followed by the more compact designs of the Visoflex II, IIa, and III. All Visoflexes were made to fit the new bayonet mount M-series Leicas. Visoflex I and II could be bought to take either the screw mount or bayonet mount cameras.

Other manufacturers also made mirror boxes, some for their own cameras and some for the Leica.

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let’s see what develops

AGFA Colour Print Film in the 1980s

Toronto, Ahaaa! Those were the days! You guarded your paltry few shots as if your life depended on them. Why take a dozen and choose the best one when with care and framing you could take and use a single shot – the best one!

In the 1980s, I had experimented with different films like this ISO 100 AGFA colour print film. This box warns me to “process by June, 1988”. The 27 exposures (24 plus 3 extra) for my Leica could be processed anywhere in C41 chemistry – pretty much the industry standard at the time for colour print films (colour negatives).

Today, we find the abysmally slow ISO 100, the jealously guarded miserly number of shots, and the tedious processing and printing all laughable. We can easily knock off 100s of shots on our smart phone camera just in the time it took to find a processing shop back then. Memories! But thank god now we can use digital and shoot as we please (mind you, auto focus can be a real pain, a fuzzy pain).

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Eric Houdoyer, photographer

Eclipse by Eric Houdoyer print edition of 10 sold by Galerie GADCOLLECTION in Paris, France

Toronto. The Galerie GADCOLLECTION in Paris, France is exhibiting Masters of Photography 2019through to January 31, 2020. Featured in the exhibition is this  limited edition (10) colour photograph “eclipse” by French photographer, Eric Houdoyer.

If you are in France this month, perhaps enjoying the food, the wine, or just the ambience, then consider visiting the Galerie and adding to your print collection!

Members of the PHSC are located in many countries. I have mentioned this Galerie a number of times as they seem to have an excellent selection of modern photographs. Visit and support your favourite art by purchasing a photograph or two from their wide selection of works by American and European photographers.


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a deadly camera

deadly little plate camera in Smithsonian

Toronto. In 1928, newspaper photos of American executions were verboten. A famous execution in New York State was that of the infamous Ruth Snyder, convicted of murdering her husband. To circumvent the barriers to photographing Snyder’s execution, the NY Daily News snuck in an outsider,  photographer Tom Howard.

Howard used an ankle strapped miniature plate camera to capture the horrifying event. His photo of Snyder was printed next day by the Daily News. The Daily News donated the camera to the Smithsonian in 1963. Thanks to George Dunbar for this trip back in time.

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pocket boxers – 1903

Toronto. trick photography in films goes back over a century. Take this Pathé home movie film short from 1903 called the pocket boxers. An image of two boxers is superimposed on a pub table top using the dark curtain as a back drop. The two gentlemen produce and remove the boxers with a sleight of hand. Their actions in between are matched to the boxers.

This example shows how film could be manipulated to use two different sizes combined by using a dark backdrop for the one film that matches the curtains in another. In a similar fashion modern day TV News uses a green screen to superimpose the news/weather readers and slides and videos so the people seem to be in front of the scenes.

My thanks to George Dunbar for discovering and sharing this old Pathé movie with the clever merging of the pocket boxers with the pub folk.

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wally’s world

Ad for a Wollensak branded Revere movie camera

Toronto. The Wollensak home movie gear and home tape recorder were typical fodder for North Americans in the middle of the last century. The name was bought by Revere of Chicago and marketed enthusiastically with ads like this one at left.

The use of sturdy castings, lots of knobs and buttons to promote the rather inflated feature statements where common mid last century. The name boasting in the ads covered the pedestrian features of the various products. The basic features were common to just about any maker’s products at the time.

There seemed to be more “me too” construction rather than true innovation. My thanks to PHSC member and professional photographer George Dunbar for passing on this delightful ad. For the record, Wollensak once was best known for its camera shutters and camera lens designs manufactured in Rochester. They even made Leica camera lenses and accessories during the second world war when German lenses and accessories were unavailable for obvious reasons in North America. You can learn more about Wollensak and Revere, the company who bought Wollensak at this site.


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look, see, mini she

ad for Sawyer’s slide viewer

Toronto. Today we can snap a photo on our smartphone and with a touch see the result tout de suite! But it wasn’t always so simple and fast. In the era of 35mm and 2 1/4 square colour slides you sent the film off for processing and then checked the result by projection in a darkened room, or…

…if you were innovative, you could use a table-top or hand-held viewer to admire your work! Easy-peasy. Now where the heck are the batteries. Damn, the light went out. Now wiggle everything and voilà! we can see the slide! Even in a lit room. Some (most) hand held viewers have a built in magnifier to let you view an enlarged image in magnificent detail (and colour). The ad is likely black and white since colour was much more expensive at the time.

My thanks to PHSC member and professional photographer George Dunbar for sending me this nostalgic ad from page 98 of the November 14, 1960 issue of LIFE magazine. While the viewer is marked Sawyer’s, there were a wide variety of different brands widely available mid last century – at least until film and slides ran their course…

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come a little bit closer II

Photo of Toronto photographers in front of their studio (Alexandra Studios) c1920 courtesy of the Toronto Archives

Toronto.  … to paraphrase Jay and the Americans back in 1964, but I don’t think the band had the Turofsky’s in mind.Previously, I mentioned Marty Robins and this line…

We tend to Google for information on photography and cameras. While this approach is informative and helpful, don’t forget the other local resources in your pursuit of photographic history such as libraries, museums and archives both city, provincial, federal, and educational.

Toronto Archives is one such resource. It has a rich collection of images related to Toronto photographic history in its fonds. The Turofsky brothers who operated out of the Alexandria Studios donated many of their negatives and prints to the archives’ fonds.

The example at left is one such photo placed online for the pleasure of all.

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fin de decade

1870 – Lady posing on a Velocipede

Toronto. Lorne Shields was one of our speakers in December. Lorne brought his major bicycle image acquisitions for 2019 in both a printout copy and a thumb drive with digital files. A misunderstanding  between Lorne and Mark resulted in no laptop to read the thumb drive. Fortunately the printed versions served as an alternative.

An example of his acquisitions is the posed lady at left. She is sitting on a Velocipede. The original photo was printed about 1870.

Note: Lorne is our bicycle historian and is well known internationally for both his bicycles and photographs. He has a large collection in a museum in Gatineau (Ottawa). Drop Lorne a note care of me at if you have any needs or questions on bicycles, bicycle history, or bicycle photographs.


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