Spartus Press Camera – yeah, right!

May 22, 1950 ad in LIFE
for the Spartus Press Camera

Toronto. We saw many of these little plastic box cameras drift through our fairs over the years. Sold from Chicago by the Spartus Camera Corporation, this inexpensive model was more marketing puffery than technology. The flash was built-in as was a simple continuity tester in some versions to confirm the flash bulb was fresh and would fire. It was noted as the first camera to have a built-in flash gun back in 1939 when first offered.

No wonder it was touted as “So simple to operate, Mom and Sis can use it … ”  –  the tiny lens was fixed focus, and there was no speed adjustment. Some versions had two primitive water-house stop aperture settings – cloudy and sunny, just like Kodak used on many of its box cameras. Others, like this 1950 version had no aperture adjustment at all. The built-in flash meant the camera could be used indoors or out, using black and white film or the much less popular and more expensive colour print film.

Using the term “Press Flash” implied to the uninitiated that the Spartus was as good as the other press cameras of the day like the big Graflex and Speed Graphic cameras but far cheaper and easier to use. It used 120 style film making 2-1/4 x 3-1/4 negatives. And the quote of “… Mom and Sis can use it …” had  an unintended sexual bias that would not be tolerated today!

Thanks to George Dunbar for searching out this LIFE advertisement for a simple box camera as the 35mm cameras were beginning to take off and eventually consume the retail market before all was lost to the digital wave and its cameras and smart phones.


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