a wonderful view

View camera with Thornton- Pickard shutter and brass lens

Toronto. Throughout the 1800s and into the early 1900s, the view camera was a popular camera design. Everyone knew a wooden box and bellows on a tripod meant a photographer was at work!

The view camera was rather simple in concept. A wooden box separated the sensitive media from the lens focussing a subject sharply at ‘infinity’ (usually much closer in reality, depending on the lens and aperture chosen).

A means of focussing even closer was added between lens and media. Some times a second wooden box was used, or quite often a bellows (often tapered to fit the media box at one end and the lens board at the other). Ground glass substituted in the focal plane for the media served to set the point of sharpest focus and choose how the subject would be framed on the media.

This kind of camera worked very well but took time for set up, framing, focussing and capturing the image (capturing itself usually took a few seconds even in bright sunlight). And until dry plates became common sometime after the 1870s the media had to be prepared and developed on location.

By the way, the camera shown here was a lot in our spring estate auction. Visit our Photographica-fair this fall and you may find one for your collection too!

Note. The title of this post is a play on Noel Coward’s delightful 1928 song called, “A Room With a View“.


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