having a heat wave

Sanderson Tropical Camera c1920 – image courtesy of Leica Camera Classics GmbH

Toronto. Sometimes at our fairs, shows and auctions, you see a plate or roll film camera made of varnished wood and may think the leather or leatherette material had been removed. Well, that may not be the case. Cameras for use in the tropics must survive high heat, humidity, bugs, mould, dirt etc.

Metal parts must be non rusting; the tiniest cracks and holes sealed; and mould and moisture proof materials used. Anything less is a walking disaster! It was found that leather/leatherette easily succumbed to moisture mould so cameras were simply varnished wood- preferably teak or mahogany. All metals parts were made of brass and often coated too. Metal and plastic cameras could be used if designed for tropical climates.

I once met  a fellow who spent months on an installation in the heart of South America. He used an Exakta with a Biotar lens. He told me the climate there was merciless on his camera. Frequent cleaning of the lens front element to remove moisture before a photo was taken had resulted in the lens being so frosted that I was surprised it even worked!

The camera shown above is featured in  Leica Camera Classics GmbH in Vienna. The price asked shows just how desirable these “tropicals” are today if in decent condition. Click on the link to see what this high end shop features – you may want to augment your collection!

Note: the post title is a line from Irving Berlin’s 1933 song “Heat Wave”. Here it is sung by Ethel Waters back in 1933.

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