in the tropics

King’s Own Tropical Camera

Toronto. In the late 1950s, we had a trio of Allis-Chalmers power generators (my Exakta photo c1958) at our location in Labrador. They were connected to  the power panel and tested by a technician from A-C. In the evenings he talked about photography and his assignment in the tropics. His camera was an Exakta with a Zeiss 58mm Biotar lens. The front element was badly scratched making it essential to keep strong light (like sunlight) behind the camera. He explained that the tropics were so humid that moisture condensed on camera and lens forcing him to constantly clean the soft front element of the lens, hence the scratches.

Decades later, our Vice-President, John K. discovered a wooden tropical camera called “King’s Own Tropical Camera”. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, cameras were made of polished wood rather than wood and leather since the wood was better able to resist the rot and mildew of the tropics.

John relates, “One day I was online and spotted a rarity I had been hunting for since my childhood – the elusive and very rare King’s Own Tropical camera made by the London Stereographic Co. As I tried to contact them, the virtual shop it was in disappeared and the only information I had was the city in South Africa where the shop was located and a photograph of the front of the antique shop with the name on the glass.

“I am so grateful that we live in an age where virtually everything is at your fingertips and by the next morning I had found the shop’s address and phone number. After talking to the lady who owned the shop, I found out the South African Post Office had gone on strike and they could not ship anything out, so they shut down their on- line store to wait out the strike (something I could sympathize with).”

As a member, you can read the rest of John’s article in 46-3 pdf version or the Vol 46 Annual pages 64, 65. Not a Member? Easy-peasy, just break out your plastic (VISA, MasterCard, etc.), follow the rules at the upper right of this page and sign up via PayPal (no PayPal account needed – we will pay the modest fee). Membership is an incredible bargain. Period! Then send me an email at and I will send along 46-3 in pdf format.


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