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View Full Version : Hurman, Newcastle upon Tyne - 15x15" Studio Camera



NorthSands
6-Jul-2013, 15:08
Hello, I was wondering if anyone could shed any light on a studio camera I recently came into ownership of. It had been abandoned in the loft of an old garage for 70+ years and I was offered it for free. Don't get your hopes up too much though, it wasn't exactly in pristine condition:

http://thisissunderland.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/photo1.jpg

http://this-is-sunderland.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/img_23121.jpg

http://this-is-sunderland.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/photjo1.jpg

Woodworm had virtually destroyed the stand, but a bit of careful work retained as much of the original as possible. Fortunately the Mahogany camera body itself had lasted very well, resisting the woodworm.

The name plate reads 'Urman' although some research indicates a missing 'H' tallies up with a photographic dealer called Hurman, based in Newcastle upon Tyne. I suspect this camera isn't manufactured by them, they merely acted as an agent for someone like Watson Son & Co but I could be wrong on that one. It'll take plates up to 15" square, although whether a 15x12" may have been what it was intended for I'm not sure.

The lens is a 21" (approx) Optimus 3B, adjusted by Perken, Son and Co Ltd, and it has an f-stop of approx f3.5 - Waterhouse slot. It does project a reasonably sharp image but appears to missing the rear element though, can anyone confirm whether this is the case? Or even a schematic for the lens. Bit of a long shot I know! More information and pictures on the lens here: http://this-is-sunderland.co.uk/2012/11/12/wass-camera-project-post-4-the-lens/

Anyway, fast forward a few months, a LOT of work, some new bellows and it's almost ready to use:

http://i23.photobucket.com/albums/b361/interzone_inc/hurman_zpsdc9330c8.jpg

Unfortunately the rear frame which holds the ground glass/plate holder was nowhere to be seen. I have fabricated something that appears to do the job, but it would be great to see if anyone can shed any light on how that should function.

In a nutshell, there's not a lot of info about either the manufacturer or this particular lens as far as I can see. Has anyone heard of Hurman? Any information would be greatly appreciated. There's a reasonably comprehensive writeup of the reconstruction here for anyone interested too:

http://this-is-sunderland.co.uk/2012/09/10/wass-camera-project-post-1-background-first-photos/

Thanks! Andy

jb7
6-Jul-2013, 16:24
Well done, impressive restoration...

Struan Gray
7-Jul-2013, 13:42
Great work on the restoration Andy. Hope you're taking pictures soon.

"Perken and Son" (without any mention of "Rayment") dates the lens to after 1900. The Lens Collector's Vademecum lists a 1B, 2B, 3B series of f4 Optimus portrait lenses, but the 3B is only 9" in focal length, and was intended for cartes de visit, not full 12x15 sized plates. The 'correct' Optimus lens for the format would have been around 20", and would have almost certainly been a rapid rectilinear type. Does your lens have any rear glass, and if so what?

I have a 12x15 Optimus field camera (the "Wide Angle" model, which allows the rear to move forward). Many Perken Son and Rayment cameras had a distinctive slot on the rear standard for the lock on the rear tilt to move in, and the other brass hardware looks different too, so I don't think yours is one of theirs rebadged. On my camera the ground glass folds up and over the camera (which works well in a 4x5 model, but is ungainly at 12x15), and remains attached when the filmholders are inserted. The whole back section can be removed by releasing a couple of brass catches, but this would not be done in normal operation - it would, however, make it easy to make a new back for modern filmholders should I wish to do so.

As far as I can tell, there was no standardisation of holders, registration distances, or methods of attachments for cameras of this size and vintage. If you can get a set of holders in one go that would be best, since assembling several piecemeal may give you compatibility headaches. Making a whole new back, with holders to match it, would probably be the simplest option. Double-sided holders in this size are a non-trivial woodworking project, but a system with single-sided holders wouldn't be too hard to put together if you're handy.

If you don't want to do the work yourself, there are a couple of options. Argentum cameras in Hungary is owned by a 40x40 cm shooter, and at one stage they were offering to make custom backs and holders. There is also a NZ firm which have a permanently rotating ebay.co.uk advert for making custom camera backs.

I'm traveling at the moment, but I could take some pics of my back and holders once I'm settled at home again (mid-august, realistically). The attachment and ground glass hinges are very similar to the holders and back of similar vintage 4x5 tailboard cameras I have seen. The only major difference is that there are gaps in the grooves on the back and long sides of the holders so that they do not have to be slid the whole length of the holder - they can be placed into the camera back about two-thirds inserted, and then slid home.

My father has a 12x15 contact print of a studio portrait of my grandfather's family from just prior to the Great War. They lived in Sunderland, but the portrait may have been made elsewhere. The studio name is painted onto the print I think it is "Marley" but I've not been able to find any info on Google. Perhaps it was taken with your camera :-)


Finallly (I promise): is that another, smaller camera lying on the bed of the dusty in-situ camera? Or somthing like a retouching stand?

Steven Tribe
8-Jul-2013, 08:35
Just back from a fishing weekend.
You don't have many shots of the back, but it looks like a top loading model only. The plate holder allows you to mount slides horizontally or vertical or vertically inside - it has a sort of short armed cross hole inside. This kind of model went out of fashion about 1895. It would have had single plates only, where you load through a back door or a tambor slide. This sort of model is ideal for the wet plate folks!
I'll post typical plate holders (photos - not the real thing!) if you are very interested?
Most 12x15" (or perhaps 30x40cm?) were used only occasionally in studios and they are lighter built for mobility than the usual sort. The system for adjusting the front standard looks very German.

NorthSands
8-Jul-2013, 14:22
Struan, thank you firstly for the excellent reply! Here are a couple of closer pictures of the lens:

http://i23.photobucket.com/albums/b361/interzone_inc/hurmanlensfront_zps3ba34574.jpg

http://i23.photobucket.com/albums/b361/interzone_inc/hurmanlensrear_zpsbb502cc8.jpg

As you can see, there is a thread on the rear but no element(s). I do recall reading somewhere that some (Petzval?) lenses weren't averse to having the rear elements unscrewed to create a soft focus image - could this have been the case here? It is a shame not to have the missing bits if this is the case, I can't imagine I'd be able to source replacements. The two test images I made on paper negs were very soft, despite being in focus.

I would very much like to see some photographs of your back and holders, no great rush. I also have a whole plate camera built by Mawson & (Joseph) Swan, another Newcastle Upon Tyne supplier and the focusing screen does indeed fold out as you describe.

I would also love to see the portrait of your Grandfather's family too, it would be quite incredible if it had been taken with the same camera. Although I suspect we'll never know, there can't have been too many cameras of this size around in what was (and still is) an area without too much money around?

To answer your final point, that is indeed another camera, quarter plate I believe although I'm not sure there is a maker's plate on it. It has been wrapped up since I collected the Hurman and I must confess to not having looked at it all that much! I can dig it out if you'd like some more photos?


Just back from a fishing weekend.
You don't have many shots of the back, but it looks like a top loading model only. The plate holder allows you to mount slides horizontally or vertical or vertically inside - it has a sort of short armed cross hole inside. This kind of model went out of fashion about 1895. It would have had single plates only, where you load through a back door or a tambor slide. This sort of model is ideal for the wet plate folks!
I'll post typical plate holders (photos - not the real thing!) if you are very interested?
Most 12x15" (or perhaps 30x40cm?) were used only occasionally in studios and they are lighter built for mobility than the usual sort. The system for adjusting the front standard looks very German.

Steven, thank you for the info! Here are a couple of photos of the back, both with and without the makeshift frame - as you can see, woodworking isn't something I'm all that good at, but it does seem to work! If you are able to post photos of a similar design that would be excellent, thank you!

http://i23.photobucket.com/albums/b361/interzone_inc/hurmanback4_zps40accd26.jpg

http://i23.photobucket.com/albums/b361/interzone_inc/hurmanback2_zps0fda1e67.jpg

I was given a contact printing frame which happened to be 12x15" and also the same distance to the glass in the plate holder too which was fortunate. I cut a rebate into it to match the plate holder, although it is slightly wider, hence the adjustable channel (with the wingnuts). The aim is to shoot wetplate with this camera once it's all tested, and I am able to afford the required amount of silver nitrate to sensitise such large plates!

NorthSands
8-Jul-2013, 14:23
Had to split this from the last post due to the image limit:

At the top is a kind of sprung catch that releases and locks the frame in place - very simple but works well. And a channel along the bottom to locate the frame.

http://i23.photobucket.com/albums/b361/interzone_inc/hurmanback1_zps4a977424.jpg

NorthSands
8-Jul-2013, 14:32
Here's a couple more shots of both the plate holder - Vageeswari I was told. It was a mess when I bought it, one side is OK though.

http://i23.photobucket.com/albums/b361/interzone_inc/hurmanback6_zpscf1e8fbc.jpg

And the view through the GG - does this look like a soft focus lens?!

http://i23.photobucket.com/albums/b361/interzone_inc/hurmanback7_zps6881ad05.jpg

Steven Tribe
8-Jul-2013, 15:58
I'll post some photos tomorrow.
This is a German camera (or under the influence of German style) and had square plate holders that had a top piece that rested across the top cut-out. So you can sell the 12x16 book holder to someone else!

Struan Gray
9-Jul-2013, 01:22
The lens is missing its rear group. If it's usable as-is, get on with making pictures, but there are a couple of things you can try.

First, turn it round. Most simple lenses work best with the aperture in front of the lens, especially if you are intending to stop down (for wetplate, maybe not though). Play around and see which orientation works best. You may be able to screw the front group into the rear of the barrel, or you may have to reverse the whole lens.

Prices for fast vintage lenses have gone through the roof in recent years, so unless you luck into another attic find locally the chances of getting a long-focus Petzval at a good price are slim. Rapid Rectilinears are cheaper though, and although they won't give you the fastest apertures for wetplate work, they do the job and are very sharp when used properly.

12x15 has an image circle of around 500 mm, so you can just divide focal lengths by 10 to get the 35mm equivalent. A quick browse of eBay shows that you are just into the territory where almost any lens is expensive, especially wide angles. Exceptions which I have lucked into are the old 360 mm Symmars, which in barrel mount can be a little as 100 or so and which work well as mild wide angles, and various process lenses such as the Wray lustrars.

Bear in mind that the large format means that you will have significant extension when photographing portraits, and that a normal lens can have a look which is longer than its focal length equivalent would suggest.

I'll take some pics of my camera and holders once I'm at leisure again. The holders look very similar to the one you have. Gorgeous woodworking, with a tambour section to allow you to fold the darkslide out of the way once pulled.

I asked about the smaller camera because one option you have would be to mount its rear standard or back assembly onto a simple sheet of plywood, slot it into your camera and use 8x10 or smaller film for testing, or if you want to try wetplate at less extreme sizes. Most studios had reducing backs, if only for banging out cartes de visit.

Have you considered the Harmann direct positive paper for testing? Less expensive and fussy than wetplate, but cheaper than film in large sizes.

My impression was that Sunderland and Newcastle had a boom in the early C20th, with commercial shipping still based upon European-built and flagged vessels but many freighters still using coal. Perhaps it was a tad earlier. My great grandfather had a window cleaning business, starting with men on bikes with buckets and rags, and then, after the Factories Act stipulated light levels in workplaces had to be above Dickensian levels, expanding into industrial cleaning. Where's there's muck etc :-) In an age with few other mechanical distractions, portrait photos reached a surprisingly large section of the populace, even among the working classes. Early filmmakers used to move from town to town setting up temporary cinemas, and the first thing they would do would be to shoot and develop a film of the local factories or docks at shift change time - seeing themselves on the screen was a major draw for the rest of the programme. I think Bradford has extensive collections of these kinds of films - although most of them were fairly ephemeral.

Anyway, good luck with getting the beast working.

Steven Tribe
9-Jul-2013, 04:27
Here are a few disorganised photos of a couple of details, in this and the next post, of some of my European (1895-1914) studio camera, an illustration of a camera which has push -down holders only and shown with a door back and a couple of examples of plate holders showing the vert/horiz system as well as a (double) plate holder that has the top bridge.

Steven Tribe
9-Jul-2013, 04:34
And some photos of holder type.

Winger
9-Jul-2013, 05:25
Reported the spam - nevermind, it was gone by the time I posted that I'd reported it. :)

NorthSands
16-Jul-2013, 15:41
Here are a few disorganised photos of a couple of details, in this and the next post, of some of my European (1895-1914) studio camera, an illustration of a camera which has push -down holders only and shown with a door back and a couple of examples of plate holders showing the vert/horiz system as well as a (double) plate holder that has the top bridge.

Excellent, thank you for taking the time to post those photos, it all makes sense now. Very interesting to see the landscape/portrait orientation as well. I'd like very much to sell the 15x12 plate holder, but not until I've sourced (or made) something similar to what you have posted! Can't say I've ever seen one for sale before, long shot but do you have any spares you'd part with?!

NorthSands
16-Jul-2013, 16:01
The lens is missing its rear group. If it's usable as-is, get on with making pictures, but there are a couple of things you can try.

First, turn it round. Most simple lenses work best with the aperture in front of the lens, especially if you are intending to stop down (for wetplate, maybe not though). Play around and see which orientation works best. You may be able to screw the front group into the rear of the barrel, or you may have to reverse the whole lens.

Prices for fast vintage lenses have gone through the roof in recent years, so unless you luck into another attic find locally the chances of getting a long-focus Petzval at a good price are slim. Rapid Rectilinears are cheaper though, and although they won't give you the fastest apertures for wetplate work, they do the job and are very sharp when used properly.

12x15 has an image circle of around 500 mm, so you can just divide focal lengths by 10 to get the 35mm equivalent. A quick browse of eBay shows that you are just into the territory where almost any lens is expensive, especially wide angles. Exceptions which I have lucked into are the old 360 mm Symmars, which in barrel mount can be a little as 100 or so and which work well as mild wide angles, and various process lenses such as the Wray lustrars.

Bear in mind that the large format means that you will have significant extension when photographing portraits, and that a normal lens can have a look which is longer than its focal length equivalent would suggest.

I'll take some pics of my camera and holders once I'm at leisure again. The holders look very similar to the one you have. Gorgeous woodworking, with a tambour section to allow you to fold the darkslide out of the way once pulled.

I asked about the smaller camera because one option you have would be to mount its rear standard or back assembly onto a simple sheet of plywood, slot it into your camera and use 8x10 or smaller film for testing, or if you want to try wetplate at less extreme sizes. Most studios had reducing backs, if only for banging out cartes de visit.

Have you considered the Harmann direct positive paper for testing? Less expensive and fussy than wetplate, but cheaper than film in large sizes.

My impression was that Sunderland and Newcastle had a boom in the early C20th, with commercial shipping still based upon European-built and flagged vessels but many freighters still using coal. Perhaps it was a tad earlier. My great grandfather had a window cleaning business, starting with men on bikes with buckets and rags, and then, after the Factories Act stipulated light levels in workplaces had to be above Dickensian levels, expanding into industrial cleaning. Where's there's muck etc :-) In an age with few other mechanical distractions, portrait photos reached a surprisingly large section of the populace, even among the working classes. Early filmmakers used to move from town to town setting up temporary cinemas, and the first thing they would do would be to shoot and develop a film of the local factories or docks at shift change time - seeing themselves on the screen was a major draw for the rest of the programme. I think Bradford has extensive collections of these kinds of films - although most of them were fairly ephemeral.

Anyway, good luck with getting the beast working.

Thanks you again Struan, I'll give the reversing of the lens a try. I think the threads are the same either end so it'll likely swap over easily enough. And very much appreciate the other lens tips you have posted. I picked up a WWII Ross or Wray (I think) aerial photography lens a few years back, and it's sat unused at the back of a cupboard since then. I recall it's something like 24" although not particularly fast (maybe 5.6 or thereabouts) but in terms of size it may be worth a try.

I think ultimately I'll be shooting Wetplate alone with this, although I had looked into both the Ilford ULF order recently, as well as the Harman positive paper - which of course is a lot more reasonably priced especially at this sort of size.

As for Sunderland, as you rightly point out, mainstream portraiture for the masses had well and truly arrived. I'd love to see some of those shift changing films which you mention, I think I've seen a few (Pathe?) clips from the 50s of all the workers streaming out of Doxford's after work, incredible scenes. And very much enjoyed hearing of your great grandfather's story. Do you mind me asking what his name was?

Look forward to seeing the pictures of your camera too once you're settled back.