View Full Version : Century Model 40-Something Parts

20-Feb-2018, 13:18
I have my grandparents' Century Field Camera of a model number that I cannot determine due to the 1907 single lever bellows advance lever, which I can't find in any photos of their models (great engineering, if I do say so). I can at least say it's somewhere in the 40 series, for certain. The camera was originally designed for 3 1/4 (1/8?) x 5 1/4 (1/8?) "postcard" prints, but my grandfather adapted the rotating rear with a 3 1/4 x 4 1/4 viewer/holder setup. I still have the original, large viewer (right term?) with the ground glass, but the two springs that would have allowed the insertion of a film holder (of which I have two and they fit nicely) between it and the camera's body are nowhere to be found. The dimension (4 5/8") between the mounting screw holes on the 4 1/4 setup are the same as on the 5 1/4 viewer, so I assume the springs would have been the same as for an original 3x4 model from the company. Does anyone have a couple of these springs in their camera "graveyard" that might work? I'd like to be able to sell the camera in as complete an original state as I can, with the adaptation included, of course. I'll be most happy to add photos later if requested. Thanks in advance for any help you can offer. :-)

Update. The camera is NOT a Century model at all. I discovered I'd figured the model out a while ago and forgotten I'd done so. It's a Conley: Long Focus Reversible Back (Model XV) . Boy, was I off base!

Steven Tribe
20-Feb-2018, 14:32
Is this the camera as it was before conversion?


Cycle cameras are great fun - but difficult to make alterations as the cherry is fairly thin.
Neither postcard size or 1/4 plate actually qualify here as large format, but it probably doesn't matter too much!

21-Feb-2018, 11:11
Yes, that's the exact model.

Actually, the conversion was quite easy. He just cut a piece of 3/8 wood of some variety to use as a base, cut out a 3 1/4" x 4 1/4" inch appropriately placed opening, and screwed it down all over the place. The viewer was attached to that new base with four wood screws. Done. What I was impressed with was the attachment of a heavy, double-thick strap on the SIDE of the camera. It allowed them (grandparents, both pros) to hold the camera with just the left hand quite securely when shooting. It's too bad the manufacturers of the time didn't see the value of such. Handles on the top? What a one sided usage.

I did figure out why he might have made the conversion and it may have something to do with your remark about cherry, though I've always found it to be a wood of relatively good strength. In the design, the springs were held onto the camera with but a single, very small screw. Bad news. The wood, in time, split around the screw from the upward force of loading and unloading holder after holder. Easy Titebond II fix now, though I'd have used two spaced screw placements, as others did for other cameras of the day. I do wish I knew what metal to use as a substitute and I might attempt to create my own. However, if someone has a few spares hanging around doing nothing, so much the better.

My apologies for using what you consider an inappropriate forum for my request, but I'm just the grandson of the photographers, not an expert on what to call this and that. They were the published experts. So it's an MF camera. I know that. I'm just looking for help from knowledgeable individuals and consider the two formats relatively closely related. (Pardon the alliteration and semi-redundancy.) This forum has been recommended by many an expert that I've dealt with in selling my grandparents items on which to ask questions of experts. If I've made a mistake by using their assessment and offended by daring to ask a question of such individuals, my apologies, mea culpa, al het shekatatanu l'fanecha, yada, yada. (Not really. I don't ever apologize for asking questions. I'd have been a really sh**y professor if I didn't practice what I preached. And if the unknowledgeable can't ask questions of the knowledgeable without reproach, what the point of this forum [a place for discussion and questioning] in the first place?)

Steven Tribe
21-Feb-2018, 15:24
I don't consider it an inapproproate request as there is no real difference between 1/4 plate and the slightly bigger sizes! Your camera was made over the whole range of sizes, included the postcard size which had a sudden popularity at the time. My view is that all sizes under 1/2 plate and 5x7" really need the services of an enlarger/scanner and are not too different from each other. I certainly think you enquiry is relevant here as there are many owners here of the 1890's on onwards of cycle cameras which was an exciting American popularising of photography for the masses! I have two, a battered 4x5" and a super 8x10".

The thiness of the cherry frame does lead to problems with screw fixtures. By now, the cherry will be extremely hard and screwing has to be done carefully. I would advise using threaded screws in a bored hole with an accepting female fixture inside. This is the system used for tripod accepting threads at the base/side of cameras of this type which has to stand up to quite heavy loads.

I really think the people making these cameras did a really good job. They made a light, easy to use camera. Conley, ROC and all the other makers would not have thought that so many would be still around - and used - in the 21st Century!

If you post some photos of the modification - and of the plate holders you have - we may have some suggestions that you could use.

26-Feb-2018, 13:01
I have uploaded some photos, per your request, to my Dropbox of the modifications and the "3 x 5" holders I have that fit the Conley. See them on this link: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/0ge7l9bbb0gqq3j/AAA58tRZZhieJZ1QVojGfp5pa?dl=0

From the general look of things I've come to some tentative conclusions about the makeup of the springs. The first was that the springs probably were of the typical variety that had a 1/4" wide closed circular end on one end and a 1/4" wide open u-shaped end on the other (holder insertion end). Second, noting the slits on the camera itself above and below the respective upper and lower mounting point screw holes, the springs probably had an arched center portion. That arch being bent at 90 to add strength to the material of construction and add to their rebounding consistently and fully. Center to center the screw holes on the viewer itself are 4 5/8" apart with the screw hole for mounting to the camera apparently was centered, speaking length-wise; off-center toward the outside width-wise. What material was used for the springs is still in question. If forced to make my own, I've found some spring steel online that crafters use for costume corsets (around a buck a piece, depending on the width and length purchased) that might work for material, but I'm unsure of my ability to bend them into the proper shape without them snapping. I'll probably just have to buy a number of them and experiment.

Steven Tribe
26-Feb-2018, 15:10
The springs you "need" are, I think, non-existant in the original design of the back! The modification was to a later system known as a spring back - where the back is inserted under the GG frame. The typical cycle design requires the removal of the insert ground glass frame after focussing and the insertion of the plate holder. I think this matches with the photos. The conley cameras have a very distinctive large pattern on the leather covers. A easier way to have done the conversion would have been to placed a frame within the plate holders with a cut out for for the 1/4 plate format your Gradndparents selected. The ground glass just needs an inked frame for the smaller format to show where the 1/4 plate is placed in the postcard holder.

28-Feb-2018, 20:40
The spring back system I understand; this I have seen in many of my grandparents' cameras, especially the wooden frame LF ones (like, all of them). Your suggestion for an easier modification is well noted and understandable, but irrelevant at this point. Besides, having to insert a piece of film into a built in sheath that's been modified with yet another frame would have made loading the holder with a smaller piece of film a royal pain. And I disagree with you about the springs not being in the design of the camera. The screws on the side of the original back and their offset placement, the mounting holes and their placement, and the slits in the camera case to align the springs all say you are probably incorrect. Also, there would have been (and is still the case now) no way to secure a 3x5 metal (single) or wooden double sided holder in place without an original spring back setup in the first place, ignoring the modification of course. Oh, and the leather patterns of the case and the original 3 x 5 back match perfectly. It's the original back, even if the camera is now black and the back is brown. Shoe dye was a common thing in that era. I still touch things up with it now and again. . . like, a lot. I guess I'll just have to make my own and heat treat them myself, unless someone else comes up with a pair for me.

Steven Tribe
1-Mar-2018, 01:49
I have used black boot polish on my two cycle cameras - just a dab of black dye on the few places where the skin of the leather has been disturbed showing the brown inner core of the leather. Will check your comments about the back loading system!

The best photo I could find of the model xv back is this one - which doesn't show the flexible arrangement which allows mounting of plate holders. This model is definitely from the Sears and Roebuck period when the range of models was extended.