View Full Version : Sinar Norma or Sinar Expert ?

12-Mar-2007, 13:38
I just found this Forum when I was surfing looking for any mentions of Sinar Norma on the web. A thread was started over a year ago and has been dormant for some months now but I figure - what the hell let's see if I can be helpful and pitch my 'six pennorth' (quaint English expression).

I have known Sinar Norma cameras for the past 44 years - since 1963 - when I first met them as a very young man starting a new job in professional photo equipment sales in Nottingham, England. I had previously a working photographer in commercial and industrial work so used large format cameras - but nothing quite so sophisticated and extremely finely engineered as the Sinar before.

Soon after i started that job I was sent on a training session to 'sit at the knee of the Master' a wonderful industrial photographer here in England in those distant days called Stanley Kenyon down near Bristol. He was a true master of photography of 'heavy industrial' subjects and he used Sinar cameras all the time. In fact he was in those days also the UK distributor for this Swiss made camera and he supplied the derlaershups such as the one that I was then working for. So at the tender age of just 24 yrs. I was about to leartn almost all there was to learn about the wonderful Sinar system and his enthusiasm would stay with me for the whole of my life.

When I left his studio after a couple of days training I went out into the 'world' I was travelling in in those days and told every photographer I met about this fantastic camera system. Over the coming years through the 60's into the 70's and then on to the '80's I would sell Sinar cameras and all their accessories to hundreds of professional photographers here in the UK.

By the '80's however, the Sinar Norma system had given way to the much more sophisticated Sinar P, then the Sinar C, the Sinar F (and then the P2 and F2) and, the by the way, there was also at one time a pretty terrible Sinar Cadet which was only ever produced as a VERY cheap basic option. It didn't last long ! All of these newer models had fancy swings and tilts - but were MUCH heavier and MUCH more expensive than the great old Norma set out to be. So the initial 'value for money' of the Sinar early models was lost and, when the digital thing came along, they lost the market for which they were best known, the studio 'pack-shot' market, and now, here in the Uk at least, you can hardly find the Sinar distributor any more. They seem to have disappeared !

But back to the Sinar Norma. Yes, this was the initial ceamera model first designed by Swiss photographer Car Koch soon after the end fo the 2nd World War, for his OWN use as he was so frustrated by the other large format cameras of those days - makers such as Linhof, Plaubel etc. He wanted to design a versatile lrmat camera which would change up and down in format sizes according to his needs, be light enough to carry out on site, be flexible enough to interchange the parts for various tasks, every item having at least two functions - sometimes three, and be TOTALLY operational from the back of the camear - where the photographer belongs, from composition of the image to the moment of exposure. Hence the fancy sgutters linked to the focal plane, and the remote control lens mounts also linked to the camera shutter. FANTASTIC !

Carl and his family had the parts engineered by Swiss craftsmen (hence the fine engineering) and they brought them together in their family garage to build the completed camera. Word got around quickly about this wonderful 'home made' camera and Carl started to receive orders. A new camera brand had been born - but what to call it ?

Carl had designed the camera for his own work in Scientific, Industrial, N???? Architectural and R???? photography. So why not call it SINAR ?

The earliest cameras had a green crackle finish to the castings (the base clamp and the front and rear frames) later models had the grey crackle finish. Also earfly models had the focus locked by a 'twist-lever' system around the microgear focussing stem. Later models had a friction control screw device to tension the dragh on the focus adjustment. This change was made aftyer many heavy handed phootographers and some students had wrenched the focus lock stem and gearing out through brute force after locking it up tight !

The Sinar was, as has been said, sold in two 'packages' - the Standard (camera only) and the Expert (camera plus fitted drop in case containing: 18" extension rail, multipurpose frame for lens hood holding, bellows connecting, focus hood holding, eye-piece focus magnifier, lens hood holding rails (2), taper wide angle bellows, square extension bellows. This was the Expert outfit.

In the first time I can remember (1963) and for a few years after that (certainly to 1966) the price of the Norma camera was always 135.00 (say $270 at todays currency conversion) and the Expert outfit was 240.00 (say $480.00). Sounds very cheap but earnings and salaries were very much less in those distant days !

The Norma and Expert packages were also available in 5x4", 5x7" and 10'x8 but, of course, with this ingenious system, it was always possible to change format up and down using just one camera and interchangeble backs or format reducers !

All of that stuff was lifetime ago as, after working for three firms in the pro equipment business here in the UK in 1977 I started my own equipment supply firm "Peter Stanhope Photo Equipment" which lasted me 27 years - I decided to finally retire in 2003 and haven't missed the photo business since !

And, know what, I still have a Sinar in my garage which I really must dispose of some day ! It is a 5x7 Expert (no 5x7 back and screen) but with a 5x4 reduction back and screen - so it is really an oversize 5x4 Sinar, in the Expert case, with the rail, the extension bellows, the multipurpose auxiliary frame, eye-piece magnifier, maybe even a couple of lens panels (?). It's all in very nice condition (I wouldn't say 'mint' but still VERY useable). Anyone want to talk to me about it ?

E-mail me on PJStanhope@aol.com (UK/Europe only please - I wouldn't want to get into shipping to the USA).

Let's talk !