View Full Version : 9 lens camera - What is this?

2-Jul-2008, 17:38

I was hoping someone may be able to identify this camera and what it may have been used for. The bellows seem somewhat rigid which is why I did not extend the camera any further than is shown in the photographs. The 9 lenses are identical and provide the only mark that I can find on the camera. Each lens is marked "BF & Co." and they each have a number "1" on them. When the metal rod on the top is pulled up, the wooden shutter reveals all nine lenses. The cross section, pictured in the 3rd and 4th photographs, is on a spring so that the whole section pushes in towards the lenses about 1/2 inch. I looked over the camera thoroughly and have found no markings other than the ones mentioned. Does anyone know what this kind of camera is called, what it was used for, and to what time period it dates?

Thank you,

Glenn Thoreson
2-Jul-2008, 17:55
Well, I cant tell you who made it but it is obviously used for taking 9 small photos on one plate. Or film. Kind of like the Polaroid passport and ID cameras.

John Cahill
2-Jul-2008, 18:30
Could be a tintype, or even a dageurrean camera for making multiple images on a single metal plate.

David A. Goldfarb
2-Jul-2008, 18:37
I'd guess it was for making plates for cartes de visite, based on the proportions of the middle box. Then you could print them 9-up on a sheet, cut them up and mount them on cards with the name of the subject gold stamped on the card.

2-Jul-2008, 19:11
BF& Co. is Benjamin French & Co. of Boston, Mass. Importers of Darlot lenses. If you take one of the lenses apart and look on the edge of one of the glass elements you might find a "Darlot" inscription.

These cameras were used for many purposes, including creating multiple images of the same shot on one glass plate. As described in a previous post, the print would be cut into several copies....

It was also used as a copy device for documents and other purposes.

Your camera was likely used for portraiture in a studio using ferrotype or possibly wet/dry glass plates -- its hard to tell as it seems the plate holder is not in the pictures.

Also, I'd guess that the camera body is American made because of the BF&Co. lenses -- though it could be an import too.

Scovill and Anthony both made Ferrotype 4-tube cameras in the late 1870's similar in construction to yours though I don't think yours was made by either of them. There were several other smaller companies in the NY and MASS area that might be the manufacture-- Putnam, Schultz, American Optical... hard to tell unless someone stumbles across a match in an old catalog.

Good find!
Bill Riley

Gene McCluney
2-Jul-2008, 19:14
It's a wet-plate cartes de visite camera.

4-Jul-2008, 02:25
Ferrotype to be more precise, was easier to cut the individual images apart out of metal instead of glass. Good find.

5-Jul-2008, 02:03
Called a "Gem Camera" for shooting tintypes (ferrotypes) of miniature size. Circa 1860-1880.

see http://www.antiquewoodcameras.com/wetpl2.htm