View Full Version : Any idea what this is?

Richard Rankin
2-Aug-2010, 17:21
Someone offered this to me to buy. I doubt it's anything I can use but I'm not even sure WHAT it is. I think it might be an enlarger and not a camera because the back looks strange to me, but thought I'd ask here to see if you have some ideas.

Thanks, Richard


John Kasaian
2-Aug-2010, 17:31
It's an antique! ;)
Don't waste your money--
you'll have plenty of opportunity to do that later! :D

2-Aug-2010, 19:18
It's an accordion.

2-Aug-2010, 19:52
always wanted to say that! :-)

Jim Noel
2-Aug-2010, 20:48
It appears to be a full plate (6.5x8.5) studio camera. Most likely originally a plate camera. If it is cheap, get it. later you can learn to use it. It is great for portraits.

Richard Rankin
2-Aug-2010, 22:06
OK, why the handle along the side? What are the clips in the top rear clipping? Where is the ground glass supposed to go? There don't seem to be clips for it. Why is there a knob normally used for rolling the standard along the tracks in the rear where there ARE no rails or tracks? Why the L shaped metal along the front standard? It appears to me that the camera should theoretically compress forward and fold up from the rear because there seems to be a hinge behind the front standard. What about the missing knobs on the front standard when there is no rise or slide?

inquiring minds want to know....


Brian Stein
2-Aug-2010, 22:49
My guesses:

1. could be an enlarger but then why have any movements, and where does it get attached to supports?

2. looks to me to be a plate camera
handle on side: Me I'd put it on top to carry with but....
clips on top rear: the slots for old plate holders, you know the ones that rotate out like dogs ears.
ground glass: clips into above.
Now having said that it also doesnt look quite like the old plate camera I own which has a swing up ground glass like http://www.thelightfarm.com/Map/DryPlate/PlateHolders/DryPlatePart6.htm
Does the knob roll the back forward in tail-board camera fashion? Thats what it looks like to me with as you say the flip up of the rear rail. http://www.lostgloves.com/USA2001Site/photos/Watson1.jpg
Missing knobs in front: are you sure it doesnt have rise/fall? This might have been a geared movement. It seems odd to have shift but no rise/fall.
also have a look at http://piercevaubel.com/cam/general%20trends%20construction.htm

2-Aug-2010, 23:14
I know, it's a bird house!
Or it's about 9 months of painful restoration just to find out it's worthless.

Martin Miksch
3-Aug-2010, 00:46
The flipping groundglassholder is missing

Steven Tribe
3-Aug-2010, 03:16
This is a tailboard plate camera with the "alternative" portrait/landscape change. The handle will be on top when the back is switched to the portrait mode. There will be 2 lugs on the opposite side to the handle which engage on the base plate. There are 2 other lugs which are engaged now - but you can't see them! This is found on mostly french and english varieties of the tailboard (rejsekamera). It made for simpler ground glass work but is a bit violent in the change and adjustment of bellows. As someone has already mentioned, the mounting back has gone. It was good quality when new.

Richard Rankin
3-Aug-2010, 14:54

Is the entire back gone, or just the ground glass?


Steven Tribe
3-Aug-2010, 16:49
Yes you are right. I was looking for brass furniture on the back with multiple hinges which is normal for the standard type where the whole back with sliding panel GG section is moved through 90 degrees. But it is not necessary here because everything rear of the bellows moves through 90 degrees and the sliding panel with the missing GG follows. This makes for specially designed plate/film holders for the particular model.
So I think it is complete at the back (minus GG).

Some of these change by rotating back/bellows as one unit around the front standard. But this is impossible with this one as the bellows is full size at the front standard. There must be a "detach bellows system" at the rear - perhaps under the sliding back panel?

I have seen a couple of these recently on e**y - but there are none at present. Will check for photos tomorrow.
I have found one in a 1911 Catalogue called the Babel - this is one with the turning bellows in front! Enclosed.
They are usually walnut and the solid brass handle seems to be a common feature for this version.

Richard Rankin
3-Aug-2010, 17:05
That is fascinating. Maybe I should've bought it... I still don't see how you place a film/plate holder in there. Is that where the detachable rear bellows comes into play?

Peter Gomena
3-Aug-2010, 22:51
You can find cameras in better condition if you are patient and hunt around. This one would require quite a bit of work to restore. I think you were wise to pass on it.

Peter Gomena

Steven Tribe
4-Aug-2010, 01:05
True enough Peter - but some of us actually enjoy the challenge of getting all the brasswork off, sanding down the mahagony (in this case, Walnut!), small repairs and making a new bellows.

This type was quite a lot cheaper than the more common tailboard/reisekamera. These made in up to very large (ULF) sizes.

The film holders were recessed edge slide type - with velvet light seals on the uncovered surface. The GG slider was completely removed and put down somewhere safe!

Steven Tribe
4-Aug-2010, 01:49
I note you didn't get the tailboard - but just to round off the posting I include the main photo in completed listing 350375536548. Actually if you look at one of your photos you can just see the receiving brass "holes" lurking under the bellows.

Ole Tjugen
4-Aug-2010, 02:50
Looks a bit similar to THIS (http://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/showpost.php?p=376564&postcount=211), doesn't it?

That's what I think it is - a "German-style" folding camera from sometime durilg the past century. I have ended up with several of these in various states of decay, often bought for the lens they came with - or an iris lens holder...

Jim Michael
4-Aug-2010, 03:51
Ansel Adams long lost camera. Worth 2 million.

Richard Rankin
6-Aug-2010, 17:14
The seller offered it for $50 delivered, but I guess I'll pass on it. With Sorin leaving for 6 months, it might be more trouble replacing the bellows than it's worth...

Thanks all!

Richard Rankin
7-Aug-2010, 13:03
Ok, ok, I admit it. After I posted the last message, I cracked and bought it. Steven and Ole made it sound too interesting to not look at in person. Should be here by the end of the week.

Now, where on earth will I find a suitable whole plate holder? I have lots of holders but they are all 'normal' Eastman-types.

Cheers, Richard

Steven Tribe
7-Aug-2010, 13:17
Look Richard! - if I can find suitable plate holders for the ERRTEE and for my own 13x18 reisekamera from Bentzin with book type (lovely system, by the way!) then I should be able to point you in the right direction. Or Ole - he seems to have put together quite a collection!

I will be very surprised if this turns out to be a 1/2 plate size - my money is on 13x18cm - which means you can use it with 5x7" eastman film sheaves (size no. 3) in the 13x18 holders when they materialise.

Richard Rankin
7-Aug-2010, 13:22
Steven, the seller measured where (I think) the GG goes, and said there was a felt lined section approx 6 1/2 x 8 1/2", so I'm thinking whole plate. But from your descrip and Ole's, the entire back will remove and be replaced by a film holder with some sort of tab or ridge cut into it to lock in. So, theoretically, I may be able to add something to just hold a different design of holder on there. But it just looked too cool to pass up. Plus, I've bought form this person before and I'm hoping they keep coming to me first with their vintage camera finds.


Steven Tribe
7-Aug-2010, 13:47
Yes, this is a 13x18 size (exterior) for the GG back AND for the film holders. I just measured mine- approx 6.3x8.5". The standard system, as you mentioned has extra (width) metal tabs at the end nearest the dark slide insert end and a recessed width, with another pair of metal tabs which follow the mahogany width exactly, at the other end. I have used the system to-day for the first time in earnest and it works well. The sliding fitting motion is only about 1".

The various makers have slightly different (1-2mm) exterior and brass strip widths.

Richard Rankin
7-Aug-2010, 18:17
When it gets here at the end of the week, I'll get back to you, probably with plenty of questions... Cheers, Richard

Steven Tribe
8-Aug-2010, 14:01
Whilst you are waiting for delivery I have taken another, more analytical, look at the seller's photos.
I think you will find it very interesting.

It appears to be the sort where the front standard can be split into two. There is a full width/length panel that can be moved across, locked in position - and probably be completely removeable. My guess is that this was sold as a traditional/stereoscopic option camera. If you look at the back of the front standard (looking down into the bellows from the back) you will see that the lens can be installed right over in the lefthand side of the standard and the righthand side.

Quite apart from the sliding gg/film holder panel, the full height/width of the back can be removed. The two brass catches on the top can be released and back lifted out - the fitting panel underneath is visable. I would guess that this means the change from portrait to landscape mode is done by repositioning this part of the back. I can't see the extra brass lugs in the side which I think should been viewable in the back photos.

So summarising, this 13x18 is a mixture of the two types of tailboard/reisekamera. The side handle is probably unique, but shows good thinking by the designer! If the latch holding the camera parts together gets loose in transport, the parts will not fall apart, as they do with the traditional top mounted handle/strap!

Ernest Purdum
10-Aug-2010, 18:27
These cameras can sometimes accept big or short-focus lenses that few other types can.

Ole Tjugen
11-Aug-2010, 00:21
The whole front panel can slide up and down (you'll need two locking screws to stop it from sliding when you don't want it to), and the lens panel can slide from side to side. I wouldn't think it's made as a stereoscopic camera though, you would need an internal baffle for that. But making a double-whole leng panel shouldn't be too difficult?

And yes - these cameras are great for extra heavy lenses and ultra short lenses - my 24x30cm Reisekamera can take anything from 47mm to 850mm and focus at infinity.

Steven Tribe
11-Aug-2010, 10:21
Ole, the internal baffle for dual 13/18cm reisekameras is always lost or destroyed as they used rubber to mainitain tension - or was never bought from the photo dealers in the first place. And stereoscopic photography was very much a short time phenomenum like the periods of interest in cinema stereoscopic production.
So the only means of identification is usually a couple of brass lined square holes in the middle position underneath the back. Then a newly made central baffle will just fit in, and is removeable in a jiffy.

Richard Rankin
11-Aug-2010, 14:20
I can't wait to get this thing now...

Steven Tribe
11-Aug-2010, 15:38
The tailboard/reisekameras I mentioned earlier have been relisted (or rather, I found them again!). There are 3 from the same seller. One of these, 200461364191, has the stereoscopic adaption system. It can be seen as a dark rectangular Hole in the inside bottom frame of the open back photo!

I have no connection with this seller and never will at these prices!

Richard Rankin
16-Aug-2010, 13:12
Ok, this baby arrived today. Well, more of a great-grandfather than a baby, I suppose. Ole appears to be correct re the stereo. The back of the bellows has a notch where such a divider could have fit. And, as Steven said, the divider is, of course, missing. The back is missing the GG, but does remove and would be replaced by the film/plate holder. Haven't tried any holders yet to see if one might accidentally fit.

So, you guys are totally amazing. I haven't seen how the entire bellows would remove and rotate as suggested, but I think that is probably also correct and I will see how to do that eventually. But at the moment, it appears to me to be fixed to the front standard. The lens board is attached to a sliding board which is attached again to another sliding board, so the rise and fall in the front is unlike anything I've ever sen. And both boards slide right off if needed. The more interior board is supposed to be fixed to limit its movement with the 2 front knobs that are missing. There is also a top knob for sliding left or right.

The camera is missing heaps of brass screws, which I suspect I can replace easily. The biggest problem I can see is that the bottom of the rear standard has a bent metal thing on each side that fits down into a slot and then slides sideways a cm or so to lock it in. One of those is missing and making a replacement is probably beyond me meager skills. But otherwise, the bellows would need replacing and a lot of screws and some wood glue, but it's not too bad.

I admit, I have totally fallen in love with this ugly thing. I think I might have to try and salvage it...

Cheers, Richard

Ole Tjugen
16-Aug-2010, 22:11
One way to repair such an oldie might be to get a modern Russian Reisekamera to strip down for parts...

The quality of the old one is likely to be far better than a new Russian, but the Russian will have usable parts!

Steven Tribe
16-Aug-2010, 22:52
Photos, please Richard.

I did say that this is not a turning bellows type - the back is turned through 90 deg. when the two top latches are released.
Screw threads will be metric (M3 and up).
I think the top knob is the one used for stereo left/stereo right adjustment. This can be done with the skilled photographer behind the camera!
Remember to look for names on the camera. These are often descretely placed on working brass strips like Deardorff.
Now you have found the notches in the back you should look for the corresponding, but different design, notches in the front ( I didn't mention them earlier so as not to raise your hopes about the stereo option).

Richard Rankin
17-Aug-2010, 06:58
After looking at it more closely, it clearly isn't going to rotate around the front standard. Too bad Sorin at DIYCameraKit is leaving for ages or I'd break this apart and order a bellows kit for it.

It will be a few days until I can take better photos - I have another whole plate camera I need to finish off so I can sell it.

This does have an interesting feature at the rear of the rail platform. There is a brass enclosed round piece of glass. At first I couldn't figure out what it was until I stood up and was looking down on it. It's a bubble level! There's some viscous fluid in there, floating around. Maybe some type of oil?

The missing brass piece may be easier to make than I had thought. I'm not sure I can do it, but it really isn't much more than a piece of bent brass, rounded edges and some screw holes in it. I might be able to find a semi-handy person who could replicate that.

I'll post some photos as soon as I can and check the parts for hidden names.

Cheers, Richard

Steven Tribe
18-Aug-2010, 15:48
There is rather a quite good illustrated description of the "reisekamera" which lists some of the known makers. It is at camerapedia.org/wiki/Reisekamera - it is in English. Spirit level is unusual on these but some had the hanging (useless?) clock-hand on the side.

Richard Rankin
18-Aug-2010, 16:07
I disagree a little with the author of that piece. The one I have here is extremely light and portable and fit in a very small shipping box for a whole plate camera. I actually thought they had sent the incorrect camera at first because the box was so small. The key, I think, is that the camera is pretty much the same width and height as the ground glass, which is not true of any of the other cameras I have.

Haven't had the time (or nerve) to disassemble the front standard yet and check for a notch. I'm fairly certain that it will be there, though, given the obvious facility for a divider in the rear. What might such a divider be made of? Would it be stiff like wood or a curtain of bellows material. I've never physically seen a stereo camera on the inside.


Steven Tribe
19-Aug-2010, 02:37
I agree with you about the very portability of these tailbacks. But remember these were also made in ULF, 40x50cm, I believe!
I have posted these photos on these stereo central bellows part before ( search under Bentzin, stereo ) but here are a couple of photos. This is self made on the basis on what can be seen from a rear shot of a camera which still had the original bellows and trial and error with mock-ups. Note that mine is tapered. This is because, although because the outside of the bellows is perfectly square, the folds are much greater near the front standard.
Insertion and removal takes less than 30 seconds.
Since I first got my stereo/mono tailboard I have checked the 13x18cm tailboard offered on e**y. A great many of them (more than 25%) look like they are the same type as yours and mine but the small brass lined holes don't get noticed by the seller.
An exception is one on sale by Fotoherbst at the moment (no connection with him/her). This will of great interest for you as it shows the mounted plate holder and gives a perfect shot of the engage system. This holder is exactly the type I have.

Later: sellers name is fotoherbstcom. Item no. is 280047771556.

Richard Rankin
19-Aug-2010, 06:33
Fotoherbstcom has several reisekameras listed. I bookmarked him/her so I can peruse the photos with more attention. Thanks for the tip - my Ebay searches don't turn up items on the German site.

The bellows curtain you added is very interesting. Do you have a photo of your camera without the back or the curtain so I can check it against mine?

Steven Tribe
19-Aug-2010, 07:33
Here it is. The rear tabs are held in the slot by the compression of the rubber in the central "bellows". The front holes have brass, reinforcing strips to hold the detachable bellows division in place. They use the system that lens boards have when there is no security latch in the front. That is, the top hole in the front is about 4mm deeper than bottom hole. So you position in the top hole first as high as possible so that you can just push the bottom tab in - then release the bar, which falls down into the bottom hole to ensure a safe fit.