View Full Version : picked up a studio camera

11-Aug-2010, 18:47
As if I really need it. I read stories on here about people traveling many states and shelling out serious money for a nice wooden and iron studio camera and stand. I was not fast enough and rich enough for one that sold on here recently in the next state over, so I looked around a bit and there were two on ebay for $400 with no bites. They were further away than I wanted to travel. I looked on craigslist and decided to look in antiques instead of the photo category. Found a person 2 hours away selling a century setup. They'd been trying to sell it for more than a month with no serious bites at $400 and were close to giving up trying to sell it online. Nasty paint color and a mystery box of goodies were my impressions from the online ad.

For $300, I loaded into my Saab hatchback:
1 Century stand painted with all the wheels and working hardware
1 unidentified 8x10 camera with good bellows and working knobs
4 backs (rollfilm, 4x5, 5x7, 8x10 with partly unfrosted glass)
a couple random lensboards
4-5 beseler negative carriers for a 4x5 enlarger
1 pristine unused looking iris lens clamp

I'm curious what the camera is, as it has no markings. The 4x5 back for it had Burke & James embossed in padding on the spring back, but I don't know if the whole camera is B&J or just that back.


I am pleased to have found a studio camera for sale inexpensively in my own state. I will now have to try my hand at stripping paint. The undersides of the camera and stand show some nice original finish. I don't know why most of the studio camera for sale have such ugly paint schemes. Did MTV do "pimp my antique camera" before settling on teen's cars instead?

Robert Oliver
11-Aug-2010, 18:56

Andrew Plume
12-Aug-2010, 02:49
that's a serious restoration project, Jason - good luck with it - should keep you busy for a winter or two..............................


12-Aug-2010, 05:02
They weren't too thorough with applying the red and white paint, so I don't think I'll have to be too thorough stripping it. I figure probably 2 evenings of stripping, an evening of cleaning and/or blasting the base, a few evenings refinishing the stand and camera. After that, restoring the backs will be just as consuming, and the 8x10 and 4x5 will be the priority. I've got a couple months anyways since I don't have a room ready to use it in yet.

The older cameras are sort of like collector cars. You can buy them reasonably cheap and do a lot of work on it to make it right, or you can pay big bucks for something ready to win ribbons.

Jim Galli
12-Aug-2010, 06:53
Killer outfit, especially with all the backs. They make the same pictures ugly or not. I sold all my pretty ones and ended up with an ugly gray one. Like a $2 hammer, it's probably mine for life because no one else wants it. I can't identify the camera. They all looked and worked the same. Does it use 9X9 lens boards?

W K Longcor
12-Aug-2010, 07:37
That big wooden focusing "knob" on the center rear track is very "Fulmer & Schwing " (E.K. Graflex) looking. Possibly any brass name plates encrusted under the paint?

12-Aug-2010, 09:09
my guess is an old century #7. two standards instead of 3 makes me think this (could be a #4 but they have shorter bellows).

i have casters for it. send me a PM if you need some.


12-Aug-2010, 17:51
It appears to be a #7 based on comparison with ebay item 270608604454. Mine is missing the medallion with the model number on it. The bellows and overall shape look the same. I can see where the medallion was underneath the front standard.

Eddie, I do have the casters for it; thanks anyways.

I did some paint stripping on it this evening. Paint stripping is something I don't have experience with. I bought a metal can of the nasty stuff at Lowes. It came with a sprayer which could be used to apply, but I didnt like the idea of spraying it on to avoid overspraying it on the bellows. I went in and got a plastic "open container" drink cup to hold some while I brushed the stuff on. As soon as I got the front of the front standard painted with stripper, the whole bottom of the cup let out and the stripper poured onto my garage floor. The cup continued to melt like it was over a campfire. Some of the stripper got on one of my nitrile gloves while disposing of the cup, and my glove stated to bubble, so I quickly removed that. I managed get the front of the front standard stripped clean nonetheless. It's a beautiful darker wood a bit nicer than I expected. I finally got a couple small drops of the stripper on my other glove and that started to bubble too, so evening of paint stripping is over till I figure out different materials to protect my hide and hold the paint stripper liquid.

I didn't measure the lensboard size, but it appears to be a 9"x9".

12-Aug-2010, 19:23
You should probably disassemble the camera before stripping the wood. You can easily remove the bellows by removing the screws that hold the bellows frames to the front and rear camera frames. The citrus-based strippers are a lot less noxious and they won't dissolve your gloves.

Jim C.
12-Aug-2010, 19:27
Having stripped two Kodak 2D's and some doors I can say that the chemical strippers
are pretty nasty, I got a drop or two on my bare arms and it stings. I always thought it odd since
I've used all the solvents in the stripper separately and never had that happen.

Never use plastic cups, styrofoam, or cold drink cups, those cups are styrene and the
MEK, Methylene chloride, xylene blends that the stripper is made of will eat thru those like Alien blood. .
I use polypropylene or HDPE containers, they'll hold up and you can store the stripper in it as
you work with it if you happen to have lids to go with it , paper coffee cups work well too but not the lids

Nitrile gloves offer puncture resistance but not chemical, especially the nasty blend in the stripper, I use
latex gloves, they hold up pretty well.

Someday I'll get my hands on a studio camera.

12-Aug-2010, 21:42
That looks nice! I just got an Ansco studio camera that needs a lot more work. It's the lovely battleship grey with what looks like a coating of mud. Three standards and looks like you can put a 9x9 lensboard in the middle or on the front.

I don't have a stand though. If anyone finds a stand without a camera, let me know.

Have fun with your project.


Steven Tribe
13-Aug-2010, 01:23
Just another support to the idea of taking the camera apart before continuing with getting the paint off, Paint stripper never removes completely, whether you use 1 or 10 attempts. Methylene chloride is very nasty and, unless you have a large laboratory or painting shop ventilated area, it should be outside work. Getting the last layers off near metal fitments is impossible. The stripper will also attack the varnish/oil finish of the mahagany and go deep into the wood.

The painting of these old studio cameras is not a modern thing. Photographers probably got fed up with hearing from their clients about hearing "Gosh, do you use such an old camera?". Dark mahogany finish quickly became "unfashionable and Victorian" in the 20th century.

Jay DeFehr
13-Aug-2010, 09:17
I'm glad mine is unmolested! I just wish I had a studio to use it in. The simplicity of my studio camera inspired me, and illustrated the important aspects of a portrait camera; a large lens board, a rigid front standard, and a long bellows. Everything else is non-essential. Mine came with an 18" RR, which is what I was really after, but I like the studio camera more than I anticipated I would. If I had the space, I'd use it a lot more often.

14-Aug-2010, 19:03
It's cleaning up pretty nice. I've remove blue, gray, white, and red paint so far. The woodwork looks really nice and it's a shame the various owners didn't like their wooden camera to look the part.


Jim Galli
14-Aug-2010, 20:21
It's cleaning up pretty nice. I've remove blue, gray, white, and red paint so far. The woodwork looks really nice and it's a shame the various owners didn't like their wooden camera to look the part.

When you get done with that one, I'll send you mine :D:D