View Full Version : Need help identifying a camera (or two)

24-Jun-2011, 10:31
I work at the Alice Austen House in Staten Island, NY and this is a crop from a photo of Alice's from our archives. Unfortunately I can't be sure of the date it was taken as I can't find any caption or description like we have for a lot of the other photos, but I was hoping someone would recognize the camera. We don't have any of Alice's actual equipment or cameras in the museum, so it'd be great if I were actually able to tell any visitors that asked what cameras she used.

I was also hoping someone would be able to point me to a good resource for finding information about Ansco studio cameras. We have one in the museum that was donated long ago, but I haven't been able to find out much about it. I'll post pictures of that one too, but I don't have any on the computer I'm using at the moment.

24-Jun-2011, 11:10
A focal plane shutter strut folder - most of these were made between 1905 and 1930. Going by the body proportions I'd expect it to be smaller than 9x12. Hard to tell beyond that - these leather and wood bodies all were quite similar, and it has no characteristic knob or other part I know from any of mine. I don't know whether these ever were made in the US, hereabouts they all seem to be from Germany, Austria or the UK.

tom thomas
24-Jun-2011, 11:53
Interesting camera. it's been tied to a tree with twine for nature shots apparently. The lens cap is in place, cord securing it to the camera is broken.

I downloaded the photo and enlarged it to check out the knobs on the side. The larger one in upper left is focus as I can see the depth of field markings on the camera body. The knob in the lower right corner appears to be the shutter control. The shutter release button is just to the right of it. The round button/knob to the left could be a retainer for carrying strap.

From the scale of the twine tied to the bellows support struts, looks like a 4x6cm film size???

I can't see any cut sheet film holder and it's tied so tight to the tree, it must have roll film of some kind in it. Does any of this ring bells for someone?


Steven Tribe
24-Jun-2011, 14:23
The focal plane shutter controls, the strut system and the back are all very special. I'm sure someone will eventually recognise it.

24-Jun-2011, 16:01
There were quite a few of these focal pane strut cameras before WWI, the problem is that books like the yearly BJP Almanacs for that era are scare and run to something around 1300 pages, a very high proportion adverts, so they take a lot of trawling through.

Another problem is many companies came and went, some appearing and disappearing in a year or two. I saw a 6x9 a bit like a Baby Graphic last weekend the seller thought it was German prototype from before WWII but some features & materials were too modern, today I discovered a short-lived UK manufacturer Dawe.

So with this camera first check out the focal plane strut cameras from the big manufacturers, it's going to be post 1890 because that's roughly the earliest Focal Plane shutter (Thornton Pickard). It doesn't look like the Goerz Anschutz, Zeiss made one similar, so did Ross, and Houghton (Ensign) and quite a few other companies like Erneman, Van Neck etc

There's some rarer British & German cameras in a couple of my oldest my BJPA's when I get a chance I'll flick through.


25-Jun-2011, 02:25
The shutter controls look rather like the Carl Zeiss Jena Focal Plane shutter used on the Minimum-Palmos of around 1910, and there does appear to be a dark-slide in the back in the photo.

The Palmos came in various forms, it's just the Zeiss term for their Hand holdable cameras, the Minimum is the right style of strut camera.

The body of the Minimum-Palmos illustrated is not quite as deep in the 1910 Zeiss advert then there's no indication which of the 3 sizes (in the UK), 3x2, 4x3 and 5x4 is it is.

I was going to suggest you would need to look at some German adverts for that period to identify it further, but when I checked Camera-wiki (http://camera-wiki.org/wiki/Minimum-Palmos) the photographs there of a Minimum-Palmos match 100% with your photo, right down to the dark-slide being in place :D

Now you just need to guess what size, probably 9x12cm or 5"x4".


25-Jun-2011, 02:41
I agree - the exact knob layout on a edge strut camera will be unique, unless someone else cloned the Minimum-Palmos.

25-Jun-2011, 03:44
Should add the Minimum-Palmos was manufactured under the Carl Zeiss name until that part of the company merged to became ICA.


Steven Tribe
25-Jun-2011, 04:09
Yes ICA minimum palmos.
The enclosed catalogue drawing (1917/18) looks wrong - but it you change the body to a darker colour and add chrome to the edges of the the dials - it is the same.

The sizes available were 9x12 and 10x15cm. This was a very expensive camera - considerably more than the Goerz Ango and Ernemann varieties.
Ian has given the wrong sequence for ICA/Zeiss Ikon. Ica was one of the companies that disappeared into Zeiss Ikon in the middle 20's. Zeiss-Ikon were very conservative and continued the "old" model names for a very long time.

25-Jun-2011, 10:19
Excellent, thanks for the help everyone! I knew this was the right place to ask. Hopefully later I can post a few photos of the studio camera we have.

I'm not surprised at all that this would have been an expensive piece of equipment; Alice and her family were quite wealthy.

Steven Tribe
25-Jun-2011, 10:39
I am very surprised that there isn't a label on it.
ICA used very thin capitals that look like JCA (capital I was written as a J in German).

The Studio Ansco will be very easy. There are even some images on this site.
Have you checked the catalogue listings at cameraeccentric which is a great source for, especially US products?

25-Jun-2011, 10:49
Well back in 1910 the Minimum-Palmos was around 15 to 16, roughly half that price was the Tessar lens which is helical focussing. A similar format Kodak folding pocket camera as 90/- - 4.50.


25-Jun-2011, 10:52
We don't actually have possession of the camera unfortunately. Alice lost most of her money in 1929 and was forced to sell her belongings to keep the house that is now a museum dedicated to her and her work, so this photo is all that remains the actual camera. The studio camera is part of the parlor that was recreated based on photos of the room that Alice took herself while her family lived here.

I haven't yet seen cameraeccentric but I'm going to take a look right now.

25-Jun-2011, 11:41
Ok, here are a few photos of the studio camera. From pictures I've seen of others, it looks like a model 7 or 7a, except that those seem to have wooden or painted knobs and the one at the museum has brass knobs. The lens is a B&L Tessar with coverage for 6.5x8.5 plates, which I think makes it a 12" lens? Unfortunately the shutter is a bit jammed. I've also included photos of the sliding back in place, and one with it removed.

I apologize for the quality of the photos, but my phone is the only camera I've got at the moment.

Steven Tribe
25-Jun-2011, 11:59
Cameraeccentric shows the catalogue from 1940 - the first one in their listing. There wasn't much change during decades. They show model 5 and 5a on pages 4 and 5.