View Full Version : Expedition Camera Help Needed

bill kehoe
4-Sep-2011, 07:39
Does anyone know anything about the history of l/f camera manufacture in Asia? I'm interested in what was made in the 1920s thru 50s. I can only find a few references to Rajah cameras from the 80s and no complimentary ones, but I can't quite believe that high-quality field cameras weren't made then in those parts of the world where the ubiquitous British held sway. It was the golden age of modern exploration, calling for extensive photographic documentation, after all. And the kinds of tropical hardwoods that resist climate damage would have been immediately at hand along with cheap labor skilled at wood, brass and leatherwork.
Once or twice I've seen old, high-quality photographic items listed for auction that appeared to have come from India and China, and I think I remember reading somewhere that pre-independence Rajah cameras could compete with Deardorffs in terms of quality of design and construction. Maybe my memory is playing tricks - I can't find any such reference now - but if anyone out there has information to share, I for one would like to hear it.

Steven Tribe
4-Sep-2011, 12:55
Both Japan (especialy) and India have a long history of well designed and well built traditional cameras. Japanese cameras in particular have own special style with lots of reinforcing brass. Apart from the use of teak in European tropical cameras, I don't think that there were timbers that could compete with walnut and mahogany. The Indian cameras I have seen illustrated appear to have rather irregular grained wood.
The Indian tradition has well quite well covered here and I have seen snippets of information about Japanese camera tradition, too. Traditional Chinese cameras must exist but I have never heard anything about them. perhaps not too many survived the troubles of the 30's and 40's?

bill kehoe
4-Sep-2011, 18:33
thank you, steven.
"The Indian tradition has been quite well covered here..."
do you happen to remember where to find the coverage? i'm admittedly not very good at searches and all i could find here was a brief, negative review of a rajah that apparently was very briefly available in the states a while back.

i ask because i have an apparently old 8x10 that looks like teak and it's far from what the reviewer's camera must have been in terms of quality (except for a really ugly albeit fully functional bellows that's an obvious modern replacement.) i've owned a deardorff before and this one's its equivalent in craftsmanship and stability, and some of its minor departures in design are improvements, in my opinion. i've seen one or two photos of old japanese field cameras and mine is nothing like them.
i'd like to post pictures of it in case someone can identify it but i've given up all hope of ever getting jpegs to work anywhere except on ebay.

any additional info would be much appreciated. bk

Steven Tribe
5-Sep-2011, 01:23
Search for "Indian Camera Makers" and a long thread will appear which also covers some Japanese cameras.
Other search items are Rajah, Vijay and Prinzdorff (really!).

Paul Ewins
5-Sep-2011, 05:43
Vageswaari is the name that will come up often in terms of Indian cameras but there isn't much information out there. Apparently they were built to a standard British Government pattern, but probably stuck with that design long after it was obsolete since all the ones I have seen have had glass plate holders. They come in a large variety of formats some of which are decidedly non-standard.