something for 1890s kids

let me explain.

This was shot with a ~1890s tailboard camera. Natively it’s a 9×12 camera, but this was done with a medium format rollfilm holder that I taped to the back.

Absolutely everything on this camera forces you to shoot it from a tripod – it has a ground-glass focusing screen but no other viewfinder at all, no focusing scale, the shutter has a top speed of 1/80s (indicated, 1/50s in reality), and it’s a really narrow field of view because it has a 260 mm lens on it (roughly double the normal focal length for 9×12).

So of course I taped a medium format film holder to the back (for an even more zoomed-in view because the film is smaller) and shot it hand-held. On a dark and cloudy day. That uhm, doesn’t really work, surprise surprise.

So what I’m planning to do is – making a proper film holder for it, some sort of viewfinder attachment, a focusing scale, and increasing the shutter speed (by moving the curtains closer together).

I could also just get a tripod and use ground-glass focusing but that’s too slow to be enjoyable for me. I’d rather take 10 pictures and one of them turns out alright instead of a single meticulously crafted one that I then fuck up in development.

This is a very professional operation here.

some sort of viewfinder is very much needed

As for dating the thing:

  • the shutter is a Thornton-Pickard “Time & Instantaneous” Aluminium model, made 18981
  • The camera could have been made anywhere between 1860 and 1900, really. What points more to the earlier dates is the focusing mechanism via a lead-screw and a little crank handle at the back. 1880s and later models often (but not always) had a pinion gear focusing mechanism, with a knob at the side. It’s a reasonably well-made camera, the screw heads are all aligned all over the camera, but not a super exclusive model (these would have hand-made dove-tail joints in the wood, wheras mine has simpler finger joints). It’s probably not British or French (the leading camera makers at the time) because then it would have a maker’s mark somewhere. So it’s maybe a German copy of something more well-established.
  • The shutter was attached later, as evidenced by the shoddy workmanship of the shutter housing, and the fact that it severly limits the available front-rise. The front-rise probably also had a thumbscrew or something similar originally, this was replaced with a normal screw later.
  • The lens was attached to the shutter even later than that – it originally had a different lens attached (there are another set of screw holes), and the current lens didn’t really fit.
  • TL;DR: my guess is something like: Camera from 1880, shutter bought and attached somewhere around 1900. Then the lens was taken off of it, and another lens attached (badly). I don’t think it was ever used as a camera in this latest configuration. So now it’s my turn.
the shutter curtain from inside the camera – I can’t find anything about a company called ARMÉ. This may be a replacement shutter curtain, but if it is, it’s a very very old one.
  1. says “An aluminium model was produced in the smaller sizes in 1898. This was optionally fitted with the speed indicator.” Mine does have the speed indictor and is serial number J XXX XXX – but the numbers don’t seem very serial at all. ↩︎

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