Mar 3, 2013

Kodet season

Sometimes it takes many months between the appearance of Kodet cameras that are for sale and sometimes you can buy a small collection in a few weeks time. This is the case now. In my last blog I wrote about my newest addition, a horizontal style No. 4 Folding Kodet. Now there is a vertical No. 4 Folding Kodet for sale at eBay. It is missing the top and back doors, but the rest of the camera is in decent original condition. The brass and the woodwork seem te be clean and without major damage. This is a very rare camera, only 2246 being made, horizontal style included, in the period 1894 - 1897. The missing doors can be replaced without much trouble. Only 14 hours to go, 11 bids at the moment, price $ 268.

The second Kodet that is for sale is a No. 4 Kodet box camera. It is missing the back door and the side door is not attached. The rest seems to be OK and it even has three double plate holders and a ground glass frame. The leather is dry but in original condition and not spoiled with a thick layer of shoe polish.
There are only two box Kodet cameras, the smaller No. 3 Kodet and this one for 4 x 5 inch photos. The No. 3 is extremely rare, only 405 being made, but this larger one is also not seen often. During the period 1894 - 1897 only 1413 were made. So if you want one, get it now. Still 6 days to go, no bids yet and starting price is $ 400.

A nice non-Kodak item for sale is this 5 x 7 inch group photo with a young lady holding a large box camera. I don't recognize the camera, but as far as I can see it is no Kodak. It would be a nice addition to any collection of turn of the century photography. Still 3 days to go, 2 bids yet, price $ 1.04.

Part of a larger photo.

Feb 10, 2013

No. 4 Folding Kodet, horizontal style

This week I have added a new camera to my collection: it is a very rare No. 4 Folding Kodet horizontal style. The No. 4 Folding Kodet cameras were made in two styles, a vertical and a horizontal one. The vertical I already had, so I was excited when I found the other model for sale on eBay. It is not in a good condition, but the camera is so rare that I would not let it pass. Only 2246 were made of both versions together.
The camera is mentioned in the 1895 to 1897 Kodak catalogs. It could be had with a simple achromatic lens for $ 12 and with a better Rapid Rectilinear lens, as in mine, for $ 17.50.
Like all No. 4 cameras made by Kodak, it took 4 x 5 inch pictures. The Kodets are primarily plate cameras, but roll holders were available. For this model it would cost another $ 10.

Since the previous blog I have been able to identify the aeroplane in the photograph. It is a Curtiss model D, with one canard (the little wing in front of the pilot), dating it to 1910. See one in action in the video below.

There have been some other interesting items at eBay, like the landmark Luzo camera. It most probably is the first camera that sported the front roll design, meaning that the feed and take up spools are located in the front of the camera and not behind the plane of the projected image. H.J. Redding patented this design on November 28, 1888 in England and produced the Luzo. Look here for excellent information about the Luzo.
The one on eBay sold for US $ 2400 after two bids.

A second interesting item is the original No. 3 Folding Pocket Kodak that sold for $ 368. Early No. 3 FPK's are seen often, but the real first model, with the full "Eastman Kodak Co." on the metal plate below the lenspanel and not just "Kodak". See my original model on my site.

The third collectible camera that was sold is a No. 4 Eureka. This camera was made in 1899 and only 4500 were produced. It is not really very rare but it is not often seen, so the price of $ 327 is appropriate. The No. 4 Eureka was renamed No. 4 Zenith for the British market, were the Eureka name was already in use. The Zenith is more rare because only 1000 were made.

Dec 28, 2012

Shutter speeds, apertures and Warnerke sensitometer values

In my previous blog I mentioned that I did not have the means to measure shutter speeds. Since then I experimented with a fast rotating disc. I put a little bulb on the rim of the disc and one in the center. The rotating light on the edge of the disc is projected on a ground glass in the back of the camera. When I snap the shutter of the old camera, I take a photo of the image on the ground glass with my digital reflex. The degrees of the arc of light on the ground glass is measured and when the rotations of the disc per second are known, I can calculate the speed of the shutter.

My testlab to measure shutter speeds.
To photograph the ground glass I set my camera to 3400 ISO, f/2.8 and 6 seconds exposure. During the exposure the room is dark, so the image on the ground glass can be seen and photographed. With much lower ISO settings the image could not be photographed.

To "calibrate" the speed of the disc I photographed it with my digital camera set on 1/10, 1/20 and so on. Calculations showed how fast the disc had spinned. Also I filmed the rotating disc and viewed it in slow motion, counting the turns per second.

I am still trying to find out the film speed of the early films. There are some original film boxes with the text "30 sensitometer", but I do not know which scale was used. Maybe it is the Warnerke scale, but even if it is, I cannot compare the Warnerke scale to a ASA/ISO or DIN scale. Even a conversion to a Scheiner or H&D scale would be useful, as long as I know which version of these scales are used. There are US, UK and German versions of these scales.
My own conclusion based on shutter speeds and standard aperture settings is that film speed around 1900 was about 25 ISO. 

What else did I do? Well, I bought two nice photographs to go with my cameras. The first one is a scene made with a No. 4A Folding Pocket Kodak. Yes, it says Folding on the back of the card. It must be a mistake of the printer, because the 4A was called Folding Kodak. It was and is way to large for any Pocket.
The second photo is a beautiful shot of an early aeroplane. It was made with a No. 3A Special Kodak. I do have that camera model, but I display the photo with my much more interesting Military version of the No. 3A Autographic Kodak Special. Only 100 of these cameras were made in 1916 for the US Signal Corps. 

Dec 9, 2012

Of apertures and a 1893 world fair album

You know Le Corbusier? If not: he's one of the most important architects of the 20th century. That's short enough, isn't it? And if you want to know more, just Google.
What about him? I have been asked by the author of a book on Le Corbusier to say some sensible things about the first camera that our famous architect bought. Guess what brand it was! Some questions related to the apertures of Kodak box cameras from the 1900 period. I have a nice library of photo-history books and journals, but in it I could not find what the apertures on these cameras are. So I had to go back to the basics, meaning that I had to measure the diameter of the stops and the focal length of the cameras. Of course you all know that you can calculate the aperture value with the simple formula a=f/d, where a is aperture value, f is focus and d is diameter of the opening. To make a long story short, here's what I found:

My measuring tool is a simple caliper, nothing digital, no laserbeam. So give or take a millimeter in the focal length and + or - 0,2 in the diameter of the stop. The results stay much the same.
The largest stop on these cameras is about f/15, very close to the value we are used to: f/16.
The smallest stop is about f/30, also very close to the better known f/32.
There is one stop in between and it wouldn't be foolish to expect that this was f/22 or f/21. But it is not. The middle stop is f/18, about halfway between f/15 and f/21. Rather confusing if you are used to the standard range where every stop is equal to half the light passing through the lens. That made combining shutter speeds (1/30 - 1/60 - 1/125 - 1/250 etc) and apertures simple in the days not so long ago, when your camera was not a computer.

But in the days of the No. 2 Bull's-Eye or No. 2 Falcon, the stops on these cameras were not used to combine with shutter speeds for artistic effect. They were meant to accomodate to light conditions. Standard condition was bright sunny weather. Everything else was some sort of a problem. Let's see what the No. 2 Flexo instruction booklet say about this. (They all say the same.)

The largest stop f/15 is for all ordinary work in sunny conditions.
The middle stop of f/18 lets in slightly less light in very bright conditions.
The smallest stop f/30 is for Time exposures only, out doors or in doors.

There is some more info in the booklet that confirms the calculation of the middle stop as being f/18 and the smallest as being f/30.
When the middle stop was used, one had to add one half of the exposure time. That is equal to one half stop.
With the smallest stop f/30 one had to give four times the exposure time. This is equal to two stops. Example:
f/15 with 2 seconds
f/21 with 4 seconds
f/30 with 8 seconds

Apart from the question about the apertures, there was a question about film speed in the early 20th century. There was not a global system to indicate the speed in those days, but several methods. Kodak used a very indistinct system with descriptions like "slow" of "fast" films. Quite a difference compared to our ISO system or the ASA and DIN system of my youth.

No. 2 Falcon, one of the cameras that was used to
calculate the aperture range of early Kodaks.
Do you remember the old Sunny 16 rule? I quote from wikipedia: The basic rule is, "On a sunny day set aperture to f/16 and shutter speed to the [reciprocal of the] ISO film speed [or ISO setting] for a subject in direct sunlight." For example: On a sunny day and with ISO 100 film / setting in the camera, one sets the aperture to f/16 and the shutter speed to 1/100 or 1/125 second (on some cameras 1/125 second is the available setting nearest to 1/100 second).
Knowing that the largest stop in the early Kodak boxes is f/16, one can calculate the speed of the film if one knows the speed of the shutter. I have not the means to measure the shutter speed, but my guess would be between 1/25 and 1/60 of a second. Following the Sunny 16 rule, this would mean that the speed of the film woud be around 25 to 60 ISO.
If I follow the instructions in the booklet and give 20 seconds exposure with f/15 in door on a cloudy dull day (like today), I can calculate that the speed must be around 40 ISO. We will leave it to that for now.

Something quite different is the photo album I stumbled upon while browsing through eBay. It is a Columbian Exposition album, dated 1893, with cabinet and CDV portraits and tintypes. I assume it was sold at the world fair as a souvenir. I have no idea of its value or rarity, but I would want it because of its beauty. Be quick if you want it. Only 14 hours to go, no bids yet, starting price is $ 150.

Dec 1, 2012

Continental Zenith camera

They all come along, some sooner, some later, but eventually all those rare camera models cross your path. Last month I noticed a 9x12 cm Zenith Kodak box on eBay. I had known for a long time that the model existed. Brian Coe mentioned it in his book Kodak cameras, the first hundred years. According to Coe 1000 were made in 1899, but I had never seen one before or heard of one. And now a Paris dealer had one for sale. When the auction ended I had been the only bidder.

So now I am the happy new owner of a very rare camera (that almost no one cares tuppence about). It completed my series of Eureka and Zenith Kodaks. This is a range of cheap box cameras that were made during a short period, ranging from 1898 until 1900. Apart from the extremely simple No. 2 Eureka Junior, all could accomodate plate holders and roll film holders. The Junior only took a single metal plate holder.
The Eureka name was already in use in Europe, so (t)here some models were sold under the Zenith name. The No. 3 Zenith came in two versions: one for the UK market and one for the continental (metric) market. This last one was called 9 x 12 cm Zenith.
There are 6 different models (and some variations within the models):

From left to right:
From the 1899 RPS catalog.
  • No. 4 Zenith
  • No. 4 Eureka
  • No. 2 Eureka Junior
  • No. 2 Eureka
  • 9 x 12 cm Zenith (see it on my website)
  • No. 3 Zenith
Apart from the two lines in the Coe book, I knew nothing about the 9x12 cm Zenith. That was a good reason to dive into the deep web to hunt for some more info. I tried the digital repositories I know, like the Hathi trust, Internet Archive, Gallica and even Google Books. What I did find were some tiny remarks about the No. 3 Zenith, but not one single word about the 9 x12 cm Zenith. There must be an ad around somewhere in all those online journals, magazines and newspapers of 1899 and 1900, but I did not find it.
The best find was a small piece in a Royal Photographic Society exhibition catalog of 1899, describing the No. 3 Zenith.

Le Pascal
What else is going on?

Most interesting was the auction of a Japy & Cie "Le Pascal" box on eBay. This small simple looking camera of the late 1890's is described as the first motor drive camera. When loading the camera the roll of film is wound onto a drum. At the same time a spring is tensioned. The mechanism advances the film after a pic has been taken. On one roll there were 12 exposures of 40 x 55 mm.
The one on eBay sold for € 335, which is about US$ 435.

Tisdell Detective camera
Another fine item is a 4 x 5 inch Tisdell Detective camera from the 1890's. Only 1 day to go, 14 bids at the moment, price now $ 520.

The last item I mention is a negative with an Autographic remark on it. There must be many of these around, but I do not see them often. If you would like to have one, here's your chance. 4 days to go, no bids yet, starting price $ 5.
Autographic negative

Nov 3, 2012

35 years of Dutch collectors journal on CD

In October 1977 the first newsletter of the Dutch photohistorical society was mailed to its 70 or so members. It was a stenciled affair, much like the first American newsletters of camera and photo collectors clubs. It must have been a great step forward for the first collectors to have a platform to exchange information about books, dealers and auctions.
When I became a member in 1983 the newsletter had grown into a real journal with interesting articles. I still have all the issues and what is more, I have indexed them digitally. Without an index it makes not much sense to keep all the journals.
In 2012 the Dutch collectors society Fotografica celebrates its 35th anniversary. For this occasion all the journals were scanned, put on a CD and this was distributed to all the members. Great! It is a fantastic source of information.
There is an index file on title and author on the CD, but that is a rather meager tool. If you know how, you can search the PDF files with the Adobe Reader search engine. This way you can search for every word in every file. Click on a result in the list and the PDF file opens on the exact page.
Alas this doesn't work with all files on this CD. The period 1983 - 1999 can not be searched. I guess the scanner was not set on OCR (optical character recognition) while these issues were scanned. What a pity!
See the results list on the left. I searched for the word "camera" and all the other years and issues appear in the list.
So, if you are going to scan all issues of a journal, take care to set the settings to OCR!

What is going on at eBay? There was a very interesting early twin lens reflex LONDON STEREOSCOPIC COMPANY TLR CAMERA OUTFIT for sale, but shortly after it appeared the auction was ended. I mention this camera because I once owned the first example of the Francais Cosmopolite TLR with serial number 1. It is the same model as the London Stereoscopic Co. TLR, but mine had a simple rotating disc shutter, while the camera on the right has a roller blind shutter.
In issue 1, 2012 of Photographica World there is a short article about my Cosmopolite and the the London Stereoscopic Co. TLR.

At the moment there are two No. 2 Stereo Kodak box cameras for sale. One is a buy it now item for $ 800. That is a price of 20 years ago and I do not think it will sell. Another one started at a realistic price. It is a camera in fair condition. Only two days to go, price is $ 225 at the moment.
See mine at

Another nice item is an empty box for 4 No. 2 Brownie film rolls. It has a develop before 1911 date. The Brownies are rather dull cameras and a bright yellow box will be a nice addition to a display. Three days to go and the price now is $ 10.

Oct 13, 2012

Visit to Niepce's Point de vue du Gras in Mannheim

This week I have been to Mannheim (Germany) to see the first photographs that was made by a camera. It is part of the exhibition "Die Geburtsstunde der Fotografie / The Birth of Photography" in the Reiss Engelhorn Museum.

I went to Mannheim only to see this photo. The rest was interesting and nice, but not sufficient reason to travel to Mannheim and stay there for a couple of days. The 1826 Niepce photograph was worth all the trouble. For me it was a very exiting moment to see the Point de vue du Gras in real and from only a few centimeters distance. It was the chance of a lifetime and something that I will not forget.

It was not allowed to take photos at the exhibit, so I can't show you any pics from my visit to the rooms. But here are some photographs from the internet.

The photo in its original frame, photo by the Harry Ransom Center, Texas, that owns the Point de vue du Gras.
This comes closest to what I have seen in Mannheim.
This is a digital scan that also give a good impression of what the photo looks like. In real you can't see all the parts at once, as you have to move your head to view the plate from different angles to see what is on it.
The three bumps in the corners were made in 1952 when they tried to photograph the plate at Kodak.

Helmut Gernsheim rediscovered the plate in 1952 after it had been lost for more that half a century. Above is a much retouched reproduction that he made in 1952.

This is a computer image depicting the original scene that was photographed by Niepce in 1826 from a window of his house. In the photograph left and right are mirrored, so the pigeon tower on the right (in real) appears on the left in the photographs. This image is a reconstruction of the view. The buildings do not exist anymore, but the house from which the photo was made is still there and can be visited.
There is a lot of information on Niepce and the first photograph available on the internet, so I won't go into it here.
What I will do is provide some more information about the exhibition. If you want to see it, you can do so until January 6, 2013. After that the Point de vue du Gras will return to Austin, Texas.
There is a beautiful and well made catalog available, with all the 250 photos, for € 30 at the museum. It can also be bought online (probably for a higher price). The first 80 pages are devoted to Helmut and Alison Gernsheim, who founded the Gernsheim collection of historical photographs that is now at the Harry Ransom Center. Then there are about 10 pages on the Point de vue du Gras. Pages 96 to 274 show all the photos, accompanied by short descriptions. In the appendix there is an index on names and some information about the development of photography. It is bilingual: German and English.
The book has hard covers and measures about 24 x 30 cm.

The photos on display are a mix of old and "modern" works. There a some important daguerreotypes, like the full plate Notre Dame and the Ile de la Cite, made by Louis Daguerre himself in 1838. Also there is a salt paper print by Fox Talbot, The Bridge of Sighs, St. John's College, about 1845. Other well known photographers include Berenice Abbott, Ansel Adams, Paul Strand and Francis Frith, Felix Beato or Herbert Ponting, to name a few. All the big names are there, but only with one or two photos.

 And here, to end this blogpost, is a video still of the Museum Zeughaus, where the photos are on display.

Oct 9, 2012

"Pete the Kid" or a gunslinger in the making

This summer my mother moved to a home for the elderly. On the attic of her old house there were still some boxes with stuff I had left there. I had to go trough these and make two piles: one for the junk and and one to  take home. In the boxes I found two old photo albums and when I leafed through them many memories from my youth looked at me from the paper. Some pics I took out but the majority landed on the junk pile. That's the fate of most photographs...
There are a few pics that I saved and that I want to show here.


In the top and bottom left pic the gunslinger might look convincing, but the bottom right portrait gives him away. He looks far from mean or weathered like the real Billy the Kid from the end of the 1870's.
The pics here date from a century later, sometime between 1977 and 1980. In those years I had a 35 mm reflex camera and these were made with it. The gunslingers outfit consisted of a toy pistol, an old coat (early 70s style!) and discarded hat from my grandfather. I thought it didn't look very convincing then, but looking at the pics now the outfit isn't that bad at all. The real mean men of the West didn't wear Hollywood outfits, as I have found out later.
The prints were enlarged with a cheap enlarger in the bathroom and tinted in solutions of tea and coffee to make them appear old. I somehow still like them, despite their technical flaws.
Here's the real Billy in the 2.3 million dollar ferrotype that was sold on June 25, 2011.

Sep 9, 2012

Versailles time warp & some eBay bits

Let's start with the eBay items from the previous blog. The wooden No. 4 Cartridge Kodak with plate back sold for an amazing US $ 599 after 30 bids from 12 different bidders. Small wonder that a second and a third example of naked No. 4 Cartridge Kodaks appeared at the same dealer. They also sold for nearly $ 600.
It is true that the cameras are beautiful and whoever "restored" them, did a very fine job with the wood and brass. If s/he would be as good with leather, I would gladly have my cameras restored by this person. But to avoid any misunderstanding: there is no original wooden Cartridge Kodak, just like there are no wooden Bulls-Eye Kodaks, Falcons, Flexos, Eurekas etc. The only original wooden Kodaks are the Ordinary box cameras of the early 1890s.

The amazing Adams & Co. book camera sold for a meagre 3100 Pounds. My guess would have been at least three times that amount.
The Camp Fire Girls Vest Pocket Kodak with case sold for $ 660 and the No. 1 Panoram with case went for $ 252 to a new owner.

In the past month some other interesting items were up for sale, like a gorgeous No. 2A Beau Brownie in rose with original case. It sold for $ 860.

A No. 4 Folding Kodet Special fetched $ 450. Another one, but in naked condition, is for sale right now. Starting price is $ 100 but no bids yet.

A little treasure that I bid on but didn't get was the portrait of a cute girl with a early 1890s No. 3 or No. 4 Kodak Junior. It went for $ 76.

Nothing Kodak, but a bit historical humbug, is my latest video creation. I called it: Versailles Time Warp. It is the "story" of a lady in the early 1900s who visits the park at Versailles and catches a glimpse of Marie Antoinette walking through the garden. Obviously a case of time warp ;)
My wife says that nobody will understand the video. She might be right, but I enjoyed making it and the result is what I had in mind when I started the project. My video is loosely inspired by the adventure of the two ladies Moberly and Joudain who visited Versailles in 1901 and got mixed up in a time warp (or maybe had just tasted too much wine before the stroll). Humbug or not, here's my video.

Aug 4, 2012

eBay watch, a Flat Folding Kodak & two articles

One could fill a couple of blogs about all the interesting cameras that pass by at eBay, but I don't have the time for that, nor the knowledge. Nevertheless I picked a few that I like to put in the spotlight. Let's start with the bad one:
A naked No. 4 Cartridge Kodak, pre 1900 model with wood lens board and brass fittings. There are lots of them around and if you are patient enough, you can find a very nice one without trouble. So, if you are the unlucky owner of a bad one, there's small chance of selling it at all. What to do? You can strip off all the leather, take the brass fittings off, sand the wood and paint it with colorless lacquer, polish the brass, and put it all together again. Then there is a big chance of selling it for US $ 150 and upwards... It looks nice on a bookshelf, and who cares that it's historical bullshit....

After having said that, let's go to the really interesting stuff. What about a Adams & Co. disguised book camera? It looks very much like the 1892 Scovill & Adams book camera, but the book titles, the shutter mechanism and the access to the plate holder are different. Value? I have no idea, but the better known Scovill & Adams book camera was sold recently for about € 30,000 at Breker auctions.
The eBay auction ends on August 11, price at the moment is UK pounds 151. Try your luck ;-)

Another beauty is the Camp Fire Girls Kodak, a special version of the Vest Pocket Kodak Model B. The Camp Fire Girls Kodak was manufactured from April 1931 until January 1934. I do not know much about it, but it seems to be rather rare. Have a look at the George Eastman House info and at the amazing collection of Ruud Hoff.
The auction ends in two days, price at the moment is $ 602.

The last one is a No. 1 Panoram Kodak model D with its original case. The camera is not very rare, but the case makes it an interesting item. The No. 1 Panoram was introduced in April 1900 and discontinued in May 1926. The Model D entered the scene in August 1907. The former rigid box like back was replaced with side and back doors. The camera that is for sale can be dated between November 1917 and 1926 because of the serial number and the levels.
Price now $ 185 and only a few hours to go.

So far so good for the cameras that are still for sale. One that is not for sale anymore is the latest addition to my collection: a Flat Folding Kodak. I already had one, but this is a slightly different model. Read more about it on my site (link above). The one with the shutter speed lever in the center below the lens is the new one.

The camera was in quite a bad state when I got it. The bellows was very dry and faded and the back panel was separated from the roll holder mechanism by force. I have glued the parts together and treated the leather with a mixture of creams and oils. First I used black Rapide leather oil that was recommended by a fellow collector. The oil was absorbed very well by the dried out bellows, but blackening power was not enough. So I tried to mix it with Venetian Cream, which sometimes is too wax-like. The combination worked miracles. I could paint it on the leather with a soft brush, it was absorbed perfectly and it restored the black color very well without making it too black. The old soaked leather is very vulnerable, so let it dry for at least one day before you touch it with a cloth to polish it a bit.
For the bellows this treatment was not sufficient. The leather was still as stiff as cardboard. I applied a firm coating of Tana colorless leather cream with a finger, rubbing it in gently and taking care that it reached all the corners and folds. The bellows responded very well and looks 99% better than when I received the camera.

This week two of my articles were published in print. The first is the English translation of my Scheimpflug article. See it in Photographica World No. 141, 2012 issue 3, the journal of the PCCGB. It was first published in the dutch Photohistorisch Tijdschrift Nos. 3 and 4, 2011.
If you are not a member of the PCCGB you should reconsider that. The journal is well worth the money as are all the activities of the PCCGB.

The second one about the extremely rare 4 x 5 inch Bulls-Eye camera made by the Boston Camera Mfg. Co. in 1893, is in Dutch and published in Photohistorisch Tijdschrift, No. 3, 2012. It describes the camera and contains the sparse details that are known about it.