Mar 25, 2012

Boston Bulls-Eye continued

This week the 4 x 5 Boston Bulls-Eye camera arrived. It is in very nice condition, with no wear to the leather and all parts present. I'm glad that I could add it to my collection because it is truly a landmark camera. Well... not as much as the regular Boston Bulls-Eye for 3.5 inch square pics, but enough to be very special. According to the Boston Camera Mfg Co the succes of the regular model prompted the introduction of the 4 x 5 model. The regular dates from 1892, so the 4 x 5 must be later. How much? I don't know, but it was there in 1894, when the Boston Camera Mfg Co published a promotional booklet.
By the way, I doubt that the regular model was a great succes. It is quite rare nowadays, so considering that is was on the market for three years (1892-1895) it cannot have been much of a succes.
The 4 x 5 Bulls-Eye is even rarer. In fact, I don't know any other example. According to an article from the seventies, the Eastman House Museum had/has four examples. I could not find any photograph of it, nor a modern day description. Also I could not find any remark about it in several 1890s photo journals.

So have a look at this milestone in camera design. I made two videos, one showing the outside of the camera and one showing the internal parts. There's not much to see in that second video, but it shows the front roll design. Oh yes, it has the D-shaped red window!

Both videos can also be seen on my website, together with the pages from the 1894 promotional booklet.

Mar 15, 2012

A Dutch Foka box camera

Recently I received some photos of a Foka boxcamera with the question if I did know anything about the instrument. I thought it was a Dutch camera and that was all I knew, so I started a little search in my library. My index of 2600 photohistory articles coughed up two small articles from 1985 and 1986. It is not much that I found, but here it is.
The FOKA cameras were imported from Germany before the Second World War by a Mr. L.J.B. Albers from Rotterdam, who was a dealer of photo and film equipment. He bought them from the Balda factory in Dresden in 1935.
There seem to be several models: the most simple is called Foka Box 0. It is a metal box with a simple meniscus lens and three diaphragm apertures. It has a shutter for Time and Instantaneous and two little reflex finders. It took snaps of 6 x 9 cm on roll film. Like more cameras in the depression years of the 1930s it was available in several colors: black, red, blue, green and beige. It cost fl. 2,95.
The second model is called Foka Box No. 1. It has the same specifications as the previous model, but also has two tripod bushes and can take a cable release or delayed time release. It also has a large frame viewfinder on a side. Price was fl. 3,25. The frame finder did cost an extra fl. 0,60 as did the option to have bright reflex finders instead of the duller ones with a little mirror and ground glass.
The top model is the Foka Box No. 2, with a better Periscopic lens and a build in portrait lens. The usual fixed focus lens could take pics from 3 meters to infinity. The portrait lens reduced this from 0.5 to 3 meters. Price was fl. 4,95 without frame finder or bright reflex finders. For an extra fl. 0,60 it could be adapted to a size of 4 x 6 cm negatives. Cases were available in linen (fl. 0,50), leather (fl. 1,25) and leather with plush lining (fl. 2,25).
So, looking at all the possible combinations of colors and extras there must be a miriad of different Foka boxes around. Let's see what the Foka on the pictures is.

The camera is obviously the Foka Box No. 2, with frame finder and bright reflex finders. Below the lens is a scale to set the distance. On the right is the infinity symbol and on the left a letter P. I guess this means Portrait. On top (you cannot see it on these pics) is a pull up strip. Usally this changes the apertures. Above the shutter release seems to be another pull out thing. I don't know what that is, maybe a yellow filter? Below the shutter release you can see the bush for the cable release.
Above the lens there once used to be a name plate with the text 'Fotohandel Victoria Rotterdam'. That was the name of Albers' company. 

Mar 10, 2012

It's a Bulls-Eye season

After the disappointment of not buying the wooden 3.5 x 3.5" Boston Bulls-Eye I suddenly stood eye to eye with a very close relative of this landmark camera: the 4 x 5" Boston Bulls-Eye, also with D-shaped window, frontroll design, daylight loading film and arrows on the shutter blade. The regular Bulls-Eye is a rare camera, but this bigger brother is virtually unknown. Not so long ago I wrote an article about the Boston Bulls-Eye cameras, but the only illustration I could find of the 4x5 model was a drawing from a 1894 booklet.
Thanks to the article I have written, I recognized the camera at once. It was a buy-it-now item on eBay and after a quick look at all the pics I bought it without hesitation. So here it is:

The camera was introduced after the regular Bulls-Eye (1892). It was described in a promotional booklet in 1894 and in the May 1895 issue it was reviewed in the American Amateur Photographer (page 230). On Augsut 23, 1895 Eastman bought the Boston Camera Mfg. Co. and that was probably the end of the model. The regular Bulls-Eye was not a great commercial succes and is not much seen now. The 4x5 model was produced during a shorter period and is even rarer. In its day it cost $ 15, with case and one roll of film.

Mar 2, 2012

No two fingerprints are the same, or a Bulls-Eye with a tail / tale

Top: the photo from the March 2011 eBay item.
Bottom: the photo from the February 2012 eBay item.
In my previous blog I have mentioned the Boston Bulls-Eye camera that I had bought on eBay. It looked very well with almost no dents, scratches of missing pieces and I was glad I had it. That evening I was looking at some photos of wooden Boston Bulls-Eyes that I had saved to my computer. I found that I had pictures of another example with a pull strip to change the stops. It was offered for sale on eBay in March 2011 and I had saved several photos of that camera. I had not bought that one because it had two extra non-original holes in the back panel. While examining the photos I started to think that the March 2011 camera was very similar to the one I had just bought... Well, you get it, don't you?
After putting photos of the top panel of both cameras side by side the wood pattern looked very much the same. You know that no two fingerprints are exactly the same, and just so there are no two pieces of wood with 100% the same pattern. So my camera would most probably be the March 2011 camera. I mailed the seller to ask about the holes. He had not shown photos of the back panel on eBay, so I made clear that he should have.
The two non-original holes and the original D-shaped red window.
Like I had feared, my camera was the March 2011 camera with the extra holes. The seller immediately returned the money I had paid and asked what I thought the camera would be worth. In return I asked if the brass presure plate and the screw in the bottom were present. Also I asked for pics of the interior, so I could see any damages or missing parts. Until now I didn't get an answer.
What did I learn from this? I learned that even at my age I can be fooled by a pretty face and forget to have a look at the back side ;)