Vintage Filter Systems: The “Series” Filters

While there is a plethora of information available in books and on the Web about vintage camera and lens systems, almost nothing is written today about the design and use of photographic filter systems between 1915 and 1950.  To some extent, this is understandable, since digital image manipulation in Photoshop has largely replaced the effects of colored pieces of glass placed between the image and the film.  Yet the lack of attention to vintage filters is unfortunate, as this era covers the development of an entire science of photographic filtration, and the growth of an aspect of photographic art that allowed creative effects never dreamed of in the earliest days of exposing silver salts to light. The pre-digital film photographer…Continue Reading

Vintage Viewfinders

Note:  Excellent optical diagrams of the viewfinders described here are available on the Early Photography site and in Camerapedia.  See reference list. Ever since the invention of the camera, designers have grappled with the problem of accurately viewing the image before the film is exposed.  Early cameras, such as the  above 1886 Instanto tailboard camera, lacked any form of independent viewfinder, employing the rear ground glass focusing screen as the only means of composing the image.  This arrangement worked in the days when cameras were large, heavy, bulky, and largely restricted to studio work. Once dry plates and roll film became available, the camera moved out of the studio, and a quicker and more convenient method of previewing the image…Continue Reading

The Packard Shutter

Completing our discussion of shutters requires mention of a famous shutter that, although most commonly found on large format (4×5 in and larger) cameras, nevertheless holds a firm place in photographic history:  the Packard shutter. Throughout the late 19th and early to mid 20th century, many fine lenses were produced without shutters; in modern terminology, these are referred to as “barrel” lenses.  They were often designed for aerial photography (e.g. the Kodak 7″ f/2.5 Aero-Ektar), as industrial process lenses, or for use on cameras with alternate shutter types.  Some, such as the lovely East German f/4.5 Tessars (see above), the Cooke Anastigmats, and the Zeiss Jena Symmars and Planars, have excellent optical qualities.  Many of these classic lenses are of…Continue Reading

Every Camera Has a Story: KW, the Patent Etui, and John H. Noble

Whenever I restore a camera, I wonder about its history- who owned it, where it traveled, the parties it attended, the photographs it made of birthdays and christenings of children who are now old men and women. Occasionally, a camera leads me on a strange and wonderful journey through photographic history. Recently, I sent a photo to the local paper, and two weeks later, a reporter was photographing me at my kitchen table as I explained how to focus a 1928 Kodak. The day after the article appeared a reader named Nell Wright called and invited me to see her antique camera. Nell turned out to be a pleasant lady in her 70s, who explained that the camera had belonged…Continue Reading