Wooden Field Cameras of the United States: 1870's-1930's
[above: a Rochester Optical Co. American Challenge Swivel Bed Camera 4x5" (1881-1887)]
From 1870-1930, an explosion in field camera design occurred in the United States. Rival firms patented designs for beds, reversing mechanisms and plate-holders at a breakneck pace. The result is documented here: a database of wood and brass wet-plate and dry-plate field view cameras manufactured in the United States between 1870-1930. Leather-covered hand and stand cameras have not been included; a database of them would have an even greater number of models and variations.
Two ways to browse: 1) by manufacturer (links on left side of page): choose a manufacturer and click the thumbnail of the model; 2) by catalog: choose a catalog here - within the catalog images are hot spots linking to the model shown in the catalog.
Dating American view cameras: Approximate dates of manufacture are given. Dates of manufacture have been compiled from original catalogs and literature present at the George Eastman House and private sources. If a model has been specifically introduced (as stated in company literature) or if a complete run of catalogs shows a definite starting or ending date, that date will be indicated without qualification. A date for which sufficient reliable information has not yet been found will be indicated as circa (c.).
A note on variations: Some models of view cameras were manufactured over many years, sometimes by different companies, or in different factories. These factors give rise to variations in appearance, design, or details. Some of these variations can be followed from year to year in advertisements or catalogs. Others are merely mysterious deviations in construction. Still others arise from the use or mixing of old parts to create a camera which, in the view of the maker, was just as much the desired model as would be a camera that matched the catalog exactly. As significant differences of either type are observed, I have called attention to them, by arbitrarily naming them Variation 1, Variation 2, etc., attempting to list them in approximate chronological order of their likely period of occurrence. These designations only serve to separate the photos and engravings shown here, and may change over time if a new, earlier variation is discovered.
Site Major Update Feb-2013:
1) New image process: I have been dissatisfied with areas of images that are out of focus. Therefore, all images taken after Jan 2013 have been stacked using a computer program "Zerene" to increase the apparent depth of field. A tripod-mounted Nikon 8800 with its aperture nearly wide open (a setting having a narrow depth of field but the best resolution) is used to take a through-focus series of 3-5 photographs, each photograph having its sharpest area of focus at a different plane of the subject. The sharpest areas of each contributing photo are combined by the program into one image.
2) The Rest of My Collection: I do have cameras other than wooden view cameras. Just one page of thumbnails.
3) Camera Model Updates:
Continuing Updates to catalogs and links to catalogs for model references (also see link on left border).
Dime novel cover,
below: It is 1888. You skillfully blend
into the crowd in your impeccable striped jacket and stylish top hat. Your
steely gaze transfixes your unsuspecting quarry as your finger poises in
anticipation over the shutter button. No-one notices, least of all the
criminal, as you document the crime using your trusty Blair Hawkeye Detective