Rochester Optical Co.

The Ideal Camera, Variation 1

C.H. Codman Catalog, 1886, p. 4

Ideal Variation 1 4 x 5 c.1886; it has its original tilt-down back as well as a new-fangled spring back; the tilt-down back is the one that accepts the Eastman-Walker Roll Film Holder

Ideal Variation 1 5 x 8 c.1885 (forward facing front standard hardware)

Ideal Variation 1 5 x 8 c.1890 (backward facing front standard hardware)

Metal label on front standard

Unmarked rapid rectilinear type lens in 1888 model B&L iris diaphragm shutter marked: "Bausch & Lomb Optical Co. Rochester, New York 435 Pat. May 15, '88"


Date Introduced: ~1885; Years Manufactured: 1885-1891
Construction: front focus via rack and pinion (two gear tracks on top of base rails); single or double swing; three-piece lens board; reversing by removable back
Materials: mahogany body; cherry base; black fabric bellows; nickeled brass hardware
Sizes Offered:3x4; 4x5; 4x6; 5x7; 5x8; 6-8; 8x10; 11x14; 14x17; 17x20; 18x22; 20x24
Notes: The catalogs state that 14x17 and larger were back focus and had no rack and pinion gears, which would essentially be a style later introduced by the Rochester Camera Mfg. Co as The Favorite. The camera came with a canvas case and one plate-holder.  The Ideal was the top of the line camera of this style, while the almost identical Empire State Camera was more moderately priced.  The Ideal Variation 1 has an s-shaped tilt mechanism (as well as a hinged ground glass frame and four cam-buttons, two of which release the ground glass frame, and two of which release the entire removable back).  The Ideal Variation 2 has a two types of tilt mechanism: a center pivot (as above) or a plate-type bottom pivot (as well as a spring-loaded ground glass frame and no cam-buttons).  There is another variation shown here which was not assigned a number: Apparently, the earliest Ideals have a forward-facing foot on the front standard supports, while later Ideals have a backwards-facing foot in the same spot.  This change resulted in a camera whose folded footprint is at least 1" narrower (the actual amount depends on the plate size).  Examples of both types are shown above.

American Journal of. Photography, March 1885, p. 9
Catalog P, Photographic Material, J. W. Queen & Co. (Philadelphia, PA), 1886, p. 56
Illustrated Catalogue of Photographic Apparatus, Rochester Optical Co. (Rochester, NY), distributed by C. H. Codman (Boston, MA), 1886, p. 4-6
Illustrated Catalogue of Photographic Apparatus, Rochester Optical Co. (Rochester, NY), June 1890, p. 4-5 (one engraving is Variation 1 while a second engraving is Variation 2)
Photographic Material, Catalogue O & P, James W. Queen & Co. (Philadelphia, PA), 1891, p. 44

6 x 8 c. 1885


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