Vintage and Classic Cameras
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Butchers, Quarter Plate camera 'The Cameo', c1908

W. Butcher & Sons Cameo, an imported German, Mahogany (or maybe rosewood), folding camera with nickel plated brass fittings, for glass plates. Probably manufactured by Ica. Rising front and pneumatic shutter release cylinder. Nice, if rather primitive. In common with a lot of early cameras, the lensboard is not braced - this allows it to be pulled back and angled upwards with the tension from the leather bellows, resulting in distorted images and uneven focus, this can be seen demonstrated in the "results gallery", see the link at the bottom of the page. It does exhibit some refinement though, with blued steel woodscrews used throughout and the nickel plate is well applied and free from tarnish still. The shutter mechanism composes two vulcanite leaves built into a turned brass casing. The diaphragm is front mounted and also consists of vulcanite blades, not entirely opaque these days, but still doing the job. The lens is a cemented pair of Chevalier Achromat pattern mounted behind both the diaphragm and shutter leaves. This lens design owes its existence to the earliest photographic experiments, as the first examples were created specifically for Niepce and later Daguerre. Cameo cameras are rather common in various guises and consequently not really sought after by collectors but it's got cute appeal and I love it. This maroon bellows example is an early one, probably earlier than 1908, but I'm being cautious with the age for now. They were available from at least 1900. Although Butchers did make some photographic equipment they were primarily importing cameras from Germany at this time, the advent of the First World War made this arrangement somewhat inconvenient, and they teamed up with Houghtons as manufacturer to form The Houghton-Butcher Manufacturing Co.. Ltd, finally merging in 1926. By 1930 they sold cameras under the Ensign name. There is frequently no mention of Butcher on the pre Houghton-Butcher arrangement cameras. This particular camera is responsible for the existence of this Museum. This was my Grandmother's first camera, bought for her secondhand when she was twelve. It came to me in 1983, in excellent condition and has been maintained in working order since then, last being serviced in March 2023. Ensign persisted in the use of "Cameo" as a name for many years, a later version may be seen here.

Click on "this camera's gallery" button, below, to see sample images.

Butchers, Quarter Plate camera 'The Cameo', c1910

Body No. 14582
Shutter No. 16275, speeds B, T and I (instant, i.e. about 1/25sec)
Lens, f/8 Condition, 4F

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Cameo Camera folding 1

Cameo Camera folding 2

Cameo Camera folding 3

Cameo Camera folding 4

A commonly found method of folding is demonstrated by this camera. The release catch is operated by the almost ubiquitous leather covered button, this pops open the hatch a little (1) which is then opened fully by hand until the braces locate into recesses with a click (2). The hatch now forms what is called the Lens Bed, the lens is unlocked and pulled forward with its Lensboard and located upon rails built into the Lens Bed (3), then pulled forward until it (usually) locates into a slot which is almost invariably a point at which the lens is focussed for distant views, or infinity (4). This method also enables the image to be brought into focus simply by moving the entire lensboard back and forth whilst observing the image on the ground glass screen. This method is cheap and easy to make, but takes several seconds to deploy, and the natural tension in the leather bellows tends to pull the camera out of shape, distorting the image. In picture (4) you can see this undesirable convergence if you look closely. However this didn't stop millions of similar folding cameras being made and the method continued in common usage into the early 1930s.

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