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Houghton, Ensign Focal Plane roll film Reflex. Photograph gallery.

A cold day in Bishopstoke

The Ensign has been in the collection for a number of years, this image being one from its early years. It could hardly be described as convenient in use as it's markedly larger than all folding 6 X 9 cm format cameras and awkward in use. The user has to peer down a tunnel to view the image, which optimistically has a cutout for a nose to fit in. I say optimistic, as there are few people who can focus their eyes at such a short distance, I dare say users in the 1920s came suitably equipped with a three diopter monocle. The lens can't be stopped down until ready to take the picture as the image is just too dim. The option then is to use the camera at f/4.5 and select a shutter speed that suits the exposure.

The biggest difficulty with the Reflex though is persistent light leaks.

Woolensak Shutter from Bolsey B

This is the biggest advantage, the absolute ability to get the focus spot on at close range, demonstrated here with a 1 diopter close up supplementary fitted. Despite low light and very short depth of field, the ability to pick the exact point of focus is absolute.

 

Cessna 150G G-AVAA

Despite its various shortcomings the Ensign reflex has had quite a few outings and many attempts to sort out its problems. This image was made after the first new shutter was installed. Those shutter curtains were made with coated rip-stop nylon. It worked well enough, but made not so much to a nod to originality. But I recorded my little Cessna 150G, G-AVAA after I had flown it into Canterbury airstrip back in 1995. Neither are with us any longer, the Cessna blew over onto its back after a brief violent gust of wind a year later. The crumpled remains donated the fire wall to another Cessna that had the usual nose wheel collapse inflicted on it, then the rest sat in the bushes at Bournemouth airport for a while. Eventually the rear fuselage wound up in a museum and was cosmetically restored using G-AVAA's identity, although I doubt much of what is in the museum is that I flew up to Canterbury in 1995.

Canterbury airstrip closed some years ago too, which is a shame, as it was a bit of a challenge.

But the Ensign did me a favour, as this is the best image of old "Alpha Alpha" I have, even so there's that tell tale lightening in the foreground, where some light has found its way into the shutter tunnel.

Milton Abbas

After a while shame got the better of me, and the rip-stop nylon shutter was replaced with a rubberized cloth one. This introduced it's own problems as the material was just that little bit thicker than the original. The additional thickness bulks up on the top roller until it fouls the entrance to the shutter tunnel. Some judicious cutting away of the wooden carcass solved that. But light leaks persisted and the camera spent many years in the display case. In 2017 it was revived and spent yet another session in the workshop, during which time it acquired many original components from a wrecked donor camera. A new focus hood was made incorporating as many parts from the donor as could be saved and a test roll exposed to see if the light leaks had been finally resolved.

Image taken at Milton Abbas in Dorset. This row of almshouses were originally built in 1674 in Middleton, but were dismantled and rebuilt in Milton Abbas, where they were photographed by the Ensign Focal Plane Reflex in October 2017.

This image betrays a problem. The focus is markedly worse towards the right hand edge than the left.

 

Bishop's Waltham Ruins

This is Bishop's Waltham Palace, or rather the ruins of same, cropped out a bit as the sky was uninteresting. 2018 was a fabulous summer in the UK, sadly the skies were a little plain. There's no pleasing some people, I know.

Again that same issue with the focus. Investigation revealed the focus rack had been installed one tooth out of alignment on one side.

A gathering of DH Moths

Another film after a quick strip down to straighten the focus out. An aeronautical subject a little more in keeping with the Ensign's period is this De Havilland type 82, otherwise known as a Tiger Moth. And again, those clear blue skies that look so poor in black and white pictures.

Titchfield Abbey

And finally the ruins of Titchfield Abbey in Hampshire. It only took 22 years to fix this camera.

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