www.cjs-classic-cameras.co.uk


Purma Special

Agilux Agimatic

Agilux Agima
Agilux Auto Flash Super 44

Corfield Periflex

Coronet Viscount

Coronet 6x6

Ensign Multex


Ensign Selfix 16-20


Halina 35X

Halina Paulette Electric
Halina 6-4
Halina AI


Ilford Advocate


Ilford Sporti

Ilford Sportsman

Ilford Sportsman Auto RF

Kershaw 630


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Best of British

The title is meant a little tongue in cheek, Britain was never really known for its great camera industry, unless perhaps in the early days, but it nevertheless had some well-respected brands and included some great cameras. Most of mine do not belong to this category, but rather are part of the cheap and cheerful models characterising most of British post-war camera production. Due to their generally smaller production numbers, higher-quality British cameras such as the Ilford Advocate, the Ensign Multi, the Corfield Periflex range, let alone Reid and Wrayflex models are equally highly-priced as highly-prized these days.

Purma Special

The Purma Special was introduced around 1937 and designed by Purvis and Mayo (hence the name Purma). It was a rather stylish but unusual looking camera made from bakelite which took 127 rollfilm. The Purma had a collapsible fixed focus lens as well as a fixed aperture, so exposure was purely controlled by its shutter. And herein lies the Purma's uniqueness: although the shutter was a simple spring-wound moving slit (i.e., a focal plane shutter), the way the speeds were controlled was unique. In essence, by holding the camera vertical or horizontal you would change the shutter speed, but in addition the way you held it vertical (rotating it 180 degrees) would change the speed. This system was controlled by an asymmetrical metal wheel that served two purposes: it changed the width of the slit and when held vertical, it would either counter or enhance the spring action, thus reducing or increasing the shutter speed. This resulted in a three-speed shutter with speeds of ca. 1/25, 1/150 and 1/450. For a camera of this specification that was a very fast top speed, so it is no surprise that the camera was advertised as 'the world's fastest candid camera (at its price)'.

Purma photo

Purma with Beck Anastigmat 2 1/4" f/6.3 lens with optional close focus attachment, which allowed focus down to 3.5 ft instead of standard 12 ft.

The camera had a square 4x4 frame size, otherwise the shutter system would not have worked (or rather, landscape and portrait photos would have been made at different shutter speeds). Due to the shutter system with the moving blinds, the camera was rather big for its frame size. The camera's design was covered by several patents from as early as 1933 although the shutter speed control and body shape of the production model were different from the one pictured in the patents.

Purma photo

Top view of the Purma showing its unique shape, as well as the shutter cocking lever just above the lens and the recessed shutter release button.

Purma photoPurma photo

Detailed view of (left) shutter in open position with blinds removed; (right) blinds with rotating shutter speed control wheel, here in horizontal position.


Agilux

AGI was a London-based lens maker that branched out into cameras for several years after WWII. The company built several folding rollfilm cameras as well as 35mm cameras under the name Agilux. The company still exists, although it is now based in Dorset and no longer makes cameras.

Agilux Agimatic

The Agimatic was a very attractive little rangefinder camera with a few quirky features and an interchangeable lens mount. The shutter would be cocked (and film transported) by partially pushing down the cocking/shutter lever located on the lens base. Pushing the lever further would then fire the shutter. It had an uncoupled rangefinder with a dial at the back. Two lenses were available for this camera, an excellent four-element 45mm f/2.8 Anastigmat and an 85mm f/5.5 lens. A small switch at the front of the camera would insert an 85mm mask into the viewfinder window. Finally, the camera had a very convenient rewind lever.

Agilux Agimatic photo

Agilux Agimatic with 45mm f/2.8 Anastigmat lens.

Agilux Agima

The Agima was an improved version of the Agimatic with large bright-line viewfinder and coupled rangefinder. It too had an interchangeable lens mount but it was different from the Agimatic, so lenses could not be used on both models. The viewfinder had frames for both the 45mm and 85 mm lenses. The main body and shutter assembly were identical to the Agimatic, so the shutter was cocked by pressing the release lever part-way down and fired by pushing the lever further. It had a coupled rangefinder.

Agilux Agima photo

Agilux Agima with 45mm f/2.8 Anastigmat lens.

Agilux Agima photo

Agima with interchangeable 85mm f/5.5 Anastigmat lens and its original box. Unfortunately it is not compatible with the Agimatic mount.


Agilux Auto Flash Super 44

Later on Agilux starting making plastic cameras that were far removed from the earlier high-quality camera. One of these was the Agilux Auto Flash Super 44, introduced around 1959. It had a rather funky and unusual design somewhat reminiscent of some of the plastic Kodak Brownie cameras. It would take 4x4cm photos on 127 film and had a curved film plane like the Coronet Viscount, which made it easier to correct for lens aberations. It had a simple fixed-focus meniscus lens and a single speed shutter but did have an adjustable aperture (to be used with the flash). The camera had a selenium lightmeter and it would show the correct exposure in the viewfinder. Other cheapish cameras made by Agilux were the Agiflash, the Colt 44 and the Agimatic Instamtic camera, not to be confused with the original Agimatic above.

Agilux Agima photo

Agilux Auto Flash Super 44 camera with its matching camera cover.

Corfield Periflex

Corfield was one of the more successful British camera makers, due to a unique camera line-up with a Leica screw mount. See its dedicated page here.

Corfield Periflex Gold Star photo

The Corfield Gold Star, probably the most popular Periflex model.

Coronet Viscount

The Coronet Viscount was built from 1957 by Coronet in Birmingham, UK. It was a roll film camera that produced eight 40x27mm pictures on 828 film. It had simple controls, one had a pick of two apertures, f/8 and f/16, and two shutter speeds, 1/30s and 1/100s plus B. It had a self-cocking shutter. A second version (around 1961) missed the B setting and the aperture settings were replaced with a B&W or colour switch. They had fixed focus lenses. The camera was mostly made out of plastic and light-weight metal, but feels nonetheless pretty robust.

Coronet Viscount photo

First version of the Coronet Viscount.

Coronet Viscount photo

Later version of the Viscount.

Coronet Viscount photo

The Viscount had an interesting feature: it had a curved film plane, as visible in the photo.

Coronet Viscount photo

Fairly plain rear view of the Viscount.

Coronet 6x6

The Coronet 6x6 was a 120 rollfilm camera with a rigid body and fixed lens, i.e., it was neither a folding camera nor a collapsible lens camera like most other 120 rollfilm cameras. It was made from hard plastic, presumably bakelite. It had a simple shutter with no aperture or speed setting at all. The instructions suggested using a flash on cloudy days...

Coronet 6x6 photo

A Coronet 6x6 with its original box.

Coronet 6x6 photo

A Coronet 6x6 with its rather unusual backside.

Ensign Selfix 16-20

Folding cameras are certainly scarce on this page, but that does not mean none were made in Britain. In fact, at least two British companies made their name making folders, one being Kershaw (see below), the other was Ensign. Ensign had a complex history of mergers with many company names, but started making cameras in the early 1900s. The Ensign Selfix range was introduced in the 1930s and continued after WWII. They were folding cameras that generally used 120 film and were avaible in different frame formats. As the name indicated, the Selfix 16-20 could take 16 frames per 120 film roll, which meant a 6x4.5 cm frame size.

Ensign Selfix 16-20 photo

A Ensign Selfix 16-20 with Ross Xpres 75mm f/3.5 lens in Epsilon shutter. This is the second model, characterised by its metal top housing. The viewfinder was a frame finder with a frame projected in the viewfinder, which gave a better defined film frame. Other interesting features were the viewfinder which would pop open automatically when pushing the front door opening button, and the double-exposure prevention.

Ensign Multex II

The Ensign Multex was a for the time very well-specified rangefinder camera for 127 rollfilm introduced in 1935. It featured a focal plane shutter with speeds from 1s down to 1/1000s. It had a telescopic lens (like on screw mount Leicas) and a closest focus of nearly 0.5m. It had several clever features including a pressure plate that was released during film winding (a similar feature was found on the Voigtlander Vitessa). The rangefinder window was magnified, so one had to frame the shot with the separate viewfinder. A variety of lenses was available, most commonly an Ensign Multar Anastigmat f/3.5 but also a Ross Express f/2.9 or a Tessar f/2.8
Despite the camera being well-build, the shutter speed mechanism was rather simplistic: while winding the film and shutter, the first curtain would stop against the curtain roller; further winding would then open the gap between first and second curtains until the wind knob would come to a halt a the chosen speed. It is most likely due to this design that the Multex quickly got a reputation of being unreliable and the camera did not sell well. Nowadays they are scarce and expensive, particularly those with the rarer lenses.

Ensign Multex photo

An Ensign Multex II body with part of the lens helicoid. I was hoping that other lenses would fit on this body, but the throat size is just short of 43mm, not very common. The helicoid is only slightly narrower and has a coarse thread. If you know anything that fits I'd be keen to find out!

Ensign Multex photo

Top view of the Ensign Multex showing the various camera controls. Most obvious is the wind/speed knob. One switches between slow and fast speeds by pushing the bar with speed markers to the left or right. The small button top left of the speed dial needs to be pushed in for the speed dial to be moved. Shutter speeds need to be set before winding, as the winding of the shutter itself determines the gap between first and second curtains, i.e., the shutter speed. The button bottom right reset the frame counter to 0.


Haking Halina

Haking is a Hong Kong based company that still exists and has produced a varied range of cameras under the name Halina from the late 1950s onwards. Technically perhaps not British but part of the British Empire and many of the cameras were marked 'Empire Made'. The cameras were more style than substance but many have stood the test of time and are available very cheaply.

Halina 35X

This was a simple little viewfinder camera which was fairly heavy despite its small size. Its shape was obviously inspired by the screwmount Leicas but the comparison ends there. A later version with larger viewfinder was called the Halina 35X Super.

Halina 35X photo

The 1959 Halina 35X looked like a shiny chrome toy version of a Leica.

Halina Paulette Electric

The Paulette Electric was a reasonably well-specified camera which included a lightmeter and a f/2.8 lens, but suffered from very poor build quality. It was fully manual, the lightmeter reading had to be transferred to the shutter.

Halina Paulette Electric photo

The Halina Paulette Electric, which looked rather similar to the later King Regula models.

Halina 6-4

Another simple little camera from Halina, this one from ca. 1962. It was a 120 rollfilm camera with a fairly unique feature of dual format capability, which would make 16 4x4 or 12 6x6 photos on one film. It therefore featured two viewfinder windows. The different formats were achieved by a mask in front of the film gate, so the format could not easily be changed after loading the film. It had a curved film frame like the Coronet Viscount. It had a fixed shutter speed of 1/50s with 3 aperture settings (f/8, f/11 and f/16).

Halina 6-4 photo

The Halina 6-4.

Halina 6-4 photo

A Halina 6-4 with its original box.


Halina AI

If you like shiny chrome, you'll more than like the Halina AI. This 6x6 120 rollfilm TLR has so much of it, it is almost tacky. It is certainly eye-catching and besides than it is not a bad camera either. It is a true TLR as the focus of the viewing and taking lenses are coupled. It has a decent enough range of shutter speeds.

Halina AI photo

A Halina AI with Halina Anastigmat 80/3.5 taking lens and matching viewing lens.


Ilford Sportsman Auto RF

Not really made in Britain but in Western Germany by Dacora, as indicated on the top housing. However, it was branded Ilford and sold as such. Dacora made many cameras for Ilford, including the Sporti and Sportsman range. The 1962 Sportsman Auto RF was one of the most highly specified models of the Sportsman range. It featured a coupled rangefinder as well as a coupled (not really automatic) light meter. The equivalent Dacora model was the Dignette E-B (German for rangefinder and light meter: Entfernungsmesser - Belichtungsmesser).

Ilford Sportsman Auto RF photo

The Sportsman Auto RF with the lens marked 'Optische Werke Steinheil München Cassar 1:2.8/45mm'. I have not seen the marking 'Optische Werke' on any other Steinheil lens.

Kershaw 630

A rather basic folding camera, certainly compared to earlier Kershaw folders such as the Peregrine, but nevertheless decently made. It looked rather cheap with a top cover of dull aluminium and plastic covering with a woven texture. Probably its most distinguishing feature was the shutter release: a small latch on the side of the lens base. It was produced around 1955 and made 12 6x6cm photos on 120 rollfilm.

Kershaw 630 photo

Kershaw 630 with Otar Anastigmat 80/6.3 in Vario shutter.