Ilford Witness 35mm camera

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by Eric Rose, Dec 3, 2010.

  1. Eric Rose

    Eric Rose Subscriber

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  2. Chazzy

    Chazzy Member

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    It looks like a pretty camera. It's a pity that we hear so little about British cameras these days.
     
  3. Les Sarile

    Les Sarile Member

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    Beauty! Thanks for the heads-up.

    By modern materials I hope you don't mean non-metallic!
     
  4. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    Unfortunately Chazzy I'm old enough to remember the Ilford Witness and remember seeing one for sale second hand in a camera store window about twenty years ago that I wish now I had bought, this was a very high quality camera that in it's day was very expensive, and certainly beyond my pocket as a teenager to buy new in the late 1940s, I'm not a collector but this is a beautiful camera.
    The British camera industry except for a few companys who make large format cameras has largely disappeared but in the fortys and fiftys when the Witness was made there were many British companys manufacturing high quality cameras and lenses until competition from the Far East lead to their demise.
     
  5. elekm

    elekm Member

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    A really beautiful camera. I wonder why they didn't try to market this outside of the U.K. Perhaps, they might have run into import/export restrictions.
     
  6. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    I notice this camera cost in the days it was sold new for £121, in those days I remember the weekly wage for a skilled engineer after a five year apprenticeship was about £15, I think this puts how expensive this camera was into perspective.
    One of the reasons British camera manufacturers flourished in the immediate post- war period was that there were severe import restrictions on foreign made goods because the country was broke because of the war and had little foreign exchange to pay for them, so obtaining Leicas or Rollei cameras was impossible and British companys like Reid , M.P.P, Ilford, AGI, Haughton and Kershaw made high quality cameras to fill the gap in the market.
     
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  7. JohnMeadows

    JohnMeadows Subscriber

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    I had never heard of this camera - thanks for posting!! :smile:
     
  8. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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  9. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    These cameras fetch high prices, the Dallmeyer Super Six was one of the best lenses of it's day and can fetch high prices in Leica mount.

    To add to Ben's comments on prices when the Witness was launched an MPP Micro Technical MkVI (5x4) was around £75 , the Reid with f2 5cm Taylor Hobson lens was £90 + £30 Purchase Tax, taxes were substantially higher before VAT.

    Ian
     
  10. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    I saw one in Jessops window Ian about twenty years ago it was £90 I wish I'd have bought it.
    In addition to what I've already written on the subject, in the post war period there was severe import restrictions and in order to get foreign cameras ( Germany wasn't flavour of the month in those days, neither was Japan) you had to have a good reason to, and be a professional to obtain an import licence. from the government which was very difficult to do so we didn't export many precision cameras because we could hardly fulfil domestic demand although in those days we were desperate to export to obtain foreign currency, and the government motto on posters etc. was " Export or Die".
     
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  11. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    H.S. Newcombe who wrote books & articles on 35mm Photography etc was also the owner of a large camera store. He wrote a very interesting article in the 1950 BJP Almanac "A Photographic Dealer takes stock" he complained about the dearth of new cameras from the Continent and that all dealers had to sell was second hand stock apart from some newer models from British manufacturers, but at that point there were no precision British 35mm cameras to rival Leica, Contax, Exacta etc, just 120 and 620 folding cameras and the odd 120 SLR.

    Where Britain excelled in 1950 was making new lenses to fit German cameras, Dallmeyer, Wray, Taylor Hobson, Ross etc all amde lenses which could give a new lease of life to pre-WWII and captured German cameras. Newcombe lists all these in his book on 35mm Technique.

    With government help many German cameras were copied the pinnacle being the Reid III - a Leica copy that was better made than the camera it was based on with a better standard lens, other companies copied different cameras, MPP the first Linhof Technika (MicroTechnical) and the Rolleicord (Microcord) & Rolleiflex (Microflex), AGI the Reflex Korelle (Agiflex).

    The 50's saw a wide array of new 35mm cameras with interchangeable lens from a number of manufacturers, like the Ilford Witness few remained in production for very long, again Newcombe lists many in his books..

    Ian
     
  12. benjiboy

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    You are quite correct Ian, the only foreign cameras that were about were second hand from before the war, and there were very few of them about because many people who owned them had donated them to the government for the war effort.