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  1. #1

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    Help a kind lady find out the story behind her big camera

    There's this kind lady in my town named Phyllis. She used to run a photography business before she retired and still has a lot of gear. She has given me a bunch of it because she wants to see it used instead of just collecting dust.

    Phyllis has a giant camera in her basement that she's trying to find out the truth about. It's a big studio 8x10 with a 5x7 reducing back and giant geared wheels for the movements. This camera dates back to long before the time Phyllis owned the photography business, so it's seen a lot of history.

    Here are all the markings on the lens, with what I think I know about it in italics.

    Betax No. 5 (The shutter)
    U.S. 12# No. 234541 (The serial number)
    Wollensak ELOstigmat (Name of company that made it and the model, which I'm guessing was Velostigmat with the V rubbed off)
    Series II (the generation of the lens)
    F.4.5 (We all know what this one is)

    The lens is mounted on a wooden lensboard and is at the very least a Copal 3 hole, if not bigger. The leaf shutter is jammed, and there is a second shutter mounted to the back with an air hose attached to it (Packard shutter? There i a module on the front of the lensboard that says Packard Shutter, but its electrical contacts aren't connected to anything).

    There is also an interesting plate on the front of the integrated cart that supports the camera. It says:
    Century
    made by
    Eastman Kodak Co.
    Successor to
    Century Camera Co.
    Rochester, N.Y.
    Century No. 7

    On the back is a plate with some patent dates. One is 1902.

    I've been doing some googling and such and finding bits and pieces here and there, but I would deeply appreciate any knowledge the forum members could share with me about this beast. It would mean a lot to Phyllis, and also I might be giving away some of her gear on this forum in the future. She just wants to see it put to use and enjoyed.

  2. #2
    Jay Packer's Avatar
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    The man you need to talk to is Jay Allen of Indianapolis. He's written a book about the Century Studio Camera; see

    http://www.largeformatphotography.in...io-Camera-quot

    Sounds like a beautiful camera.

  3. #3
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    Sounds like a Century studio camera on its original stand. Electrical contacts on the shutter are usually for flash. If the lens has a Betax shutter, it shouldn't need a Packard, unless the Betax doesn't have flash sync and the Packard does, and the photographer used flash.
    flickr--http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidagoldfarb/
    Photography (not as up to date as the flickr site)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com/photo
    Academic (Slavic and Comparative Literature)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com

  4. #4

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    This article, which I find fascinating, has a brief paragraph about the Century Camera Co., which helps establisha time frame. http://www.nwmangum.com/Kodak/Roches... Kodak Company

    Another interesting story is that of the former "Duchess of Carnegie Hall," Eddita Sherman, who used a Century camera for many years. Here she's posing with her camera; does it look the same? http://www.art.com/products/p1404998...all-studio.htm

  5. #5

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    hi there

    you might have her take a peek at this website
    http://www.historiccamera.com/cgi-bi...eet&app_id=390
    there are catalogs and histories of the camera company
    and a small write up about the camera itself (catalog listing maybe ) ...

    i have an 8a, its a beautiful camera ...

    john

  6. #6
    ic-racer's Avatar
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    From the original post it seem like you have it all figured out.
    I might add that the 1902 patent date is also on the Century field cameras and is not likely a build date.

  7. #7

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    "Century
    made by
    Eastman Kodak Co.
    Successor to
    Century Camera Co.
    Rochester, N.Y.
    Century No. 7"

    Kodak would have only used that claim, 'Successor to', for the first year after they purchased C.C.C so it should be easy to date the camera. The same applies to R.O.C. after their purchase.

    Have fun with the hunt.

  8. #8

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    An interesting thing about those old studio cameras that I only found out in the past year or two is that they used the backs as a sort of zoom. 11x14 for a full standing portrait, 8x10 for a 3/4 portrait, 5x7 for a half portrait, and 4x5 for a head and shoulders portrait, for example. That apparently allowed them to work in a fairly small studio with the one camera. When enlargers became common they just used the biggest back that their enlarger would accommodate.

    I had known about how the old time press photographers would use their 135mm as a kind of 35mm to 135mm zoom by cropping the images, but using the different size backs that way was new to me. I guess you could call that cropping in the camera.

  9. #9

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    Thank you everyone for your contributions. What has really helped me so far was finding this page: http://www.historiccamera.com/cgi-bi...n=grand_studio and this page: http://www.historiccamera.com/cgi-bi...ogin=century_1

    The cameras pictured are almost spot-on to the one belonging to Phyllis. I wonder if what I thought was a "No. 7" was just a stylized 1. I'll have to look again.

    The shutter is jammed on the camera. I might have to send it off to SK Grimes to see about getting it running again.

  10. #10
    jimgalli's Avatar
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    Always fun to go to the source and read. Here's a catalog from 1923 that shows you all the options for the #7 outfit. #7 is probably not a number 2. #7 is common. It could go up to 8X10 but film costs after WWII made most studios switch to 5X7 backs later on.

    There may be other lenses on seperate boards for this outfit. Most studio's had different lenses for different types of jobs. The Wollensak Velostigmat Series II f4.5 12" was in production for many many years. This catalog from the same time frame shows the Wollensak lens you're describing. Look at it closer next time and see if the numbers 0 - 5 appear near the front rim for a diffusion control effect that was possible.

    Finally, if you're bored and have time on your hands, look at my web pages for hundreds of images done with just such a camera as the one your friend had. They were made to be USED! Tabletops and portraits are what they lend themselves to best.


    some of my cameras and lenses
    He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep..to gain that which he cannot lose. Jim Elliot, 1949

    http://tonopahpictures.0catch.com



 

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