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  1. #1

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    Need help identifying camera size (ROC Universal)

    Please pardon the long posting, but I'm trying to cram in enough information to increase my chances of getting some good answers to my questions here.

    I just finished restoring a Rochester Optical Co. Universal view camera that I got in fairly miserable condition about 5 years ago. I must say, with all modesty, that it's just gorgeous, as well as being fully functional. Ready to take pictures; I even found what seems to be an appropriate lens (a Bausch & Lomb 5x7 Symmetrical in a Victor shutter). But I've run into a snag.

    The thing is, I don't know what size this camera is. Pretty basic thing not to know, you'd think. But I think I can be excused, as the camera didn't come in a box printed with "5x7 view camera", no manual, no instructions, nothing.

    I had thought (OK, assumed) that it was a 5x7 camera, based on its general dimensions. Well, today the 5x7 film holder I ordered from Pacific Rim Camera arrived, and it doesn't fit; it's too small in both dimensions.

    So the first order of business is to identify this camera's size. Here are the relevant dimensions:

    • Film holder outside: 6-11/16" x 9"
    • Film holder exposure opening: 5-1/8" x 7-15/16"
    • Ground glass viewing area: 4-3/4" x 7-3/4"

    So does that tell anyone here anything about what size this might be?

    Beyond 5x7, I'm thinking the possible sizes might be 5x8 or 6-1/2x8-1/2. But the narrowness of the ground glass opening (4-3/4") is puzzling; why does that seem to be right for 5" wide film, but there's such a large gap when a 5x7 holder is put in?

    By the way, the outside dimensions of the 5x7 film holder (actually a Premo plate holder with film sheaths) are 5-15/16" x 8-1/16".

    So it seems to me that I have the following choices:

    1. Hack the back to accept a standard 5x7 film holder.
    2. Acquire a back that'll fit the camera that accepts 5x7 holders (if such a thing exists).
    3. Find the proper film holder for this back.
    4. Forget it and make it a "shelf queen".

    As a subset of 1, I suppose I could jury-rig some kind of insert that would let me use a 5x7 holder in my back. I really don't want to hack the back, though.

    As part of this question, does anyone here know of any ROC historical societies that might have this kind of information?

    Any help on this will be greatly appreciated.

  2. #2

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    hi david

    i am not sure if you know about this page or not ..
    http://www.fiberq.com/cam/roc.htm

    there are a bunch of things on roc cameras ..
    maybe yours is listed and it can help shed light on your mystery ..

    good luck!

    john
    ask me how ..

  3. #3

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    Those ground glass dimensions sure sound like 5x8.

  4. #4

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    Even if it is a "standard" size like 5x7 or 5x8, a modern holder will most likely not fit without adapting the back of the camera. The Rochester Universal is a fine early camera but so early that even in the smaller format, sizes for holders were not standard.
    In many cases you take the holder you want to use, hold it up to the back of the camera and see what you have to do to make it work. Sometimes you remove wood from the holder opening and in some you add wood. Sometimes you also have to reset the "T distance" for the groundglass to match it up with your holder.

  5. #5

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    You might consider having someone make a nice back in a standard size for you. Richard Ritter comes to mind.
    http://www.lg4mat.net

  6. #6
    Whiteymorange's Avatar
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    The ROC cameras I have, which include an 8x10 universal, take a wooden holder that is not only larger than the modern holder, but do not accommodate the ridge that is incorporated on modern holders for locking the holder in place in the camera; there is no slot. Look for wooden holders that don't have that ridge on ebay or do as pgomena suggests and contact Richard. His work is second to none.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Whiteymorange View Post
    The ROC cameras I have, which include an 8x10 universal, take a wooden holder that is not only larger than the modern holder, but do not accommodate the ridge that is incorporated on modern holders for locking the holder in place in the camera; there is no slot. Look for wooden holders that don't have that ridge on ebay or do as pgomena suggests and contact Richard. His work is second to none.
    Thanks for the most useful reply yet. After getting that holder from Pacific Rim, it became clear that it was also the wrong type, as it has the retaining ridge that "modern" film holders (i.e., Fidelity, Lisco, etc.) have, with no corresponding groove in the back to accommodate the ridge, as you point out.

    I should say at this point that this is a minimal-outlay project on my part; the camera basically fell into my hands, and I've spent a total of less than $20 on it so far. Having an expen$ive custom back made for it is out of the question.

    However, it might not be that difficult to make my own back; all it is, basically, is a flat board with locating pins, a window for the exposure and rails for the ground-glass holder (well, I'd probably have to make a new g.g. holder as well, but all that is is a little picture frame with a spring attached to it). The only critical thing here is flatness (the original back was warped and I had to flatten it anyhow); the only critical distance (so-called "T-depth") is in the g.g. holder.

    At this point my original ardor for actually taking pictures with this antique are somewhat dampened. I was hoping it would be an easy stroll to getting the right film holders. If it's going to be a whole big production I might just put the damn thing up on the shelf.

  8. #8
    Whiteymorange's Avatar
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    Yes. I find that, while the Universal is one of the most beautiful cameras I own, it's not the one I go to for 8x10, since it is a bit delicate and needs specific holders. Fitting a Packard shutter to it was a trial as well - I did it by building a box that fits on the outside. I purchased it as a set, with four double holders and inserts for those holders to convert it to hold plates in 4x5, 5x7 and 6.5x8.5. It was in its original travel box, with the holders and most of a tripod (no top, just the leg sections) and the bellows are soft and supple - no holes. Without lens, it weighs in at about 8 lbs and it packs up very small and tidy, so it is a nice thing to carry around when I get to go out. I have it in a folding cooler that has wheels and straps for carrying on your back (yard sale buy!)

    Everything is a trade off.

  9. #9

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    So my current thinking is this: either concentrate my efforts on finding the suitable holders for the Universal (Pacific Rim Camera seems the most likely place at this point), or else build a new back for it myself. I think my woodworking skills are up to it if I work carefully; I'd get some nice mahogany locally (nice stable wood) and try to match the existing back.

  10. #10
    Whiteymorange's Avatar
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    Go for it.

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