Ensign FulVue


The Ensign Ful-Vue was a popular post-war camera. This Mark II model was in production 1946-49 and there was an updated version 1950-53 with a plastic front plate and flash synch.

The camera is about as simple as it gets, tin-can technology with a meniscus lens and a ‘brilliant finder’. Fixed shutter speed and aperture (1/30 at f/11, give or take) so match the film to the weather conditions and rely on lots of latitude to get the exposure right-ish.

One interesting good point that I discovered is that, if you ask somebody to pose for a portrait, they can’t help smiling. The downside of simplicity is having to remember to wind the film on. However, sometimes an accidental double exposure can be interesting in it own right.

Double FulVueJul16 014

Mine cost less than a fiver on eBay, four years ago, but nowadays they go for £30-£50. If you are into the cynical marketing exercise called ‘lomography’, then get one of these rather than some overpriced Russian tat. It may be crap but, by Jingo, it’s British crap!

Canon A-1


The Canon A-1 is the camera that I spent most of the 1980s coveting, but £600+ was a lot of money when it was introduced in 1978. Good old eBay!

The A-1 was one of Canon’s A-series ‘enthusiast’ cameras, smaller and lighter than the professional F-series. It was one of the first fully-electronic cameras, the first SLR (by some years) to offer an electronic programme metering mode, and the first to offer all four of the ‘PASM’ modes that we expect in a modern camera. All of the important controls are on the top-plate which is daunting at first but becomes intuitive with use.

Exposure mode is selected by a switch, then the shutter speed or aperture are changed using a front control wheel, in the same way that we are used to with a modern DSLR.

Metering goes up to a surprisingly high 12800ASA, which would have been pretty-much unusual for its time; 3-stop uprated HP5 or Tri-X only requires 3200ASA (and metering is accurate at that level in a dimly-lit pub gig.

Coupled with the razor-sharp FD lenses, this has become my go-to camera when I get the urge to shoot some 35mm. I have used it for June in my 12 months, 12 cameras project.

Mamiya C220


The Mamiya C series TLRs were in production from 1956 until 1995. This one is a C220, produced between 1968 and 1982. The C2xx cameras were the ‘enthusiast’ range and C3xx were the professional range, similar to the relationship between Rolleicords and Rolleiflexes. For tripod work, I prefer this camera to my C330f; the big rewind crank on the C3xx (which also cocks the shutter) has a very heavy action and can shift on the tripod unless everything is really clamped down. The small, separate crank on the C220 is much lighter and it is not that difficult to remember to cock the shutter.

The big selling point with the Mamiya TLRs is the interchangeable lenses (almost unique among TLRs), achieved by pairing taking and viewing lenses on interchangeable lens boards. The camera body has an internal baffle that is raised to protect the film while changing lenses. There is a range of focal lengths, from 55mm wide-angle to 250mm telephoto and everything is truly interchangeable; any of the lenses can be used with any of the bodies.

The added complication does make the camera big and heavy (1150g, body only) and my Rolleicord is distinctly svelte by comparison.

Although displaced as my front-line medium format camera by the RB67 the C220 still gets used when I get the urge (quite often) to shoot infra-red film.  In general, TLRs are the way to go because you can keep the filter on the taking lens while composing and focusing with the viewing lens.

HWWalltown RolleiIR 334-007

The C220, with Rollei IR400 film, was “Miss May” in my 12 months 12 cameras project.

Voigtländer Vito IIa


This is a Voigtländer Vito IIa, a 35mm folding camera from the mid-1950s.

Voigtländer had the advertising slogan, “It’s the lens that takes the picture” and this camera is fitted with a pin-sharp 50mm f/3.5 Color-Skopar four-element lens similar to the Tessar. It has a 9-speed Prontor SVS shutter (some versions had the cheaper 4-speed Pronto shutter) and cost about £25 when it first appeared in 1955.

Unfortunately, there is no rangefinder or light-meter but the scale focusing is accurate and it is not too difficult to carry a meter, or estimate using the ‘sunny 16’ rule.

Solidly built, the camera is surprisingly weighty but the folding design makes it eminently pocketable.

I used mine for April in my 12 months 12 cameras project. I love it for the lens, the overall ‘feel’ and for being built between 1955 and 1957 – just like I was.

Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day

The last Sunday in April is Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day (website here), an opportunity for everybody to go out, cut loose with the most basic image-making device available and contribute to a world-wide gallery of images. This is the fifth year running that I have participated.

PinholeDay16 002-2

The camera was balanced on the sundial in my front garden. Pinhole has a unique image quality being, in principle, uniformly unsharp with an infinite depth of field. In practice, there are good reasons why elements closer to the pinhole than the hole-to-film distance become less sharp. Also, with a 40-second exposure, some subject movement blur is inevitable except on a very still day. This image is no.307 in the 2016 gallery.

I take a slightly purist view of pinhole photography – it only counts if you have made the camera yourself. This is my MkII camera, built of foam-core board and taking 5×4 film backs. Effective ‘focal length’ is 65mm and aperture is f/150. This image was shot on Fomapan 100 and developed in Rodinal.


Kodak Folding Pocket Brownie

Kodak FPB
Specifically, this is a No.2 Folding Pocket Brownie, Model A, which is unusual for not appearing on the Kodak historical website nor the Brownie Page, both of which start with the Model B that appeared in 1907. I suspect the Model A was a short-run precursor from 1906 or early 1907. Whatever, it is the oldest item in my camera collection and one of the oldest objects in my house.

Apparently, it is about 20% smaller than the earlier No.2 Folding Brownie and suggests that people had really big pockets in the early 20th century.

The ‘No.2’ designation tells us that it  uses 120-size roll-film, which remains available. Negative size is a nominal 6x9cm, giving 8 images per roll. The camera has a simple meniscus lens and a shutter with ‘I’, ‘B’ and ‘T’ settings. ‘I’ stands for ‘instantaneous’ and has a speed of about 1/30 second. There are three aperture settings, roughly corresponding to f/11, f/16 and f/22. There is no separate aperture diaphragm; the ‘aperture’ control works by limiting the amount that the shutter opens, which probably has an effect on shutter speed as well.

The focusing control is ingenious. A bar with a peg is moved to one of three set positions; the lensboard has three holes in the bottom and you pull it out until it clicks.

The object on the left of the baseboard is a simple reflecting viewfinder, which can be flipped over for using the camera in vertical format. The viewfinder image is really dim, and there is more than a little element of chance in the final framing.

I used this camera for March in my 12 months, 12 cameras project. The image below was shot on HP5+. I had thought I would have to make some excuses for a 110 year old camera but the result is actually quite pleasing.

FPBrownie HP5 324-005

Mamiya RB67 Pro

1 RB67

This is the first model in Mamiya’s RB67 line, introduced in 1970 and replaced by the RB67 Pro S in 1974. It is a modular single-lens reflex, taking ten 6×7 negatives on 120 roll-film, or 20 on 220. The RB stands for Revolving Back, which enables shooting in landscape or portrait format without having to tilt the camera (relevant when using a waist level finder.

All parts are interchangeable. A complete camera comprises the body, lens, viewfinder, back adaptor and film back. The body and lens are mechanically linked, so that operating the lever on the right side will return the mirror and cock the shutter. The film back has a separate lever to advance the film; there is a mechanical connection to operate a red warning flag on the film back (and later models have a double-exposure lock). Another mechanical connection prevents the shutter firing with the dark-slide in place and prevents removing the back until the dark-slide is replaced.

The lenses have leaf shutters, with speeds of 1 to 1/400 second and “T”, with flash synch at all speeds. I have 65mm, 127mm and 180mm lenses (32mm, 63mm and 90mm equivalent on 35mm)

The mirror is large, and noisy when it moves. It stays up after taking a shot, until the body is re-cocked, which minimises the risk of mirror-slap. When using the camera on a tripod, the mirror can be locked up.

The RB67 tips the scales at over 3kg which some say makes it a studio camera, not suitable for hand-holding. Certainly, it is worth investing in a comfortable neck-strap.

My RB67 is called “Lula”. Fans of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books will understand that she is big, black and beautiful. She was used for January in my 12 months, 12 cameras project.

Further information online at