A bellows camera

I like cameras of all kinds although, of course, as ornaments the older and more mechanical ones are much more interesting to look at. By contrast, they are and always were a nightmare to use.

This is one I have.


We can see this is a bellows camera and after years on display on top of a bookcase it’s a bit dusty and in need of gentle attention. It is very hard, at present, to get the bellows fully open.

The idea of the bellows camera, in this case, was that it could be folded away and made pocket size.


That is, if you had quite big pockets. It’s more than twice the size of the small digital I used to photograph it.

It is, of course, completely devoid of electronics. You the user have to set everything. One part of the lens can screw in and out to alter the focus. The user had to estimate the distance (or measure it) to the subject and set the dial accordingly. The user then had to choose shutter speed, which could be as fast as one three hundredth of a second and the aperture size – up to F3.5. Decisions there would be made on light conditions and the nature of the subject. If you were taking a photo of a moving object you had to use a fast shutter speed whereas portraits of stationary objects might benefit from a wide open aperture to throw backgrounds a little out of focus. Landscapes might need the smallest possible aperture so that everything was as sharp as possible.

These days, for most of us snap shotters, these decisions are made for us by the camera.

This camera is a Zeiss Ikon


The two little red windows on the back could be opened so that you could see writing on the paper backing of the film. It told you how many photos you had taken.


Inside the camera a suggested make of film is advertised.


This was a brand of 120 roll film, but other companies, more familiar to the UK market also produced such film.

I think this camera dates from the 1930s




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