Rare Kodak (UK) Wide Angle Camera with Zeiss Protar Lens, c1940
As used by Bill Brandt for his book on Wide Angle Nudes.
A copy of the book is included in this auction.
This camera model design is probably unique. In almost thirty years of camera collecting I have seen only four of these cameras, three of which I have owned. It was produced in two styles, this one being the perspective control model, which utilises offset combination lens panels to achieve the lens displacement. The camera is made from a brass re-enforced red/brown finished mahogany. The camera serial number is 20, so must have been very early in the production run.
The format size is 1/1-plate (6.5” x 8.5” or 16.5cm x 21.5cm), which was a standard professional format in UK until the 1950’s/60’s. Film in this size may be available from the film suppliers (please see the links in our web site) or it is quite easy to cut down 8” x 10” film. The camera back is of the universal international spring back type and will accept the Fidelity type 1/1-plate size film holders, along with Kodak and other makes. One double-sided film holder is included with this camera. These film holders appear on Ebay from time to time. The ground glass spring back is complete and original.
The camera, while basically simple in that it is a fixed focus box camera, has many quite wonderful design concepts.
As the lens is an extreme wide-angle type having tremendous depth of field and marked apertures down to f45, with further possible travel to at least f64, there is no need for a focussing system.
The lens panel system comprises three ‘nesting’ offset panels which when combined in different configurations permit rise, fall, cross and 4-way diagonal front perspective control movements. Very simple, but very effective! And no bellows to worry about!
The lens is the prestigious Carl Zeiss Jena f18 Protar of 8.5cm focal length, serial number 1355398. This lens provides 110 degrees angle of view, equating approximately to a 14/15mm rectilinear lens on a 35mm camera. The lens is in pristine condition with no observable defects and the aperture control is nice and smooth. According to the Kodak UK Professional Catalogue 1940, there may be some darkening of the corners if the full format is printed. However with modern scanning techniques and Photoshop such darkening can be eliminated. Copies of the catalogue entry are included in this write up but there are minor variances between this camera and the catalogue entry, for example lens aperture, number of spirit levels etc.
The shutter is a detachable Luc, which was an optional accessory at the time of manufacture, is clamped to the lens panel by three brass thumbscrews and therefore detachable or replaceable in one second flat. The shutter is provided with instantaneous, time and bulb (IBT) settings and is best operated with a standard long throw cable release. Bulb and time settings may be operated by turning the wheel on the front of the shutter housing.
The camera body has tripod sockets on three sides thereby permitting use in any orientation. Additionally the back of the camera has projecting ‘feet’ which permit the camera to be placed on the floor to photograph the sky or a perhaps a cathedral roof etc, and still enable film holders to be inserted. Also, because the camera is fixed focus it may be placed right in the very corner of a room and with a long cable release the whole of a room may be photographed (please see the catalogue illustration) . Four spirit levels are fitted to permit proper levelling of the camera when shooting.
There is no viewfinder, other than the ground glass back. However an ingenious ‘lens hood’ provided with the camera can be fitted to the front and the field of view determined by walking into the picture area and lining up the edge of the ‘lens hood’ with the centre of the lens. If you can see the lens you are in the picture. It is as simple as that! And guess what – the ‘lens hood’ stows away inside the camera where it is a push fit into a recess, when in transit.
The camera is very compact and lightweight, being just under 2kg.
The general cosmetic condition of the camera is excellent with only very minor abrasion marks present. The camera has a cosmetic condition rating of 9 out of a possible 10. Mechanically the camera is in fully functioning condition. Everything appears to be original. Even the leather handle is in excellent condition and has ‘Kodak’ stamped into it. The double sided film holder is usable and light tight.
The lens is very clean with no discernable defects and the iris control is smooth. The shutter works correctly. This camera should take really excellent photographs.
The book is entitled ‘Bill Brandt: Nudes 1945 – 1980 and includes 100 inoffensive and tasteful female nude scenes. This is a collector’s book in its own right. The dust jacket is a little ‘crumpled’ at the edges but is complete. The condition of the book is 9 out of a possible 10.
I wholeheartedly recommend this camera and book. This is a rare and usable outfit and may not come onto the market again for a considerable time.