Antique Photos

Janet and I both enjoy family history research and discovering antique photos. I’m also fascinated by the cameras that may have taken these photos. Recently, a good friend allowed me to adopt a few of her antique cameras. The one featured here is a Zeiss Ikon Maximar bellows camera.

One of the things I like about these cameras is studying the way they were engineered. When you get right down to it, a camera is nothing more than a box with a hole in it. This is evident when you look at actual box cameras, like the old Kodak Brownie No. 2, for example. Once you get to the bellows camera, you start to appreciate the way the “box with a hole in it” concept started to evolve.

zeiss ikon
Zeiss Ikon

The bellows allows you to move the lens closer to or farther from the film plate in the back. As a result, the focal distance changes, and, the amount of subject that appears in the frame changes. With the bellows retracted, you will be focusing on things far away, and you’ll have more things in the frame. With the bellows extended, you can essentially zoom in to close objects. You didn’t have that kind of flexibility with a standard box camera. Any modern camera with zoom capability you see the same basic principle in the way the lens telescopes in and out.

zeiss ikon
Zeiss Ikon

Other features we take for granted nowadays are aperture size and shutter speed. These features would have been found only on “advanced” cameras one hundred years ago. Like any camera in any era, the quality of the lens really makes or breaks the instrument. That’s where these makers surely invested their design energy.

I like this camera because it comes with a frosted glass back so you can see what the camera sees. Here, I set the camera up on a tripod [apparently, the threads on the tripod mount have been standard for over a century :o) ] to view my colored glass dragonfly lamp. I was pleased with the sharpness of focus I could achieve.

zeiss ikon setup
Zeiss Ikon Setup
zeiss ikon image
Zeiss Ikon Image

Now, of course, this camera would have used black and white film back in its heyday, so you’d have to accept that the final image would not have colors. Still, it was pretty innovative to be able to set up your shot accurately, then take out the frosted glass, insert a film plate, and be confident that you captured a pretty nice image on film.

I’ll probably keep this beauty on display at home, but once in a while I might bring it out and grab an image off the frosted glass and imagine I’ve stepped back in time making modern versions of antique photos.

I’ll feature the other cameras I adopted in a future blog. Stay tuned!

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