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I had forgotten all about this camera, it sits on the bottom shelf of my display cabinet along with all the other “box” style cameras, but unlike all the others which accept roll film, this one is different as it’s a “falling plate” camera. It was only when deciding to take a look at the largest and smallest of my box cameras that I remembered this was no ordinary one. Glass plates were loaded individually in their own holders on a rack inside the rear of the camera and held in place by a powerful drop-down spring.  After each exposure a lever on the top plate was moved sideways and the exposed plate was ejected  forward by the spring and the plate would then fall down into the bottom of the camera where it was held in place by non-return leaf springs until removal for processing. Surviving cameras using this type of mechanism are still to be found occasionally, but they are now quite rare, this photo shows the rear door open and the tensioning device with eight plate holders in position ready for use. Click on photo to enlarge.

This example in my collection measures 7″ tall x 4″ wide x 9½” front to rear with lens at maximum extension. It has five shown shutter speeds from 1/10th to 1/100th of a second plus T although unscrewing the front of the camera and taking a peek at the mechanism would tell a completely different story, how reliable the speeds would have been is unknown as the speed the shutter opens relies entirely upon a lengthy feeble spring tensioned by the speed control, I guess it would have been erratic at the best of times. Indeed, the spring is under less tension at 1/25th than it is at 1/10th so 1/25th would have been slower. The shutter does work but is very sluggish, a good clean of the guide rails would probably improve performance and it’s interesting to note that it could loosely be described as a focal plane shutter although very basic. A lever which controls the shutter from I to T is missing, presumed broken off. This photo shows the shutter mechanism and the vague spring tensioning device supposed to control the shutter speeds. It is shown at the 1/25th setting. Click on photo to enlarge.

I have no idea of the focal length of the lens but the aperture goes from f8 to f44. Sliding the (now bent) focussing lever extends the front lens of the camera and the scale indicates the closest focus is seven feet. Unfortunately there are no identifying marks anywhere on this fascinating piece of photographic history so I have no idea where or when it was manufactured. There are similar cameras to be seen on internet sites but none have the type of spring loading mechanism as found on this one. The best guess at a date is early 1900s. Click to enlarge.

You might like to take a look at another falling plate camera of similar design on the WordPress blog of Jabcam.

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