One of the cameras I inherited from my father was his parents’ camera – an Ansco No.3, which is now somewhere in the region of 100 years old.
I’m pretty sure that this is the camera my dad took with him when he cycled through the Alps in 1953, which was a couple of years before he bought his own camera.
It’s a lovely old folding camera, but with some surprises. It has movements – rise and fall and some swing.
It takes 118 rollfilm (more on that in a moment) but also has a separate back for sheet film – quarter plate, for which there are also a dozen (heavy) dark slides.
You can see on the photo below that it even has a small built-in stand that folds out – there’s another for when you use it landscape.
It’s always looked in good condition (although I have had to re-stick the leather(ette) cover, and the shutter speeds seemed sensible. The big blocker has always been film, seeing as 118 film was discontinued in 1961 – it’s wider than 120 film, so you’d need some kind of shim to fill the gap. And that’s exactly what I found earlier this year – someone in Italy who was selling 3D-printed shims, so I bought some.
And then it was some trepidation that I headed out to Severn Beach one blustery Sunday morning to take some photos, having no idea whether the shutter did actually work OK, and more importantly whether the bellows were still light-tight. Or the camera for that matter.
The images from that first roll are awful – blurred as I somehow managed not to hold the camera still on any of the 6 images. But there were images, and they were sensibly exposed!
I’ve put another 3 rolls through it – a couple when we were visiting friends in Hampshire, including a roll of Velvia slide film, and another one at Severn Beach.
Focusing isn’t easy as the camera simply has pre-set locations for various distances, and you obviously need a pretty good idea of how far away your subject is.
Neither is composition as it has a very basic viewfinder so there’s a bit of guesswork involved.
But it works, it takes decent images, and it’s something that I intend to keep using.
I have found somewhere that sells quarter-plate film, so I might consider trying that – although the slides would add a fair bit more weight to an already overloaded camera bag…