Ansco Memo

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Ansco Memo (three-quarter view)
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Ansco Memo (three-quarter view)
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Ansco Memo (front view)
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Ansco Memo (rear view)
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Ansco Memo (top view)
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Ansco Memo (bottom view)
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Ansco Memo (with 35mm cassette for scale)
Ansco Memo (three-quarter view) Ansco Memo (three-quarter view) Ansco Memo (front view) Ansco Memo (rear view) Ansco Memo (top view) Ansco Memo (bottom view) Ansco Memo (with 35mm cassette for scale)

Ansco Memo Specifications

Manufacturer: Ansco
Origin: USA
Made in: Binghamton, NY, USA
Introduced: 1927
Type: Subminiature, Viewfinder
Format: 35mm Film (half-frame)
Dimensions: 5.7 x 12.5 x 6.7 cm

Ansco Memo Overview

The Ansco Memo is an unusual 35mm half-frame box camera introduced in 1927 by Ansco. The “Memo” name has been used by Ansco and Agfa Ansco on several different 35mm models (for example the Memo II Automatic) over the years which can sometimes lead to confusion. To combat this, collectors will usually differentiate these models by including the year of introduction to avoid confusion. This particular model—which was the very first camera to bear the name—can also be referred to as the “Ansco Memo (1927 Type).”

Being from the 1920s and meant for mass production, the Memo may be expected to be nothing but a simple box camera but it’s a bit more than that. One of the more interesting features of the Memo is its film system. There was no standardized 35mm cartridge back then so Ansco developed their own rectangular proprietary film cassette called the Memo Cartridge. With the back removed, two cartridges can be inserted into the camera: one pre-rolled with 35mm film stock on the top and an empty one on the bottom to collect the used film. Between shutter actuations, a silver knob located on the back of the camera is slid downward to advance the film. Doing so engages an unusual claw mechanism that hooks into the film’s perforations and pulls it down into the receiving cartridge as opposed to the more conventional sprocket system.

Using such a film system allows the Memo to be tall and slim. At the top of the camera between the handle and in front of the film door latch is a cylindrical viewfinder and located directly underneath it on the front of the camera is an automatically advancing film counter (each Ansco cartridge is good for 50 frames). Under the frame counter window is the lens—an Ilex-Ansco Cinemat 40mm f/6.3 in this particular model—with a shutter speed selector on the top and an aperture selector on the bottom. The shutter lever can be found on the side of the camera and a tripod socket in the bottom.

I’ve been in love with this quirky little camera ever since I first laid eyes on it. After watching eBay auctions for the better part of two years (and having to weed out those for newer Memo models), I finally found this example at an estate sale way out in the suburbs. However, it wasn’t just any estate sale, it was for the late Kirk Kekatos, former president and founding member of the Chicago Photographic Collectors Society. His basement was filled with hundreds upon hundreds of cameras and I got to root through them for about 40 minutes. I walked away with 11 new additions to my collection including this beautiful Ansco Memo.


McKeown, James M. and Joan C. McKeown’s Price Guide to Antique and Classic Cameras, 2001-2002. (Grantsburg, WI, USA: Centennial Photo Service, 2001), p 53.