United States of America

Monarch Royal Reflex

Monarch Royal Reflex

The Monarch Royal Reflex is a pseudo-TLR (a box camera that superficially resembles a twin lens reflex camera) made of an early plastic named Bakelite and introduced in 1939 by the Monarch Manufacturing Company. Monarch (sometimes also spelled “Monarck”), was just one of a many names that made up the Chicago Cluster—a collection of Chicago-based camera brands including Spartus, Acro, and Falcon which appear to be multiple fronts for a single manufacturer. As such, the Monarch Royal Reflex was also sold under different names such as the Monarch Kando Reflex, Remington Flex-Master, and Pickwick Reflex. Its basic design also exists in the form of models like the Metropolitan Clix-O-Flex, Metropolitan Metro-Flex, and the aluminum-bodied Utility Falcon-Flex.

Spartus Box 120

Spartus Box 120

The Spartus Box 120 is just one in a series of no-frills box cameras introduced by Spartus in the early 1940s (not to be confused with the similarly named but clearly different Spartus 120 of the 1950s). Designed to accommodate 116, 120, 616, or 620 roll films, these models are virtually identical outside of the designated film format and faceplate design.

National Instrument Corp. Major

National Instrument Corp. Major

The National Instrument Corp. Major is a barebones box camera designed for the 620 film format and introduced by the National Instrument Corporation of Houston, Texas. The Major, alongside the Colonel (virtually identical apart from having flash synchronization capabilities), and the upright Camflex were all introduced at around the same time and were the only known models produced during the manufacturer’s brief foray into the photography industry which makes all three cameras relatively rare and difficult to find.

Zenith Comet

Zenith Comet

The Zenith Comet is a vertically-oriented viewfinder camera debuted by the Zenith Camera Corporation of Chicago in 1947. As part of the Chicago Cluster, a group of Chicago-based brands active in the 1940s including Spartus, Falcon, and Rolls which are generally believed to be multiple fronts for a single company, Zenith produced only a handful of basic models including the Comet’s close sibling: the Zenith Comet Flash. As its name might suggest, the only real difference between the Comet and the Comet Flash is the ability to use an accessory flash unit. Other than that, both models are functionally identical.

Ansco Century of Progress

Ansco Century of Progress 1933 Chicago World's Fair camera

The Ansco Century of Progress is a commemorative version of the Ansco No. 2 Box camera made by Agfa-Ansco to be sold at the 1933 “Century of Progress” World’s Fair which took place in Chicago, USA. There were several branded cameras available at the 1933 World’s Fair including one based on the Kodak No. 2 Brownie as well as the cheap and cheerful “Yen Camera” from Japan.

Kodak Duex

Kodak Duex

The Kodak Duex is a collapsible basic medium format viewfinder camera introduced by Eastman Kodak in 1940 for 620 roll film. The Duex is the spiritual successor to the Kodak Duo series of 620 cameras which were designed by Dr. August Nagel (founder of Nagel, Contessa, and thus co-founder of Zeiss Ikon) and produced in the Nagel factory in Stuttgart shortly after the company was sold to Eastman Kodak. The Duo was made in Germany until Kodak shifted production to the United States due to the looming threat of conflict. Then, with the Second World War cutting off access to its German division, Kodak transitioned their 620 offerings from high quality folding cameras to inexpensive and relatively primitive models like the Duex.

Kalimar Reflex

Kalimar Reflex

The Kalimar Reflex (also known as the Soligor 66, Haco 66, and Fodor 66) is an unusual looking 120 format single lens reflex camera originally manufactured by Fujita Kogaku as the Fujita 66 and then rebranded by American distribution company Kalimar (and others) for sale. The Fujita 66 and its clones are heavily based on an upright medium format SLR system developed by the German designer Heinz Kilfitt who also created the Metz Mecaflex as well as the original prototype upon which Robot modeled its cameras.

Univex Iris

Univex Iris

The Univex Iris is a relatively high-end metal viewfinder camera debuted in 1938 by the Universal Camera Corporation. Universal employed a “razor and blades” approach to their products which means that, like all Univex cameras manufactured up to this point, the Iris can only be used with Universal’s proprietary film. This initially ingenious strategy became a massive liability when Gevaert–the Belgian firm that produced film on Universal’s behalf–was soon forced to cease production because of World War II.

Bolsey Model B

Bolsey Model B

The Bolsey Model B is a 35mm rangefinder introduced by Bolsey in 1947. The Model B is essentially the rangefinder variant of the Bolsey Model A—a camera which seems to have never made it to market apart from being rebranded for sale as the LaBelle Pal—and is also the camera upon which the Bolsey Model C TLR is based. Bolsey produced several variants of the Model B with incrementally advanced features such as a double exposure prevention mechanism and flash synchronization and even made models specifically for the US Army and US Air Force

Kodak Brownie Vecta

Kodak Brownie Vecta

The Kodak Brownie Vecta is a simple plastic box camera manufactured by Kodak Ltd., London—Kodak’s British division—in 1963 for the 127 film format. The camera’s stylish looks can be attributed to world-renowned industrial designer Sir Kenneth Grange who, in addition to a handful of Kodak cameras, is also responsible for the InterCity 125 High Speed Train as well as the modern London Black Cab).

Kodak Retina II

Kodak Retina II

The Kodak Retina II is a high-end 35mm folding camera introduced in 1936 by Kodak AG, Eastman Kodak’s branch in what was then Nazi Germany. Like the original Retina, the Retina II was designed by Dr. August Nagel, founder of Nagel (which he sold to Kodak) and Contessa as well as co-founder of Zeiss Ikon. There are a number of different variants of the Retina II, the first three of which were manufactured before and during the early stages of World War II. In 1941, the Kodak AG factory in Stuttgart halted operations and began contributing to the war by making time-delay fuses for shells used by the much-feared 88mm Flak anti-aircraft gun. Then, shortly after Germany’s surrender in May 1945, camera production resumed and more versions followed. The exact Retina II pictured here is a type 142 (produced from 1937-1939) which is characterized by having separate viewfinder and rangefinder windows as well as a knurled knob for advancing the frame.

Univex Uniflash

Univex Uniflash

The Univex Uniflash is a simple viewfinder camera made of Bakelite, an early plastic, which was introduced in 1941 by the Universal Camera Corporation. The Uniflash is named after its hot shoe, probably to call attention to the fact that it was the first inexpensive plastic camera in Universal’s lineup to feature one. Like other early Univex cameras such as the Model AF-4, the Uniflash used Universal’s proprietary No. 00 film as part of the company’s brilliant “razor and blades” marketing strategy.

Kodak Flash Bantam

Kodak Flash Bantam

The Kodak Flash Bantam is a compact folding camera introduced in 1947 by Eastman Kodak. As the name suggests, the Flash Bantam is the flash-ready variant of the original Bantam line of compact folding cameras which have no flash synchronization capabilities. Like previous Bantams, this model also utilizes 828 film, the unperforated 35mm film that Kodak developed but ultimately abandoned in favor of the now-standard 35mm cartridge.

Spartus Press Flash

Spartus Press Flash

The Spartus Press Flash (also sold as the Falcon Press Flash, the Galter Press Flash, and the Regal Flash Master) is an unusually designed box camera introduced by the Spartus Camera Corporation in 1939. It is widely believed to be the very first camera of any kind to feature a built-in flash unit.

Ansco Anscomark M

The Ansco Anscomark M is an unusual 35mm interchangeable lens rangefinder manufactured for Ansco by Riken Optical Co., Ltd. (better known as Ricoh). A small percentage of the cameras produced were also sold as the Ricoh 999.

Kodak PH-324

The Kodak PH-324 was the military version of the Kodak 35 built by Eastman Kodak on behalf of the United States Army Signal Corps for service during World War II. Mechanically, it was identical to the 35 with the only major differences being an olive drab green and black finish.

Kodak 35

The Kodak 35 was the first 35mm camera manufactured by Kodak in the United States. The Kodak Retina series—earlier 35mm models—were being made in Germany starting in 1934 but as war loomed on the horizon, Kodak decided to develop a 35mm camera that wouldn’t have to rely on imported components. The other major motivation for Kodak to make the 35 was to compete directly with the Argus A and Argus C series of cameras, a battle it would eventually lose.

Graflex Graphic 35

The Graflex Graphic 35 is a 35mm rangefinder introduced in 1955 by Graflex as a replacement for the Graflex Ciro 35, the camera on which it was also heavily based. The Graphic 35 was designed in the US and earlier examples were made in Rochester although production shifted to Japan with Kowa later on. The lens and shutter were sourced from West Germany.

LaBelle Pal

The LaBelle Pal is a 35mm viewfinder camera designed by Bolsey and sold by LaBelle Industries of Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. The camera was actually meant to be the Bolsey Model A, which was supposed to slot in nicely as an entry model alongside the Model B (a rangefinder) and the Model C (a twin lens rangefinder). Unfortunately, the Model A never quite materialized for reasons unknown and so only exists as the Labelle Pal. As a result, this camera is fairly rare.

Tower 51

The Tower 51 is a conventional fixed lens rangefinder produced by Iloca Kamera-Werk in Hamburg, Germany as a direct variant of the Iloca Rapid-B and sold by Chicago-based department store and mail order giant Sears, Roebuck and Co. under their Tower brand. Over the years, Sears sold a wide variety of rebranded cameras produced by different manufacturers such as the Tower 39 Automatic (made by Mamiya) and the 2.8 / Easi-Load (produced by Ricoh).

Ansco Shur-Shot

The Ansco Shur-Shot is a simple, mass-produced box camera made of wood, leatherette-wrapped cardboard, and aluminum introduced by Ansco in 1948. A combination of simple mechanics and large production numbers mean that it’s relatively easy to find a Shur-Shot in good working condition even today.

Vest Pocket Kodak

The Vest Pocket Kodak (commonly known as “VPK”) is an early compact folding camera introduced in 1912 by Eastman Kodak. Designed to fit neatly into users’ pockets and later heavily marketed to British, American, Australian, French, Italian, and other Allied soldiers during World War I, the Vest Pocket Kodak was one of the most successful cameras of its day, reportedly selling over two million units during its 15 year production life. The VPK is also famous for having accompanied English mountaineers George Mallory and Andrew Irvine during their fatal expedition to Mount Everest in 1924. While Mallory’s remains were discovered in 1999, Irvine’s body and camera are still missing. Once found, the hope is that the film inside Irvine’s Vest Pocket Kodak may finally tell us whether or not the two climbers had succeeded in reaching the summit nearly thirty years before Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay‘s 1953 expedition.

Tower 39 Automatic 35

The Tower 39 Automatic 35 is an unusual looking fixed-lens viewfinder camera manufactured in Japan as the Mamiya Automatic 35 EEF and rebadged for sale in America under the Sears, Roebuck & Company’s Tower brand. As one of the largest retailers in the world at the time, Sears sold a huge variety of cameras including those that it arranged to have sold under its own in-house brands.

Rolls

The simply named Rolls is a viewfinder camera made of Bakelite—an early plastic—introduced by the Rolls Camera Mfg. Co. in 1939. This same camera was sold under a wide variety of names in many different variations, particularly by what is commonly referred to as the “Chicago Cluster,” a group of Chicago-based brand names that produced so many near-identical cameras that it’s widely believed to be just one actual company.

Bell & Howell Electric Eye 127

The Bell & Howell Electric Eye 127 (also known as the Infallible Electric Eye 127) is a premium automatic exposure box camera introduced in 1958 by the Bell & Howell Company of Chicago. While better known for its motion picture cameras and projectors, Bell & Howell also manufactured several still camera models from the late ’40s to the early ’60s and sold rebadged Canon cameras in the 1970s.