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.

Marksman Six-20

Marksman Six-20

The Marksman Six-20 is a no-frills box camera introduced in 1948 and sold by the Bernard Marks & Co. Ltd. of Toronto, Canada. Although both Eastman Kodak and Leica had a long history of manufacturing cameras at their factories in Ontario, many consider the Marksman Six-20 to be one of the only bona fide Canadian cameras in existence, but is it really?

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.

Mithra 47

Mithra 47

The Mithra 47 is a box camera built in Switzerland and named after the year it was introduced: 1947. Not much other concrete information is known about this camera except that it came in different colors (black, brown, and reportedly red and green) and there was a very similar box camera with sharper corners called the Mithra 46 that came out the year before which was also rebadged and sold as the “Starmetal Goldy” by French camera brand Goldstein. Most of the sources I’ve come across regard Mithra as its own standalone brand but there are also rumors that suggest that it was manufactured by Agfa‘s subsidiary in Switzerland.

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.

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

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.

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.

Acro Model R

The Acro Model R is a relatively obscure World War II era rangefinder camera introduced in 1940 by the Acro Scientific Products Company of Chicago. Like Spartus, Acro was part of the “Chicago Cluster,” a group of Chicago-based camera brands that produced a series of nearly identical Bakelite cameras. However, unlike the vast majority of those cameras that were designed to be simple and cheaply made, the R is an upscale model for advanced amateurs.

Toyoca Hit

The Toyoca Hit is a family of subminiature novelty cameras introduced by the company commonly known as “Toyoca,” a contraction of “Toyohashi” (the city in which they were based at the time) and “camera.” These tiny, inexpensive cameras became extremely popular in post-war Japan and abroad, causing dozens upon dozens of models to be manufactured by a wide variety of companies. One of the most successful of these was the Hit.

Zeiss Ikon Box Tengor (56/2)

The Zeiss Ikon Box Tengor (56/2) is a well-built and relatively advanced box camera (regarded by some as “the king of box cameras”) introduced by Zeiss Ikon shortly after the end of World War II and the subsequent division of Germany. The Zeiss Ikon Box Tengor line is a continuation of the original Box Tengor series manufactured by Goerz before it merged with ICA, Ernemann and Contessa-Nettel to form Zeiss Ikon in 1926. The 56/2 is the final camera to bear the Box Tengor name.

Graflex Crown Graphic

The Graflex Crown Graphic (also known as the Graflex Pacemaker Crown Graphic) is a large format press camera introduced by Graflex Inc. in 1947. The lesser known Crown Graphic is commonly mistaken for the Graflex Speed Graphic which is often regarded as the most famous press camera of all time. The mistake is easy to make, however, since the two cameras are identical apart from an additional focal plane shutter on the Speed.

Spartus Six Twenty

The Spartus Six Twenty is a box camera dressed up as a TLR introduced in 1940 by the Spartus Camera Corporation of Chicago. The Six Twenty—so named because it takes 620 format film—is what’s called a “psuedo TLR” which means that it looks like legitimate TLR at a glance but is technically a box camera because the lenses do not focus in tandem (unlike its cousin, the Spartus Spartaflex which has a coupled focusing system). In fact, the lenses on the Six Twenty can’t really be focused at all.

Spartus Spartaflex

The Spartus Spartaflex is a medium format twin lens reflex manufactured by the Spartus Camera Corporation of Chicago. Although I found a print ad from the 1940s pricing this camera outfit at an incredulous $47.91 (well over $800 in today’s money), the Spartaflex is by no means a serious answer to the high-quality German TLRs (such as the Rolleicord IId) that had been dominating the market since the late ’20s.

Kodak Brownie Hawkeye

The Kodak Brownie Hawkeye is a simple plastic box camera produced from the late 1940s to the early 1960s. In addition to being made in its flagship factory in New York, the Brownie Hawkeye was also manufactured in Canada and France by its international subsidiaries. Over the years, there have been a significant number of Kodak cameras called the “Brownie;” this Hawkeye is one of the most popular models ever to bear the name.

M.I.O.M. Photax III

The M.I.O.M. Photax III is a simple viewfinder camera made of Bakelite—an early plastic—produced by Manufacture d’Isolants et d’Objets Moulé, a now defunct French company that specialized in electrical insulators and plastic molding. M.I.O.M. made several different cameras before and after the Second World War including eight variations of their flagship Photax model between 1937 and 1960.

Spartus 35F

The Spartus 35F and its twin, the Spartus 35 are simple 35mm cameras made of Bakelite, an early plastic. Modeled after the highly successful and massively influential Argus A, the 35F features a classic shape very common to 35mm cameras of its era. The 35F was manufactured in Chicago by the aptly named Spartus Corp. before it became the Herold Manufacturing Co. which is why the lens of this particular specimen bears the Herold name. Spartus Corp. and its incarnations produced a great multitude of Bakelite cameras (many of which are practically identical to each other) under a wide variety of different brand names such as Utility, Falcon, Monarch and, of course, Spartus.

Kodak 35 RF

The Kodak 35 RF was rushed to production in Kodak’s attempt to catch up with Argus who, at the time, were having great success with their C series of consumer-friendly rangefinder cameras. Unfortunately, their entire strategy revolved around simply taking the Kodak 35 and slapping on a rangefinder assembly. However, despite their seemingly simple and cost-effective solution, the 35 RF still cost well over twice as much as the ubiquitous Argus C3 and therefore remained eating its proverbial dust until Kodak finally stopped production in 1948.

Franke & Heidecke Rolleicord IId

The Franke & Heidecke Rolleicord IId was introduced in 1947 as the latest edition to the Rolleicord line, the more affordable version of the Rolleiflex line of premium TLRs. TLRs or Twin Lens Reflex cameras are uniquely equipped with two lenses that do different jobs: one is connected to the viewfinder for composing while the other one exposes the film and takes the photograph.