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.

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

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.

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.

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.


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.

Ansco Anscoflex

The Ansco Anscoflex is an unusual pseudo TLR camera introduced in 1954 by Ansco. The Anscoflex (and Anscoflex II) was crafted by the world-renowned French-American industrial designer Raymond Loewy, the same man whose portfolio includes the iconic Greyhound Scenicruiser bus, several steam locomotives for the Pennsylvania Railroad, various cars like the Studebaker Avanti, Sunbeam Alpine, and Hillman Minx, the interiors of the supersonic Concorde and NASA’s Skylab space station, as well as the livery for Air Force One. Small wonder he was referred to by the press as “The Father of Industrial Design.”

Kodak Hawkeye

The Kodak Hawkeye (also commonly sold as the “Baby Hawkeye,” “Hawkeye Ace,” and “Hawkeye Ace De Luxe” in several slight variations) is a simple box camera made of leatherette-covered cardboard with a metal face. The Hawkeye was manufactured by Kodak Ltd., London—the British subsidiary of Eastman Kodak—and appears to have only been available in select European markets when it was introduced in 1936.

Univex Model AF-4

The Univex Model AF-4 is a compact folding camera introduced by the Universal Camera Corporation of New York in 1938. Amazingly, the founders of Universal had no previous experience in the photography market but still managed to create innovative yet easily mass-produced cameras. Much of Universal’s success came from their business plan to sell cameras at very low prices and rely on the sales of their proprietary film cartridge.

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.

Ansco Memo

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).”

Kodak Instamatic 500

The Kodak Instamatic 500 is a high-end viewfinder camera designed for the 126 film cartridge and manufactured by Kodak AG—Eastman Kodak’s German branch—starting in 1964. The 500 is arguably the most well-built and highest quality fixed-lens camera in Kodak’s expansive Instamatic line but the title of flagship model belongs to the Instamatic Reflex, an interchangeable lens SLR system camera also built by Kodak AG.