Folding Cameras  –  Vintage Camera Type

Typical Folding Camera Traits

Construction: metal / wood
Lens Quality: medium to high
User Controls: moderate to comprehensive

Folding Camera Characteristics

Folding Cameras are generally characterized by a flexible bellows between the lens and the body which allows the camera to significantly reduce its footprint when not in use. Perhaps one of the most mechanically complex types of cameras out there, folding cameras typically employ a rail and/or strut system that must be strong enough to keep the camera rigid during use but still flexible enough to gracefully fold out of the way when necessary.

Optical quality for folding cameras is generally fairly good since they were considered the pinnacle of photographic technology for many years. As a result, there were many high-end folding cameras like the original Kodak Retina models which came equipped with some of the most advanced lenses available at the time. Even when it comes to simple folding cameras like the Kodak Jiffy, the lenses were still relatively good.

The level of user controls in folding cameras can vary greatly from model to model. Some examples like the Univex Model AF-4 hardly need any user input at all while others like the Graflex Crown Graphic give you total control over nearly anything you can think of. Generally, however, most folding cameras will provide control over standard settings such as focus, aperture, and shutter speed.

While the vast majority of folding cameras look more or less the same, there are several unconventional models such as the SX-70 instant folding SLR, the Voigtländer Vitessa which uses “barn doors” to hide the lens when not in use, and the spectacular Welta Perfekta folding twin lens reflex camera.

Interested in starting or growing your own collection of folding cameras?
Check eBay to see what’s available.

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 369-370, 546, 676-677.

Vintage Camera Lab