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The Patent Etui


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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The Patent Etui

28 Oct 2020 10:05AM   Views : 227 Unique : 144


I think I paid £6 for this lovely little camera, while I was still at school. I haven’t used it very much, for lack of a way to feed it photosensitive materials.

The thing is that it came with six single-sided plateholders. Not cut film: plate. Very early in my ownership, I managed to get some HP3 plates, but you can’t get them any more… It’ll take a Rollex back, and I have a memory of exposing a slide film with the aid of a back borrowed from the school Biology Lab.


It’s a fascinating camera. It folds to make a pretty slender package, with its ground-glass screen attached, though six plateholders treble the volume and weight… It’s also very sophisticated in terms of the facilities it offers. It’s got a fixed lens and – by modern standards – a limited range of shutter speeds, but there’s a wire-frame viewfinder and a brilliant finder as well as the groundglass screen. There’s a rising front and a double extension, so you can shoot lifesize pictures (which is a subject that will feature in a future blog).

The Etui isn’t ultimately solid in build quality, but it’s all rather clever, and while it doesn’t match the minisaturisation fo the Compass camera, it was easy for a camera firm to make, unlike the Compass. It’s a practical camera by the standards of its day, and it gave very decent results. Here’s a tour of some of the fun features.

Sports finder – a wire frame folds out from the front plate, and there’s a metal bobble that folds out from the back to allow you to centre your eye precisely in the centre.


Rising front, controlled by a screw on the right of the front plate. The ground glass screen always gives an accurate view, and so does the wire frame finder. The ‘brilliant’ finder (which turns 90ᵒ for horizontal and vertical frames) isn’t accurate in such circumstances.


Focus scale – it’s not especially detailed, but it’s sufficient for general outdoor use, and has a very firm detent at infinity. You have to press the small tab at the front of the rail on the left of the baseplate to move away from infinity, and the focus wheel snicks flush with the baseplate for folding.

The lens is a 105mm f/4.5 Tessar, and it’s uncoated, and the Compur shutter uses the old-fashioned speed sequence – 1, 1/2 , ¼, 1/10, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/200 and has to be cocked with a lever that sits around ten thirty as you view the camera from the front. The shutter release is at seven thirty. Hanging off the side of the brilliant finder is a bubble level. There are two tripod bushes, on on the baseplate and on the right hand side plate.


I can’t locate any of the plates I exposed at the moment – they’ll surface some time… They’re a size that was known as Quarter Plate (3¼” by 4¼”) – half the size of Half Plate, and a quarter of the size of Full Plate. Unlike the A-series sizes we’re getting used to now, the ratio of long to short sides isn’t absolutely constant.

The Etui isn’t a camera you’d choose for everyday use – but it is one to admire for how much it packs into a remarkably small and light package.



dudler Plus
17 1.4k 1733 England
28 Oct 2020 10:07AM
And I'm excited: in looking for the bits and pieces in the outfit, I found that there are one or two plates left in plateholders! Possibly exposed plates.

And I also discovered a camera I didn't remember I own, a 127 Zeiss Ikon folding camera, with a partly-exposed film in it.

Watch this space.
mistere Plus
7 6 4 England
28 Oct 2020 6:09PM
dudler Plus
17 1.4k 1733 England
28 Oct 2020 9:36PM
Cheers, Dave!

Those look even older than the ones I used in around 1970...


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