This blog consists of descriptions of my various vintage cameras and my experiences in using them.
I welcome your comments and additional information.
I am also happy for people to write their own reviews of their old cameras for inclusion in this blog.
This is a ratio of the lens’ focal length divided by the aperture
diameter. It gives a measure of light transmittance independent of the lens
focal length. f/5.6 (for example) on one lens will transmit the same amount of
light as f/5.6 on any other lens.
A decorative covering over the front of the camera.
The means of winding the film on – usually a knob until the mid-1950s
and then a lever until the late 1970s when it became an electric motor.
film advance lever
A lever used to advance the film one frame.
the rectangular opening inside the camera against which the film sits.
It provides the sharp edges to the image.
A measure of the sensitivity of film to light. Measured in DIN, ASA or
An automatic device to wind the film on once an exposure has been
focal plane shutter
a shutter consisting of either two cloth blinds or metal slats that
sit just in front of the film and move to allow light to reach the film.
This is usually ground glass. In a plate camera, the glass is placed
where the sensitive plate will later be and is used to display they image –
upside down and reversed left to right. In a SLR camera, the focussing screen
is immediately below the pentaprism and is viewed through the pentaprism with
the image the correct way around. Focussing screens frequently include focus
aids such as micro-prisms and split-image discs.
Either counts how many pictures have been taken or counts how many are
left on the roll. On many SLR cameras this is reset to zero when the back of
the camera is opened.
This is a type of lens designed by the Frenchman Augustin-Jean Fresnel
(pronounced Fray-nl). It is basically a normal lens cut into small sections
to allow it to be made much thinner. It is used in focussing screens as a
Fresnel screen will be as bright at the edges as it is in the centre.
Ideally, a lens should be focussed by moving the whole lens towards or
away from the negative. When there is a shutter in-between the glass elements
of the lens, this is mechanically difficult and expensive to make. Cheaper
cameras just move the front element of the lens which has much the same
focussing effect but reduces the quality of the image formed for close-up
This is a method of synchronising the firing of the flash bulb with
the opening of the shutter. F means fast and the delay between firing the
bulb and the opening of the shutter is very small allowing the bulb to reach
maximum brightness as the shutter is fully open.
The focusing screen of SLR cameras in made from glass where the
surface has been ground down to produce a matt surface. This allows the image
to be seen.
A camera that produces an image that is only half the size of a
standard frame. With 120 film, half frame is 60 x 45 mm and with 35 mm film,
half frame is 24 x 18 mm.
A focusing system where the lens is fitted in a screw thread and is
focused by turning the lens.
An accessory shoe fitted with flash contacts.
This is the maximum range of focus the lens is capable of. It is found
by setting the infinity mark on the focusing scale against the set aperture
on the depth of field scale.
The circular image produced by a lens. It is always bigger than the
negative or sensor.
Incident light reading
This technique uses a light meter to read the amount of light falling
on the subject, rather than the more usual method of reading the amount of
light reflected by the subject. Mostly used in portraiture.
Wave lengths of light that have a shorter wavelength than red light.
It is invisible to the human eye but can form images with suitable film,
giving different tonal values to normal film. Many older lenses have a red
dot on the lens barrel to allow focusing to be adjusted for infra-red light.
A series of interlocking blades that can be moved to make differing
sizes of holes to adjust the lens aperture.