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Strange hybrid folder
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 26, 2009 11:19 am    Post subject: Strange hybrid folder Reply with quote

Here's a strange beast I've picked up (still waiting for arrival), a Selfix 220 http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=220522225857&ssPageName=ADME:X:AAQ:GB:1123. It seems to incorporate advanced features like an automatic frame counter (reversible for 6x6 or 6x4.5) with a dial-set shutter which looks like something from the early 30s. Yet it has a fairly fast Ensar f4.5 lens, which is Ensign's own-brand triplet, so the shutter may well be original.

On the bottom of the door is a really cool little DoF calculator, it looks as if the lever may focus the camera by shifting the bellows rather than with front-cell focusing. You can see it here:

http://mgroleau.com/image.php?titre=%20Mario%20Groleau&image=ensign_220_5.jpg

also the reversible frame counter, which is very cunning:
http://mgroleau.com/image.php?titre=%20Mario%20Groleau&image=ensign_220_15.jpg

And I guess that is a slip-on mask for the viewfinder to cut the image area down to 6x4.5. As the one I've got is in 645 configuration it should have this part on it.

I'm not sure how the shutter fires on this one, maybe cable-release only. It does look as if there is a lever on the camera body, but not on the lens.

So it's a funny mix - an early frame counter (with a cunning choice of two frame sizes), built in mask (surely a better idea than Ikonta's always-getting-lost one), simple but novel viewfinder mask, old fashioned dial-set shutter and easy to read DoF gauge apparently coupled to a focusing lever.

I wonder why Ensign didn't get the same reputation as the German makers, with all these innovations.


PostPosted: Sat Dec 26, 2009 12:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The better known version of this camera is the Autorange with coupled rangefinder and the most desirable version has Tessar lens. The radial focussing mechanism is far from being an Ensign innovation, it was used many years before in the Newman & Guardia Sibyl but the Ensign was not as well implemented.


PostPosted: Sat Dec 26, 2009 4:36 pm    Post subject: Re: Strange hybrid folder Reply with quote

PaulC wrote:


I wonder why Ensign didn't get the same reputation as the German makers, with all these innovations.


There's no simple answer to that one ... rather a complex family of reasons that date back to the early 1900s and have as much to do with politics and economics as with optical and mechanical engineering technologies. But, in a highly condensed fashion, we can say that:
1 - the UK photo industry never really competed internationally outside the British Empire and so failed to be known in Europe and the USA.
2 - it rather "shot itself in the foot" in efforts to gain government financial support for developing a higher education structure modelled on German lines. The UK industry deliberately presented to itself to politicians as relatively backward and disadvantaged from around 1908 to the early 1920s, an inaccurate image which was picked up by the popular press and which hampered credibility.
3 - it hid behind the idea of tarrif protection in the 1930s and failed to make the essential investment in radically new products, even when the money was available.
4 - it suffered from very unfavourable exchange rates in the 1930s, along with German policies which effectively subsidized exports and made them extremely competitive, even where heavy import duties were levied.
5 - even where UK cameras were essentially as good as their German rivals (and there were a few) the long established, though far from universally justified, perception of German superiority worked against firms like Ensign.

Innovations in the UK cameras industry were relatively few, and I believe most of its shortcomings were its own fault and could have been avoided. Post WWII there was, in my opinion, even less innovation which resulted in its eventual total demise.


PostPosted: Sat Dec 26, 2009 9:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's an interesting analysis. Thanks, Stephen.


PostPosted: Sat Dec 26, 2009 11:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

PaulC wrote:
That's an interesting analysis. Thanks, Stephen.


Glad you didn't fall asleep reading it! Not everyone shares my interest in the business history of the UK photo-optical industries, I'm afraid. Crying or Very sad


PostPosted: Sun Dec 27, 2009 5:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I see that the Autorange must be very sought-after indeed, with prices well above those of a 20MP digital camera http://cgi.ebay.com/Ensign-Autorange-820-w-Apo-Ross-Xpres-105mm-f3-8-6x9_W0QQitemZ130354525180QQcmdZViewItemQQptZFilm_Cameras?hash=item1e59bc33fc

Shocked Shocked Shocked

Rolling Eyes

That one is listed as the rarest of the ensigns but at a tenth of the price that guy is asking.


PostPosted: Mon Dec 28, 2009 1:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

PaulC wrote:
I see that the Autorange must be very sought-after indeed, with prices well above those of a 20MP digital camera http://cgi.ebay.com/Ensign-Autorange-820-w-Apo-Ross-Xpres-105mm-f3-8-6x9_W0QQitemZ130354525180QQcmdZViewItemQQptZFilm_Cameras?hash=item1e59bc33fc

Shocked Shocked Shocked

Rolling Eyes

That one is listed as the rarest of the ensigns but at a tenth of the price that guy is asking.

I agree, what a greedy git.


PostPosted: Mon Dec 28, 2009 1:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I see he lists it with "Apo Xpres" lens ... was there an Apo Xpres????


PostPosted: Thu Dec 31, 2009 6:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've got the camera now. It's not bad but compared with German craftsmanship it does have a sort of "hammered together in the back of the shed" feel to it. Solid, functional but less than elegant. It does feel as if it would make a good offensive weapon, though.

The Ilex dial shutter works and seems to be within the manufacturer's accepted tolerances (which means wildly inaccurate, as a stop out was apparently within the target range) in fact, it might even be accurate (it is at B and T, anyway Wink ) But this shutter is meant to be a disaster that never, ever works; so I guess I have been lucky. It isn't listed anywhere as being standard and seems to be from the 20s, 10 years earlier than the camera itself.


PostPosted: Thu Dec 31, 2009 8:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Paul - interesting that it's got an Ilex shutter. I think that's a USA-made one and unusual on an Ensign camera. Have you any more info on it?


PostPosted: Thu Dec 31, 2009 9:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've just been emailing ensign-demon.co.uk and he tells me that he has come across several 220s with the Ilex but mine is unusual because it is a five-speed, rather than three-speed. I think it must be right from the start of the run in ?1937. Later they made some of them with an on-board shutter button for the Prontor or Compur shutters. My lens number and my serial number both seem to be early, too.