THE FOLDING KAMARET 7x5
Blair Camera Company, Boston, Massachusetts for
European Blair Camera Company, Ltd., London 1894-1896?
Photos courtesy of Gerjo Quicken
Blair's Folding Kamaret 7x5 was introduced in early 1894, as the U.K. equivalent of Blair's "The 400" in the United States. Based on the "Made In America" stamping in the leather covering and the ivoroid focusing scales marked "Blair Camera Co., Boston, Mass., U.S.A.", the camera is believed to have been manufactured in the United States for marketing through Thomas H. Blair's newly formed European Blair Camera Company, Ltd., London. And unlike its American counterpart, it was also available in 5x7 (or 7x5 in European parlance). It's believed that Eastman's Flat Folding Kodak, also marketed exclusively in the U.K., was brought out to compete with the Folding Kamaret:
Flat Folding Kodak Folding Kamaret 7x5
The Folding Kamaret was announced in The Photogram, Volume 1, No. 1 for 1894, under their "Trade" section outlining the introduction of new products as seen in the excerpt below:
Excerpt from The Photogram, 1894
The Folding Kamaret 7x5 example shown here is equipped with what is thought to be Blair's Two-Way Shutter. This same shutter was also depicted in an engraving for Blair's U.K. version of the Folding Hawk-Eye:
Engraving from The Photogram, 1894, of Blair's Folding Hawk-Eye with a Blair Two-Way Shutter (believed)
Constructed from aluminum, the shutter is equipped with Gundlach's Rapid Rectigraphic Lens, indicated by the December 9, 1890 date found on the lens' outer rim. This date refers to Patent No. 442,251 granted to Ernst Gundlach of Rochester, New York for the lens' rapid rectilinear design, which corrected for and reduced spherical and chromatic aberration to an imperceptible minimum.
The shutter's "Two-Way" name is believed to be derived from its cycling action. Like those shutters found on Blair's Hawk-Eye (detective style) and Folding Hawk-Eye Cameras, this shutter's tension spring is moved in one direction, being placed in one of three notches that correspond to increasingly faster speeds as the tension increases. After the shutter is released and the blade has travelled in one direction, the tension spring is now moved in the opposite direction being set for the next exposure. Released again, the blade now travels back in the opposite direction. The shutter has a rotary aperture with five settings, adjusted from an opening on the shutter casing's rear.
Blair's Two-Way Shutter (believed)
It's interesting in that for the larger 7x5 format, Blair incorporated the Folding Hawk-Eye's (or very similar) lens standard as opposed to the box-style lens standard seen on Blair's "The 400". The nickel plating is also a total departure from the lacquered brass finishes seen on Blair's American cameras. It would be interesting to know if hardware on the 5x4 version of the Folding Kamaret was also nickel-finished, and what style of lens standard was used.
It hasn't been determined when production of the Folding Kamaret ceased, but Blair's "The 400" continued to be offered in the United States through at least 1896, and by 1898 no longer appeared in Blair's catalogues.
This is the only example of Blair's Folding Kamaret that I have ever seen, and so far, no catalogue references showing either the Folding Kamaret or Blair's Two-Way Shutter have been found. It stands to reason that being offered in the U.K., few if any would ever be seen here in the U.S. And, like Blair's "The 400", production was very low, and this is reflected in the probable few Folding Kamarets that may survive in the U.K. As Blair products from the 1890's go, both the camera and its shutter are among their rarest, most desirable and most difficult to acquire models.
My Sincere Thanks and Appreciation to Gerjo Quicken, for sharing this Folding Kamaret 7x5 (and Flat Folding Kodak!) from his collection, for allowing us to feature it here, and for his perspective on Blair's Two-Way Shutter and its operation.