NO. 10 BELL PANORAMA AND PANEL CAMERA
Bell Camera Company, Grinnell, Iowa 1916-1918
The No. 10 Bell Panorama and Panel Camera was the Bell Camera Company's last model, following the original Bell's Straight Working Panorama Camera of 1908 and the Improved Bell Panorama and Panel Camera of 1912.
All three cameras were designed by Issac A. Bell of Cedar Rapids, Iowa (later Ottumwa, Iowa and Chicago, Illinois) under Patent No. 885,010 dated April 21, 1908 and No. 999,949 dated August 8, 1911. Reference to these patents are found stamped on the rear panel door's interior. Bell also held at least two other photographic patents for a convertible tripod and a developing tank.
The No. 10 Bell Panorama and Panel Camera was a smaller version of the Improved Bell Panorama and Panel, using #118 film instead of the #122 film to produce either 3-1/4 x 4-1/4 exposures or 3-1/4 x 8-1/2 exposures in the panoramic mode. All of Bell's models including this No.10 will be found with two film exposure windows to facilitate the use of either standard or panoramic formats.
Bell's Straight Working Panorama Camera, the Improved Bell Panorama and Panel Camera and the No. 10 Panorama and Panel Camera, were all equipped with internal baffles on each side of the camera. Via external levers mounted outside at each end, the baffles could be deployed for maximum exposure within the confines of the bellows, or rotated within to produce a smaller format.
Although their exteriors could be confused with the likes of a Kodak Folding Pocket Brownie, Blair Folding Hawk-Eye or any number of horizontal-style folding roll film cameras of the period, they are instantly recognizable by the combination of their wider bodies coupled with a single lens, baffle levers and nickel-plated lens standards. The example shown here is equipped with a Victo Lens marked "Bell Camera Co.". Although the Improved Bell Panorama and Panel Camera has a bed-mounted viewfinder, there are no holes on this example's bed or other hardware, to indicate a viewfinder had ever been mounted.
Bell's original Straight Working Panorama Camera is seen very infrequently. Although being the last of the line, and perhaps not as significant to most collectors as the first model, both the Improved Bell Panorama and Panel Camera and the No. 10 Panorama and Panel Camera are almost never seen. Relatively little information exists for Bell's entire line, and most collectors are unaware of the existence of these last models.
In the collecting world, rarity does not always equate to dollar value or desirability, and that's probably the case here. But by the numbers, relatively few Improved Bell/No. 10 Panorama and Panel Cameras have survived. You'll probably run across many Bell Straight Working Panorama Cameras, long before you'll find one of these.