THE FOLDING PREMIER CAMERA
Rochester Optical Company, Rochester, New York 1892-1895
4X5 with wood-encased shutter
Rear compartment with four plate holders
5X7 with wood-encased shutter
4X5 extended body version, capable of holding six plate holders, instead of four
Rochester Optical's Folding Premier makes its first appearance in 1892. Its distinctive wood-encased, brass-banded shutter was only offered that year. The shutter could make six exposures without rewinding. Fitted with a wheel-stop, the camera in 4x5 retailed for $21 with its Regular lens. In addition to the Regular lens, the 4x5 was also available with an upgraded Rapid Rectilinear ($27), a Darlot Hemispherical ($35) or a Bausch & Lomb Universal ($38). 5x7 and 6-1/2 x 8-1/2 formats were also available (Regular lens or Rapid Rectilinear only on the 6-1/2 x 8-1/2).
In 1893, the Folding Premier was offered with Bausch & Lomb's Star Shutter, identical to the shutter on the example above which is marked "Bausch & Lomb Optical Co., Pat. Jan. 6, 1891".
4X5 with Improved Star Shutter
5X7 with Improved Star Shutter
By May, 1895, engravings in Rochester Optical's catalogue continued to depict the Folding Premier with the Star Shutter. However, the Improved Star Shutter, capable of either manual or pneumatic release was now standard equipment as shown on the two examples above. By 1895, the Folding Premier was no longer offered in 6-1/2 x 8-1/2 and after this year, the Folding Premier disappears from Rochester Optical Company's catalogues.
Like the Rochester, Henry Clay and Manhattan's Folding Night-Hawk cameras of the early 1890's, leather coverings are usually found in fair-to-poor condition. The 4x5 pictured at the very top has been re-leathered.
The Folding Premier is rather rare, and relatively few have surfaced over the years. Examples in 5x7 are significantly harder to find than 4x5's, and extended body versions are rare. I've never encountered a 6-1/2 x 8-1/2 and these are extremely rare. I've seen maybe ten examples of the Folding Premier over the past twenty-five years, six of them featured here from the collection.
Wood-encased shutter (1892 only)
Star Shutter (1893-1894) Improved Star Shutter (1895)