Antique & Vintage Photographic Equipment

Facile Detective Camera

Fallowfield, J

Name: Facile Detective Camera
Type: Detective Camera
Manufacturer: Fallowfield, J
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Construction: Large mahogany magazine plate camera, which incorporates a plate changer mechanism consisting of two boxes that move in opposite directions - one in the top half (above the focal plane) and one below. The lower box fills with plates as the upper one empties.
Production Period: Unknown

 

Plate / Film Size: plate 
Lens: Rapid Rectilinear (unmarked), f8 (wheel stops: f8, f11, f16, f22)
Shutter: Sector, not self-capping, hand operated blade to cut off light while setting shutter (activated by a pull rod on the side of the camera)
Movements: None
Dimensions (w x h x l):  
Date of this Example: c1890
Serial Number: 97 stamped onto the inner face of each of the main panels.
Availability:
  • Common [ ]
  • Uncommon [ ]
  • Hard to Find [x]
  • Scarce [ ]
Inventory Number: 558

<Photographs to be added>

Description

The Facile Detective Camera is a large mahogany box magazine camera, which incorporates a plate changer mechanism consisting of two boxes that move in opposite directions; one in the top half (above the focal plane) and one below. The lower box fills with plates as the upper one empties. The design is based on Miall's patent 4181 of 1889. It has an exposure counter on the side above the control knob.

The camera carries an identifying label on the top face FALLOWFIELD'S / "FACILE" / MIALL'S PATENT 4181.

The camera still has 5 plate holders, each marked "Miall's Perfected Sheaths, Patent".

According to an advert shown on Rob Niederman's site, the Facile was sold with either a Rapid Landscape Lens or a Rapid Rectilinear, the latter being listed as having 4 rotating stops so presumably that is the lens fitted in this example.

The simple sector shutter is activated by pushing one of two metal pins on the side of the camera. Shutter speeds varied depending on how fast the pins were depressed. Apparently, Fallowfield advertised that speeds up to 1/50th of a second could be attained.

I had struggled initially to sort out the workings of the platechanger. I thought it had somehow ceased up, either through lack of use or some form of abuse in its past history. Just how hard is it necessary to turn the knob on the side to make the mechanism move? The knob is fixed to a pinion within and engages with a rack built into the base of the top plate box and the top of the lower unit - or so it seems. Having explored further, with all the covers off, I was finally able to ease the two boxes to travel as the knob was turned and with a little gentle working, it now shifts through most of its travel. I don't intend to force it, as I dare say the wood has swollen and shifted a little over the years.

This example does not have the in-built cover over the lens and has a single viewfinder. It has a serial (?) of 97 stamped into each of the main panels. The top panels are marked with an additional 'X', presumably to prevent top and bottom panels being interchanged. This low serial together with the lack of the protective cover for the lens indicates that this is an early example.

Notes

In comparing this camera with other examples on the internet, I fell across the iGavel listing of an example in the auction of the late Eaton Lothrop Jr's collection and - low and behold - it matches! I was delighted to discover that I had acquired, albeit indirectly, another item from Eaton's camera collection.