Antique & Vintage Photographic Equipment

Night-Hawk Camera

Manhattan Optical Company

Name: Night-Hawk Camera
Type: Detective Camera
Manufacturer: Manhattan Optical Company
Country of Origin: US
Construction: Large oak box plate camera, of the type often referred to in contemporary advertising as a Detective camera. It is of relatively simple construction with simple butt joints rather than tongue and groove.
Production Period: Unknown
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Variant: Polished oak
Plate / Film Size: 4 x 5 plates
Lens: Rapid Achromatic
Shutter: String set  T & I
Movements: None
Dimensions (w x h x l):  
Date of this Example: c1895
Serial Number: "8 6 6" stamped into wood inside loading door, but in a scattered pattern so unclear if this was intended to be a serial.
  • Common [ ]
  • Uncommon [ ]
  • Hard to Find [ ]
  • Scarce [x]
Inventory Number: 468


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The Night-Hawk is a large plate camera in polished oak finish (rather than leather covered). This example is in very good condition. The string set shutter still operates well. The bodywork is in exceptional condition. The leather handle still intact although rather misshapen.

Unlike the Boston or Blair Hawk-Eye Detective cameras, this is of simple construction. No tongue & groove joints here - just simple butt joints that are prone to warping and separation. While there are some gaps, it is in far better condition than most that I have seen (which is only a few).

It came with the original ground glass screen and one dark slide. The rear door is also intact (has to be opened from inside).


This example of the Night-Hawk camera was bought from another collector in the US. He described its history as follows:

"Something about its ungainliness calls attention to it. When you walk into a room that houses a collection . . . your eye is immediately drawn to it.

I know the (now former) owner quite well. Every time I would walk into his collection room - that camera would visually jump out at me. Almost distracting how it stood out.

But still, it is an unusual and quite uncommon piece. They are rarely ever seen, and for whatever reason, in this country when found, they are usually in awful condition. That one is the best I've ever seen.