Antique & Vintage Photographic Equipment

The Sandringham

May, Roberts & Company

Name: The Sandringham
>Type: Field Camera
Manufacturer: May, Roberts & Co
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Construction: Field camera of conventional construction of mahogany and brass. The lens standard fits to the front of the camera body by using a simple keyway slot. Double extension bellows with rack and pinion acting on inner frame.
Production Period: Unknown


Plate / Film Size: ¼ plate
Lens: Unmarked f/11
Shutter: Simple T & I shutter assembly (retro-)fitted to lens standard
Movements: Rising front
Dimensions (w x h x l):  
Date of this Example: c1905
Serial Number: No obvious serial on the main body of the camera aside of '18 M' stamped into underside of extending section at front.
  • Common [ ]
  • Uncommon [x]
  • Hard to Find [ ]
  • Scarce [ ]
Inventory Number: 326


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The Sandringham field camera by May, Roberts & Co is a conventional ¼ plate field camera, with a circular label on one side identifying it by name as 'The Sandringham Regd', which is listed in McKeown against May, Roberts & Co. Refer to Notes.

The Sandringham has a mahogany body, brass fittings (tarnished) and black leather chamfered bellows. This example has an unusual integrated lens / shutter assembly, which is in poor condition as the components are separating. The shutter does not work reliably on the instantaneous (I) setting, although there is no obvious internal damage. The problem is more to do with how tightly the whole unit fits together. There is some damage to the wooden lens standard as if 'doctored' to fit this shutter assembly.

The iris aperture assembly screws onto the front of the unmarked lens, which is within the shutter assembly.

The camera came with two DDS. The ground glass screen has been replaced as the original was missing.

The standard fastens to the main body by a simple keyway (see pictures), but is pivoted on two fixed side struts to allow the front to fold into the base. The base has a central hole to allow the lens to be retained on the body when folded. The base is fitted with a rotating turntable.

For what appears to be a relatively modest camera, it has quite a lot of movements. The inner frame is acted upon by double pinions allowing double extension on the bellows or shorter distances to allow the use of a wide angle lens. A rising front is provided on the lens standard and some tilt and swing can be achieved on the back. The ground glass screen can be fitted in one of two positions to support landscape and portrait use.


The maker's name does not appear on the camera. May, Roberts & Co sold cameras and other accessories under The Sandringham name and consequently the camera is attributed to them although it is not yet known whether they manufactured the cameras or bought them in.

May, Roberts & Co operated from premises at 9 & 10 Clerkenwell Road, although in 1904 they are also shown with an address in Dublin. The Photographic Dealer of 1903 states:

"Prominence is given to the firm's specialities such as the Sandringham outfits, but almost every make of apparatus is listed."

Further the Photographic Dealer of 1904 states:

"From this well-known firm of wholesale chemists we receive a copy of a sundries price list, in which a large section is devoted to photographic apparatus and accessories. [ ... ] The firm announce that they supply the photographic section separately for the use of the public, a copy of which can be had free on application."

Further evidence that they were selling direct to the public rather than just the trade comes from an advert found by a fellow collector in the Amateur Photographer for Aug 13 1907, which shows a Sandringham camera, though a larger and rather better quality model than this example.

If you have any further details about the company or their cameras, please contact me.