Antique & Vintage Photographic Equipment

The Palko Camera

Palko Inc.

Name: The Palko Camera
Type: Folding Camera
Manufacturer: Palko Inc.
Country of Origin: US
Construction: Externally the camera is structured much as any other conventional rollfilm camera. However the loading mechanism is entirely unique (refer to main text).
Production Period: 1918 - 1935 (unconfirmed)


Plate / Film Size: Postcard size rollfilm (but adjustable - see text)
Lens: Bausch & Lomb Tessar Series 1c f4.5 (3236830)
Shutter: Ilex Acme shutter (1 - 1/300)
Movements: TBC
Dimensions (w x h x l):  
Date of this Example: c1920
Serial Number: Serial number 10259
  • Common [ ]
  • Uncommon [ ]
  • Hard to Find [x]
  • Scarce [ ]
Inventory Number: 501

<Photographs to be added>


The Palko Camera is a large postcard sized folding camera of relatively conventional format (externally at least), but with a very unusual film loading mechanism. This also allows focussing by ground glass screen, but this is not a combination camera - it was intended for rollfilm, although McKeown states that a number of different backs were available. This probably refers to the fact that a version was advertised that did not include the facility to focus on ground glass screen (refer to the BJPA advert for 1919 below).

The film is held in two chambers in the back of the camera. When focussing, both chambers are held in the bottom section of the camera, side by side. (Note the fact that the camera is asymmetric). When in this position, a spring loaded ground glass screen moves into the focal plane, which can be viewed through a flap in the camera back. When ready to expose, the user then pulls up a rod; this separates the two spools and brings a length of unexposed film into the film plane. The focussing screen moves back in order to allow this to happen. After the shot had been taken, the rod was pushed back down again, causing the two film chambers to once move together and, in so doing, moving the exposed film onto the take-up spool.

Another unusual feature is that the camera is able to take three different sizes of exposure. It uses post card size rollfilm. but can be set to take the picture at full size, ½ or ⅓ size. The user sets the frame size required on a dial, which then controls the travel of the film chambers and thereby the amount of film pulled out for exposure.

This example of the Palko camera is clearly marked by name on the lens baseboard, on the back and on a name plate above the bellows and was produced by Palko Inc. However Coe in Cameras from Daguerreotypes to Instant Pictures [3], describes the camera as being patented by H.A. Gill in England in 1918. The camera is referred to in the book as the "Palco" based on the name of Gill's company (the International Patent Licensing Company).

McKeown lists the camera under Cruvers-Peters Co. Inc, who later became Palko Inc and states that it was based upon a 1912 patent of W.A. Peters. He describes it being produced in 1918 for Government use.

The camera is advertised in the 1919 BJPA under the name Cruvers-Peters company as the PALKO, curiously showing only US addressed and listing prices in dollars. It states in the advert that "Patents Pending in the U.S.". The advert identifies four different versions of the Palko camera. The example with RR lens and Ilex Universal shutter is priced at $45. There are then two versions with improved lens and shutter combinations: a C.P Anastgmat f7.5 lens at $55 and then a faster f6.3 Anastigmat in an Ilex Acme shutter at $80. The cheapest version at $35 has the RR lens and Ilex shutter, but no ground glass focussing.

Advertising suggests that the camera was available until about 1930. It has been suggested that the stock may have sold slowly initially and may even have been put to one side to be sold later. A US advert dating to 1933 relates to sales of the camera, where both the company and camera name are shown as "PAL KO" (note the space). The photocopied instructions adopt this same naming convention.

The later advertising shows the use of improved lenses and shutters such as the Ilex Acme and Tessar lens found on this example.

This particular example of the Palko camera is in very good condition. The only obvious sign of wear is some loss of nickel plate on the fixing at one end of the carry handle.


The story behind this camera is a little confusing. The American collector I bought the camera from explained the history as follows, based on his own research:-

"The Palco as patented by Gill (1918) in the UK was patented by W.A. Peters in the US in 1912, so I suspect that they were both working for an International Patent Licensing Corp. that did this kind of thing, but I could not uncover the 1912 patent McKeown refers to. However in looking, WA Peters seems to have been quite prolific, and had many patents. In any event, the Gill Camera is the Peters Camera except for the shutter. The Gill camera had a dial-set Compur, and the Peters had an Ilex Acme shutter. A sidelight here is that Ilex in Rochester held the patent rights to the Compur, so was collecting royalties on all dial-sets sold. Peters seems to have formed a partnership with Cruvers to manufacture the camera in Chicago (I don't know if any were made in the UK), but I question McKeown's statement that the US Palkos were sold to the government here, because gov't cameras are usually finished in leathers with the color of the using agency, and all known Palkos are in black. As for known quantity, about ten years ago, the Chicago Society ran a nationwide survey of Palkos, and I remember maybe ten or twelve being reported, all with serial numbers between 10,000 and 10,300, so the numbering probably started with 10,000. This one has Serial Number 10,259."

If you have an example of the Palco / Palko / PAL KO camera, I would be interested to hear from you with information about the serial, name, lens / shutter and any other relevant information you may have.