Antique & Vintage Photographic Equipment

The Phoenix Camera

Reynolds & Branson

Name: The Phoenix Camera
Manufacturer: Reynolds & Branson
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Construction: Mahogany & brass field camera using the Improved Kinnear pattern. Front standard fixed by through bolts to lock it to the brass rails on the baseboard. Fine dovetail joints and brass fittings. Dark red leather square cornered bellows.
Production Period:  


Plate / Film Size: ½ plate
Lens: Reynolds & Branson lens, unknown type, aperture control by waterhouse stops
Shutter: None
Movements: Rising front, swing and tilt built into the rear standard. Reversible back (portrait / landscape)
Dimensions (w x h x l): 21 x 21 x 7cms (closed)
Date of this Example: c1892 (see Notes)
Serial Number: No serial found (yet)
  • Common [ ]
  • Uncommon [ ]
  • Hard to Find [ ]
  • Scarce [x]
Inventory Number: 670


This is a very well made ½ plate field camera of conventional Improved Kinnear pattern. Focusing is by rack & pinion (straight cut), with the front standard locked in position by through bolts that pass through brass riders that sit within the track on the baseboard. The camera is of solid construction, with very fine dovetail joints on the rear standard.

An usual (though not unique) feature of this camera is that the rear standard can be detached and moved forward to an alternative position much closer to the front standard, presumably to make it suitable for use with wide angle lenses.

The lens mounting ring is fitted to a circular wooden mount. The lens itself is marked Reynolds & Branson / Leeds. It has a slot for waterhouse stops, which are still present with the camera, and provide an aperture range from f11 to f64. Reynolds & Branson are not listed in the [10] Lens Vade Mecum.

The camera carries a label on the rear standard below the ground glass screen identifying Reynolds & Branson by name, and lists their address as 14 Commercial St., Leeds.

The camera is equipped with a Thornton Pickard Snap Shot roller blind shutter, which still appears to be operational. The shutter fits to the front of the lens barrel once the wider front ring is removed.

The camera is complete with 3 numbered DDS that are likely to be original. The kit is stored in a brown canvas case whose green velvet lining is now in very poor condition.

The brasswork is in good order, although one of the locking screws on the swing/tilt mechanism is missing. The visible screw heads, such as those on the underside of the baseboard, are all aligned.

The camera has tapered thick red square section leather bellows (double extension), which are in very good condition.

The camera is fitted with a rising front, as well as having swing and tilt being built into the rear standard. It has a reversible back for portrait / landscape use. It is fitted with a tripod mount in the baseboard (no turntable).


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The camera is shown in a line drawing in the 1893 edition of the BJA (p 273) and it is a clear match with this camera. The camera in ½-plate size, with lens and 3 bookform DDS was advertised for a price of £4. I have yet to confirm when the camera was introduced, but I have assumed a date for this example of c1892 based on the BJA advert.