Antique & Vintage Photographic Equipment

Gem Poco Camera

Rochester Camera Company

Name: Gem Poco Camera
Type: Box Plate Camera
Manufacturer: Rochester Camera Company
Country of Origin: US
Construction: Box camera for single plates. The early version was produced in only one size for 3¼ x 4¼ plates and had a round viewfinder; this later changed to rectangular. In 1898 the slightly larger 4 x 5 size was introduced (as featured here).
Production Period: 1895 - 1899


Plate / Film Size: 4 x 5 plate
Lens: Gem lens
Shutter: Rochester Safety Shutter
Movements: None
Dimensions (w x h x l): 5½" x 7" x 8¼"
Date of this Example: c1898
Serial Number: None
  • Common [ ]
  • Uncommon [x]
  • Hard to Find [ ]
  • Scarce [ ]
Inventory Number: 541


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According to the seller "The Gem Poco was marketed for $5.00 in 1898 as an absolutely perfect fixed focus 4 x 5 camera after numerous experiments and consulting the most eminent opticians. The model featured fine Morocco grain leather, leather carry handle, two brilliant view finders, newly discovered fixed focus Gem lens, Rochester Safety Shutter for Time and Instantaneous exposures and a speed regulator."

Further he added "In 1895, the RCC Special Poco 4 x 5 box plate camera was introduced. In 1897, the Gem Poco in 3¼ x 4¼ picture size was added to the line up and the 4 x 5 Gem Poco model was introduced in the 1898 RCC catalog. By 1900, there were no box plate cameras listed in the now named Rochester Camera & Supply Co. catalog. Product rationalization had occurred as a result of the ROC, RCC, Monroe, Ray and Western Camera Co. consolidation in 1899 with the Western Cyclone with falling plates and the Cyclone Jr. and Cyclone Sr. plate cameras as the only box cameras remaining in the 1901 Premo/Poco Camera catalog."

The camera can carry up to three double plate holders or a Cartridge System roll-holder (as stated in the 1898 RCC catalogue). The fact that Cartridge System is capitalized and there is no roll-holder listed in the 1898 catalogue, led the seller to believe that the reference is to the recently introduced Kodak Cartridge Roll Holder.

The camera is in good condition with only minor leather wear. It is complete including original carry handle, view finders and one 4 X 5 wood double plate holder with dark slides marked Rochester Camera & Supply Co. Rochester, N.Y.

The Instant shutter setting works properly. The Timed shutter push bar opens the shutter correctly and the 'I' releases it but only partially. A little lubrication on the internal mechanism withn graphite might fix the partial closing. The shutter is set by turning the small brass knob on the front clockwise.

Included with the camera was a copy of the original 15 page instructions for using the Gem or Special Poco Cameras, produced by the Rochester Camera Co.


A web search on the Gem Poco revealed an entry in the catalogue for the 1898 Forty-Third Exhibition of the Royal Photographic Society, where the Gem Poco was shown by Thomas Illingworth & Co in ¼ plate size. Several other Poco cameras are also listed, which suggests that Illingworths were importing the cameras for sale in England at that time.

I have marked the camera as Uncommon. This is appropriate if you are able to search in the US market for the camera as I did; it is Hard to Find in Europe.