Antique & Vintage Photographic Equipment

Sinclair Traveller Rollfilm Camera

Sinclair & Company Ltd, [James A]

Name: Sinclair Traveller Rollfilm Camera
Type: Hand & Stand
Manufacturer: James A. Sinclair & Co. Ltd
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Construction: An unusual horizontal format leather covered wooden box camera for rollfilm (certainly unusual for a Sinclair). The back slides out to reveal the film compartment. The front face is hinged on the lower edge and opens to reveal the lens / shutter. Two brilliant view-finders. Two 'T' spirit levels, one on each face adjacent to the viewfinders.
Production Period: 1909 - 1925

The Sinclair Traveller Rollfilm camera uses the same film as the popular No 3 Folding Pocket Kodak for pictures of plate size. The lens is fixed focus. The shutter can be fired from a trigger on the outside of the camera, although the front drops to allow access (to set the speed or aperture).

Known examples show variations in detail and all differ from the line drawing shown in advertisements that show an integrated rollfilm back - as perhaps used for the prototype? Refer to the description below.

Model / Variant: Early model with removable lens board
Plate / Film Size: 118 rollfilm (for pictures 4 x 3")
Lens: Ross Goerz patent, F90mm, f/6.8 (serial 6988)
Shutter: Bausch & Lomb Automat 1 - 1/100, B, T
Movements: None, although according to the 1909 advert a version with rising front was available.
Dimensions (w x h x l): 22 x 12.8 x 13.7cm (8⅝ x 5 x 5⅜")
Date of this Example: c1909
Serial Number: Number 3 stamped into inside of rear panel and on body above film gate, although this may well be an assembly number.
Availability:
  • Common [ ]
  • Uncommon [ ]
  • Hard to Find [ ]
  • Scarce [x]
Inventory Number: 550

<Photographs to be added>

Description

The Sinclair Traveller Rollfilm Camera is a basic box camera in landscape orientation that takes 118 film (as used for the No 3 FPK). The only adverts that appear for this camera differ in a number of details from this example (and any other known examples such as that shown on the Early Photography web site and the one sold by Christies from the Jim Barron collection). The adverts (such as that in the Sinclair Handbook) show the basic box form but with a No 3 FPK body mounted on the back to hold the rollfilm. Known examples have the film loaded in a conventional manner in the rear of the box. In fact this is not such an unusual idea - the Wizard Duplex No 2 by Manhattan Optical uses such a unit identified as a "Roll Holder for No 3 Folding Pocket Kodak Film".

Advert fo Sinclair Traveller Rollfilm Camera

The advert at left is taken from the Sinclair Handbook of Photography, dating to 1909. The line drawing quite clearly shows the rollfilm back resembling the body of a No 3 Folding Pocket Kodak. Adverts in the BJPA for 1909 through to 1914 (when the BJPA was significantly reduced as a consequence of the outbreak of war) still show this same pattern.

Click on the thumbnail to open a larger version.

The text in the advert certainly describes it in a way that is consistent with the drawing. It is not known whether any examples were actually made and sold to this actual pattern. It is possible that the drawing in the advert is a pre-production illustration of what the camera was expected to look like. The camera is quite scarce in any format!

This example of the Traveller Rollfilm Camera came from the sale of Eaton Lothrop's collection of cameras that took place in the US at the end of June 2010. He wrote an article about the Sinclair Traveller Rollfilm Camera in Photographica World Issue 80, with photos showing this very camera. The camera was in Eaton's collection for nearly 50 years as his own label shows that he acquired it in August 1963. In the article, dated March 1997, he states "It was over thirty years ago, in those early collecting days, that I purchased a box camera that was very unusual and, this fascinating to me - one that I still find to be very interesting and one of my favourites."

In the article, Eaton argues that this camera is an early model, perhaps dating to 1909 or so as he had access to information about another example of a slightly different pattern, not least as it was fitted with a NS Perfect shutter that was fixed directly to the camera body (not on a removable panel) and evidence that Eaton was able to gather suggested that this shutter did not become available until sometime during the years of the First World War. An example of the later pattern is shown in the Christies catalogue for the sale of Jim Barron's wonderful collection.

The camera is in very good condition, but has two minor faults: the time control piston is missing on the shutter and the front panel is distorted at one end, probably having been pushed out of shape over the last century by the strength of the pressure spring behind it.

It seems unlikely that this camera would have been particularly successful, given its limited features and relatively high price (10 in 1909 as opposed to under 4 for a No 3 Folding Pocket Kodak).

The 1909 advert shows that as an option a double rising front version could be made to order, although no example has been seen to date.

Notes

The Sinclair Traveller Rollfilm camera should not be confused with the very different Traveller Una, a late variant of the Una camera with a case built of Duralumin (an alloy of aluminium).

This is an interesting camera in its own right, but I must confess that I bought this particular example as much for the fact that it came from Eaton's own collection as out of interest in the item itself.

Eaton Lothrop was a great collector who published a lot of material based upon his own original research. He was also a great friend to many collectors and was always willing to share his knowledge and insight with others. I was lucky enough to meet and chat with him at two successive Photographica meetings in London when he travelled over, and also communicated with him over several years by email about various cameras. He is greatly missed by many. I am glad to have this camera as a reminder of him; I have retained his original labelling together with the auction label and will pass it on with these still attached when the time comes for this camera to pass on to another generation of collectors so that its provenance is not forgotten.