Antique & Vintage Photographic Equipment

Focal-Plane Automan Camera

Thornton-Pickard Manufacturing Company Ltd

Name: Focal Plane Automan but also referred to as Focal Plane Nimrod Automan
Type: Hand & Stand Camera
Manufacturer: Thornton-Pickard Manufacturing Company Ltd, Altringham
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Construction: Mahogany bodied, black leatherette covered hand and stand camera with red diagonal cut bellows and rack and pinion focusing. It has a self-erecting lens standard and an integrated Focal Plane shutter.
Production Period: 1907 - 1912


Plate / Film Size: 5 x 4 plate
Lens: Beck Symmetrical
Shutter: Thornton-Pickard Panoptic Shutter and integrated New Model Focal Plane shutter (speeds 1/25 to 1/1000)
Movements: Rising front. The back is not reversible on this model.
Dimensions (w x h x l):  
Date of this Example: c1909
Serial Number: '1459' marked on shutter face above name plate. No obvious serial number on the camera body
  • Common [ ]
  • Uncommon [ ]
  • Hard to Find [x]
  • Scarce [ ]
Inventory Number: 623


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The Focal Plane Automan is a Hand & Stand folding camera, in this case for 5 x 4 plate. The camera is named explicitly as the Focal-Plane "Automan" on a plate below the lens standard.

The original Focal-Plane Automan was introduced in the early 1900s in ¼ plate size with the 5 x 4 size appearing in 1903 according to Tom Holliday's self-published book on Thornton-Pickard Cameras & Equipment [9]. The original camera was effectively a Focal-Plane version of the Oxford Automan. An example can be seen on the Early Photography web site.

The Focal Plane Automan camera continued once the Nimrod was introduced as a replacement for the Oxford. Tom Holliday identifies the "Focal Plane Nimrod Automan" as being introduced in 1909, but the ¼ plate model was effectively a renamed version of the original Focal Plane Automan. However he then goes onto describe a number of differences to be found in the design of the 5 x 4 version of the Focal Plane Nimrod Automan, notably rack & pinion focusing and dual built in viewfinders, both of which are present on this example. "Nimrod" does not appear on the name plate on this example of the camera.

The advert in the 1909 BJPA identifies the camera with Nimrod in the name, but the specification and drawing match this camera. The controls for the focal plane shutter also match. The camera is described as having the "New Model Focal Plane Shutter".

This example of the camera is complete with 3 original DDS (not shown in photos) and ground glass viewing screen.


The photographer had the choice of using the focal plane shutter or the conventional Panoptic front shutter. It does not seem to be unusual for Hand & Stand cameras of this format to offer the user such choice. Another example can be seen in the Ernemann Heag VI.

McKeown [1] lists the Automan as a general title and then identifies two variants: Nimrod and Oxford, but without explicit mention of the focal plane version.

See also the pages on this site for the Nimrod Automan No 2 and the Tourist Automan camera, which is almost certainly a re-badged Nimrod Automan No 4.