American Cameras Step Out

For the first time in more than four years new cameras are beginning to appear in the market. And almost without exception, the best of them are “Made In America.” World War II has given an impetus to a trend that began 20 years ago. No longer will photographers look abroad for the finest cameras and lenses. American manufacturers have not only equaled traditionally fine European equipment; in several ways they have surpassed it.

Outstanding among the new reflexes is the new Ansco luxury model, due shortly on the market. It’s a twin lens job, takes a dozen 2 ¼ x 2 ¼ negatives on 120 (B2) roll film. The taking lens is a coated f/3.5 Wollensak anastigmat with a focal length of 83 mm., and the cock-and-release-type shutter has speeds ranging from one-half to 1/400 second. The set and release controls are on the sides of the lens panel, and the shutter-speed markings can be read when the camera is in operating position. Other features are an all-metal body, automatic film transport, double-exposure prevention device, and eye-level optical view finder to supplement the ground glass.

American Cameras Step Out Pop Sci June 1946

Howe, Hartley E. “American Cameras Step Out.” Popular Science Monthly June 1946: 132–133. Print.

The New Ansco Automatic Reflex

By Dave MacFie

During the last decade the twin-lens reflex type of camera has skyrocketed in popularity with amateur and professional photographers alike. This has been due not only to the quality of pictures it produces, but also to the general excellence of design and construction of the original “Rollei” models, along with other quality imported cameras.

Foreign cameras, however, are not so plentiful as they once were, and it is doubtful if they will ever again be available in pre-war quantities at pre-war prices. Of the several American camera manufacturers who have designed twin-lens reflex cameras to fill the needs of amateur and professional photographers, Ansco has produced the most ambitious model to date.

FULL NEGATIVE-SIZE Contact prints made from two different cameras. Left, a print from a reflex camera using a 75mm lens; right, a print from the Ansco Reflex 83mm lens. Note the slightly larger image size produced by the longer focal length lens.

The Ansco Reflex is a precision-built twin-lens reflex camera which takes twelve exposures 2¼x2¼” square on a roll of 120 film. With a chrome-satin on all metal parts and the body covered with black morocco grain leather, it is an attractive, compact camera measuring 3¼ x 4¼ by 5¾” in size. Completely assembled, its weight is 2 pounds, 12 ounces. (As compared with the average Rolleiflex, Ikoflex, etc., the Ansco Reflex is slightly larger and weighs 8 to 10 ounces more. — Ed.)

In addition to the usual advantage offered by reflex cameras — namely, ground glass focusing with all images appearing right-side-up the same size they will be in the negative, the Ansco Reflex features an automatic film transport and a device designed to prevent accidental double exposure. All controls and settings are visible from the normal picture-taking position so that shutter speed, aperture setting, and the focus can be checked without shifting the camera.

Structural Features

Six precision aluminum alloy castings form a durable body for the Ansco Automatic Reflex camera.

Eight non-shattering aluminum alloy castings form the basis for the Ansco Reflex Camera. These parts have been cast with such precision that they will remain assembled together even without using means of joining them.

A loose, wobbly lens panel has been one of the chief mechanical faults to develop in some types of reflex cameras. To insure the Ansco Reflex lens panel retaining its original alignment over a period of years, a precision-ground slider principle has been incorporated. The panel is suspended by four self-lubricating grooves, two on each side, and driven simultaneously by cams on both sides. A firm, four-point suspension assembly, and the elimination of torque, help make this type of mechanism resistant to wear. Although the cam and precision slide principle is more expensive than the rack-and-pinion mechanism, more commonly used, it is believed by the Ansco people that the advantages gained are worth the extra expense.

body casting
Body castings are held to such close tolerances that they remain intact when assembled even before permanent joining.

Gears and other moving parts in the camera are machine-cut to exact dimensions instead of being turned out on punch presses. Parts exposed to heavier strains and wear are hardened so that accuracy of all assemblies will be maintained. Bronze bearings have also been used wherever necessary to heighten the wearing qualities. Don’t strain your eyes looking for these bronze bearings because they are the proverbial “no see-’ums” — but they’ve been pressed into the aluminum alloy at strategic points to extend the life and dependability of the camera.

focus gear
Torque and wear are minimized by means of precision cams on the focusing shaft which serve to drive the lens panel from both sides.

Another small but important feature lies in the safety catch locks on the spool stud supports. These locks make certain that the photographer cannot inadvertently disengage the spool from its supports while the camera back is closed. Since these locks are automatically released when the camera back is opened no attention need be given to them.

The Lens

Optical elements of the best quality have been used, and the lenses have been coated to reduce flare and internal reflections. A precise set-and-release shutter gives accurately measured speeds ranging from 1 second to 1/400 sec.

The taking lens is a coated Ansco f:3.5 Anastigmat, 83mm in focal length. An 83mm lens does not produce an abnormally shallow depth of field, yet it gives good coverage over the whole negative area right up to the corners. This is of particular interest to photographers who know the importance of getting top-quality over-all color transparencies.

The matched finder lens is an f:3.2 designed to provide greater brilliance of the reflected images on the ground glass focusing screen. There is further significance to the wider aperture of the finder lens than increased brightness of the ground glass; it also gives photographers a slight leeway for focusing errors, even at maximum aperture. lf focusing is accurate at f:3.2, it stands to reason that it will be correct for the taking lens, even when it is set at f:3.5. Both lenses are, of course, ground to exact formula and fully tested both before and after mounting. The entire lens assembly moves smoothly forward and back to take full advantage exact lens formula.

The taking lens is 33mm in diameter. Thus, any suitable accessories which this size of mount (such as Series VI adapter rings) may be used although accessories especially designed for the Ansco Reflex will soon be available.

The Automatic Film Advance

Four self-lubricating slides insure smooth operation of the lens panel and permanent alignment of the assembly.

The automatic film advance is not coupled with the shutter cocking mechanism. Since it is a habit with most photographers to advance the film immediately following each exposure, the shutter springs would be held constantly under stress (save during the short intervals between tripping the shutter and advancing the film) if the Reflex film advance and shutter-cocking mechanisms were coupled to operate simultaneously. Placing the delicate shutter springs under prolonged tension has been avoided in order to make certain that the life and accuracy of the shutter will not be impaired.

Synchronization for Flash

lens carrier
Flash synchronization is made easy by the direct drive shaft from cable release socket to the shutter trigger.

Synchronization for flash photography presents no problem. The cable release socket at the top of the lens panel is connected by a direct drive shaft to the trigger level within the shutter. There is only one straight shaft with no linkages to complicate synchronization. Most standard types of flash guns, including high-speed electronic flash units as well as multi-flash, may be used on the new Reflex.

Operating Controls

The shutter speed is selected by rotating the barrel. This, in turn, rotates the mount of the finder lens so that the shutter speed being used automatically appears engraved on the top side. The aperture is set by moving a small lever at the bottom of the taking lens opposite the appropriate “f” number. An endless metal band under spring causes the selected aperture to appear in a small window located on top of the lens panel. As mentioned before, all adjustments are visible from the overhead view normally used in operating a reflex camera.

load film
Loading the camera by carrying the leader from the spool in the lower chamber to the take-up spool in the upper chamber.

The Ansco Reflex can be loaded quickly. The camera back opens easily by pressing the two release buttons which are located near the top of the camera back. As the back opens, the safety catch locks on the spool supports are released.

set counter
With the back closed, the fresh film is wound by crank on the take-up spool until number “1” appears in the window in the “peep hole” opening. Then the exposure counter is turned to number “1” as shown above and no further attention need be paid it.

“Bug” Hunting on the Ansco Reflex

Minicam’s Editors had the opportunity of testing one of the first Ansco Reflex cameras the assembly line. Each editor made individual tests and listed only his adverse criticisms of the camera. These criticisms were later correlated into questions and presented to Ansco’s Amateur Camera Department at Binghamton, N. Y. for answering.

The sole purpose in raising these questions was to Minicam readers a more complete picture of the Ansco Reflex. Minor adverse criticisms notwithstanding, the Editors are of the unanimous opinion that the Ansco Reflex is a excellent precision instrument.

Q. The Ansco Reflex has provisions for Bulb exposure, but no Time exposure. Why?
A. Time exposures could not be operated with the presently designed double exposure prevention device. For this reason, no time exposure appears on the shutter. It is, of course, possible to make time exposures with the time-bulb cable release that employs a knurled locking feature for time exposures.

Q. Why must two levers be used each time an exposure is made — one lever to cock the shutter, another to release it? Why not use one lever for both operations like some of the other reflex cameras incorporate?
A. This cannot be done without a radical redesign of the shutter. The single lever operation cannot be directly applied where means of double exposure prevention are supplied.

Q. The camera is covered with protruding knobs and is somewhat difficult to place in an accessories kit for this reason. Couldn’t some of these ratchets and knobs be fitted more closely to the camera body?
A. The advance ratchet and double exposure release are now placed so close to the body that they will rub the leather if operated carelessly. It should be noted that the focusing knob on the side of the camera can be removed and replaced with a large, flatheaded screw which we will supply. Focusing would then be done by rotating the two milled knobs at the front.

Q. Why are the lens gears exposed so openly? Isn’t this an invitation to grit and dust gathering?
A. This is a question of design policy. It should be noted that a number of other popular cameras incorporate open gearing. Open gears can be observed and will be cleaned oftener than those which are enclosed. It is impossible to make such entirely dust-proof.

Q. Are all the bugs ironed out of the double exposure release lever?
A. Through improper manipulation it is possible to “lock” any of the more elaborate cameras on the market today. The Ansco Reflex is no exception to this. A customer using this type of camera should thoroughly familiarize himself with the instruction manual and routine before operating the camera. We supply each camera with a dummy roll of film to facilitate this requirement.

(The double-exposure release seems to be extremely delicate. For us, with several different cameras, the works were suddenly “locked” for no reason we could fathom. Although clicking the double-exposure release instantly restored these cameras to normal operation, we felt that the double-exposure release was a little trick at times.-Ed.)

Q. Why doesn’t the center panel of the hood flip up out of the way for action shots sighted by eye? The brilliant view-finder, of course, is provided for this purpose, but isn’t it something more or less of an afterthought gadget?

A. It would have been much simpler and somewhat cheaper to supply a fame type finder, such as was suggested. The optical view finder, as furnished on the Ansco Reflex, is more expensive to produce and was definitely not provided as an afterthought. Its inclusion was the result of an extensive survey of qualified camera owners, the majority of whom requested the inclusion of this type of direct view finder.

Q. In focusing, the speed wheels have a desirable tension as the lens is racked away from the camera body. But there is little or no tension (drag) when the rack is moved back towards the camera body. What is the advantage of the free backward movement.

A. The model commented upon is obviously not in correct working order in this respect. There is tension on the lens rack movement at all times.

(Tests on later models substantiates this answer. — Ed.)

Although some critics have objected to the size and weight of the Ansco Reflex, Minicam’s Editors did not find these points objectionable, due, perhaps, to the fact that the camera is extremely well balanced.

MacFie, Davie. “The New Ansco Automatic Reflex.” Minicam Photography Feb. 1948: 30-35-137. Print.

How to Use a Reflex Camera

By Edward F. Brewer
Ansco, Binghamton, New York

numbered identifierThe general rules for good reflex camera use and operation, as well as construction features unique to cameras of this type, are outlined in relation to the only American-made automatic reflex camera.

A good camera is simply a good tool. With it you make pictures and if it is a precision instrument you make them easily, limited only to your ability. Setting lens apertures and shutter speeds, focusing, composing the picture and advancing the film, all become smooth, simple automatic operations.

The Ansco Automatic Reflex has been designed and built to meet these ideals of a good tool; it is a precision photographic instrument.

finder viewOptical elements of the highest quality are used in the lenses. The taking lens of the Ansco Reflex is an f/3.5 coated Ansco anastigmat; the finder lens is a matched f/3.2 lens which is also coated. Both of these lenses are thoroughly tested before and after mounting. They are excellent for both black and white work and the exacting demands of color photography.

The shutter is a precision set-and-release type which gives accurately measured exposures from one full second to 1/400 and Bulb. The shutter cable release socket placed on the top of the lens panel is connected by direct drive to the trigger lever within the shutter. Internal flash synchronization enables exposures with SM and SF type lamps as well as the standard wire-filled lamps.

The front lens panel is focused by rotating the knurled knob at the left side of the camera or by rotating one of the fingertip focusing wheels. These are located at each side of the front lens panel for easy fingertip focusing with either one or both hands. Conventional focusing is accomplished by examining the image on the ground glass screen or by using the footage scale which is adjacent to the focusing knob. The ground glass screen is protected from stray light by a self-erecting hood which has a built-in magnifier for hairline focusing. In addition to the full negative size focusing screen, the front and back panels of the hood contain a high quality, eye level view finder. Convenience in operation is assured since the hood may be opened or closed by the pressure of a single finger at one point.

cutawayOne of the most important features of the Reflex is its automatic film transport mechanism. The mechanism is coupled with an exposure counter plus positive double exposure prevention. A half turn of the folding crank on the right side of the camera advances the film exactly one frame, at the same time releasing the double exposure prevention device.

As the film is advanced, an automatic exposure counter brings the number of the coming exposure into view under a transparent plastic plate next to the film advance crank. All mechanism is under cover and sealed off from the damaging effects of dust and grit.

lens collimationOne of the outstanding features of the camera lies in a small lever on the right side of the camera adjacent to the exposure counter. If multiple exposures are desired on one frame, simply push this small lever to release the double exposure prevention device.

The final test of any camera, of course, is its actual performance when taking pictures. A convenience that is quickly noticed when you hold the Ansco Reflex in the conventional picture taking position is that all the controls are visible. The shutter speed settings are engraved around the top of the taking lens mount while the lens aperture automatically appears in the small window at the top of the lens panel. This makes it easy for the photographer to focus, compose and check his shutter and aperture settings all without moving the camera from the normal operating position.

castingsThe convenience and simplicity of finding the subject, focusing, and composing the picture through the reflex finder will result in the camera’s being used in this fashion for most exposures. The eye level view finder, however, will be most convenient for photographing fast moving objects, making “rapid fire” shots, taking flash pictures, and for exposures when a higher viewpoint is desired.

When taking a picture with this view finder, the camera must first be focused by using either the ground glass or by estimating the footage and setting the indicator on the focusing knob. The f/3.5 Ansco Anastigmat lens has plenty of depth of field, and many photographers will take advantage of this fact when using the eye level view finder. For example, with the lens set at f/16, and the footage indicator at 15 feet, everything is in focus from 8 feet to 128 feet — an entirely acceptable range for a large majority of picture taking requirements. An engraved depth of field scale is an added picture-taking help.

focus gearThe two portrait lenses furnished in the accessories set extend the focusing range of the camera to considerably shorter distances than the basic limitation imposed by the structural size of the camera. With the Ansco Portrait Lens 1 objects as close as 20 1/2 inches can be brought into focus, and with the Ansco Portrait Lens 2 the working range is extended down to 13 1/2 inches. In using these portrait lenses the lens is placed in the adapter ring and slit inside the rim of the viewing lens mount. Focusing and composing can then be accomplished on the ground glass viewing lens; the portrait lens is removed from the viewing lens and slipped over the outside of the taking lens mount for the exposure.

A few words of warning are in order however, regarding the use of portrait lenses. First of all, shallow depth of field is inherent when working at short distances. This can be quickly seen when a portrait lens is placed over the viewing lens. Remember however, that the viewing lens is always wide open and this presents a narrower depth of field than the taking lens will give when stopped down to an appropriate smaller aperture. Correction for this lack of depth of field, of course, is obtained by stopping down the taking lens to the smallest possible aperture that is consistent with other requirements. In general, a range of f/11 to f/16 should be used with the Ansco Portrait Lens 1 and a range of f/16 to f/22 for the #2.

camera backRemember, also that the viewing lens and the taking lens are not in exactly the same position and that because of this the image formed by the taking lens is not exactly the same as that seen through the viewing lens. In taking pictures at distances of about 4 feet or more, this difference in parallax is so minute as to be of no importance. However, at extremely short range, its effect does become noticeable. For this reason, particularly, when working at extremely close range, pictures should be composed on the viewer ground glass so that the subject is close to the bottom of the picture. The taking lens being at a lower level than the viewing lens, will make up for this crowding at the bottom because of its lower position.

Brewer, Edward F. “How To Use a Reflex Camera.” U.S. Camera Aug. 1951: 71–72. Print.