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  • 10 Expensive Cameras You've (Probably) Never Heard Of

    McKeown's Camera Guide Book

    We have a couple editions of the McKeown's Price Guide to Antique & Classic Cameras kicking around the store, and besides using it as a reference for our sales of used, antique and classic cameras, we also use this guide for sheer entertainment. That's right, we like to cuddle up with this 6+ lbs. book, have a cup of hot chocolate, and be humbled by the listings of all the cameras we never realized existed. On one recent session of R&R with McKeown's I was blown away by some of the prices for cameras I never knew existed. I thought it might be interesting to share those here:


    1. Air King Camera Radio. A camera and a radio, all-in-one! McKeown's estimates $250-350.

    Air King Camera Radio

    McKeown's description:
    The perfect marriage of a brown, green, or red pseudo-reptile-skin covered tube radio and concealed novelty camera for 828 film.

    2. Bermpohl Naturfarbenkamera. McKeown's estimates $1000-2500.

    Bermpohl Naturfarbenkamera

    McKeown's description:
    c1933. Introduced as "Einbelichtung-Dreifarben-Kamera", meaning single-exposure three-color camera. A beautifully constructed teakwood beam-splitting tri-color camera made in 9x12cm, 13x18cm (5x7"), and 18x24cm sizes. Normally seen without a viewfinder, but a parallax-correcting reflex viewfinder was an optional accessory. Its case-metal frame attaches to the front and the top of the camera. Production was interrupted during the WWII, but resumed in 1947. These appear infrequently on the market, and are of interest to a limited number of collectors, so prices vary widely.

    3. Ernemann Bob (round), or sometimes referred to as Spy, Camera. McKeown's estimates value of $1700-2400. This site references one sold in 2010 for $4440.

    Ernemann Bob (round) Camera

    McKeown's description:
    1900-1903. Cylindrical paperboard camera for 4.5x6cm plates. Five plates change position by rotating inner cylinder. Rare.

    4. Ford's Tom Thumb Camera. "Spy" type camera housed in a wooden case. McKeown's estimates value of $4500-6500.

    Ford's Tom Thumb Camera

    McKeown's description:
    c1889. Similar body style to the Photosphere camera. All metal. Camera is concealed in a wooden carrying case for "detective" exposures. Later models are called the Tom Thumb camera, dropping Ford's name.

    5. Bentzin Record-Primar. McKeown's estimates value of $5800.

    Bentzin Record Primar

    McKeown's description:
    c1927-37. Rare non-folding version of the 6.5x9cm [Bentzin]  Fokal-Primar with a fixed Meyer Kino-Plasmat f1.5/9cm lens. This lens covers 4x6cm fully open and 6x9cm closed down. Also sold as Roth Primar Focal Plane Camera by A.O. Roth in Great Britain.

    6. Houghton Ticka, focal plane model. Watch-style camera! McKeown's estimates value of $5,000-$9,000.

    Houghton Ticka Focal Plane Model

    McKeown's description:
    [Pocket-watch-style camera] with focusing lens. Rare. Exposed works make it easy to identify.

    7. Bertsch Chambre Automatique. McKeown's estimates value of $6,000-$10,000.

    Bertsch Chambre Automatique

    McKeown's description:
    c1860. A small brass box camera with fixed-focus brass barrel lens, and a permanently attached wooden plateholder designed for 2 1/2 x 2 1/2" wet plates. The camera case also housed the equipment and chemicals to prepare and develop plates in the field, while an outer case served as a darkroom.

    8. Alibert Kauffer Photo-Sac a Main, handbag camera. A camera in a purse! McKeown's estimates value of $10,000-$15,000.

    Alibert Kauffer Photo-Sac a Main Handbag Camera

    McKeown's description:
    c1895. Folding plate camera disguised as a handbag. Several models were made. One is styled like a square-cornered case which hinges from the middle and a strut-supported front extends. A similar model used the strut-supported front but in a smartly-styled handbag with a split front door hinged at the top and bottom. The other variation has the handbag shape but uses the bottom door as a bed to support the lens standard. Designed by Bernard Kauffer of Paris. About six examples known to exist.

    9. Hegelein Watch Camera. McKeown's estimates value of $30,000-$40,000. This site references one sold in 2011 for $136,320.

    Hegelein Watch Camera

    McKeown's description:
    c1895. Subminiature camera built into a pocket watch case. Seven section metal tube extends forward. Plateholders fit on back. Design is similar to the Lancaster watch camera from England. The Hegelein camera was marketed by E. & H. T. Anthony as "Anthony's Watch Camera".

    10. Geymet & Alker Jumelle de Nicour. A camera on binoculars, all-in-one! McKeown's estimates value of $50,000.

    Geymet & Alker Jumelle de Nicour

    McKeown's description:
    c1867. An early binocular-styled camera for 50 exposures on 1 1/4 x 1 1/4" plates. A large cylindrical magazine contained the 50 plates, which were loaded and unloaded from the camera for each exposure by gravity. (Rather like a modern slide tray.) Rare.

    Do you know any rare or not well-known cameras you'd like to share?

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