Sensational New Candid Camera
H. U. THOMAS
POPULAR PHOTOGRAPHY scoops the country in presenting this new pigmy all-in-one miniature The Compass Camera may lead the way to an entirely new system of photography.
WE ALL know that the ancient view-camera the size of a hat-box has been superseded by the modern miniature outfit and that the contact print has given way to the enlargement.
So compact, flexible, and efficient are the various pocket-size marvels of today that most of us have felt we at last have something like the ultimate in a camera
—if we can afford it. News arrives from
London, however, that cameras like the Leica, Contax, and Rollieflex have only adapted partially the principles of the miniature and that all these principles have now been put into one tiny, universal little machine.
So far as I know, and I am in constant touch with photographic developments in the United States and England, the new alleged British wonder has not yet arrived on this side. It is called the Compass, because presumably it is about the size of a pocket compass or possibly because it points the way to as yet unexplored photographic territory. It is made at Le Sentier, Switzerland, by Le Coultre & Cie. (for over a hundred years makers of some of the finest precision watches) for Compass Cameras Limited, a British firm, with headquarters at 57 Berners Street, London, W.l, five minutes from Oxford Circus. The inventor is an Englishman, Noel Pemperton-Billing, who spent over six years on its development.
The revolutionary improvements in the miniature that have appeared in the past few years are familiar to all camera fans: supplementary lenses for every conceivable pui'pose, automatic coupling of focussing with range-finder, uniting view-finder and range-finder -in one aperture, use oi inexpensive motion-picture film, foolproof film wind making double exposures impossible, direct finders supplementing reflex finders, microscopic lenses for examining ground glass images (in the Rollieflex type of two-lens camera), depth of focus scales, right-angle finders (for candid work on fussy subjects) , removable backs allowing the use of every type of film, sun-shades, and, most recent development of all, the built-in exposure meter. No camera with which I am familiar contains all these features and any photographer who attempts to attain them will find it necessary to carry some of them about with him as accessories in an over-loaded coat pocket.
The new Compass camera contains all these features (with the one exception of the microscope lens over the ground glass) and is about half the size of the Contax and Leica and weighs less than half as much, i.e., seven and threequarter ounces.
And there are still other features! The picture-frame (contact print size) is the same as that of the Leica and Contax, 24 x 36 mm. or roughly 1 x ,
inches. And (biggest surprise of all) the Compass is adapted for the use of glass plates and its makers recommend their use to ensure absolute flatness of the sensitive surface.
The new miniature has over 290 separate parts, all made with such uniform precision that they are interchangeable and replaceable in case of needed repairs. So confident are the makers of the materials and woi'kmanship of the new machine, however, that they promise you it won’t get out of whack just when you face the prize shot of the year and they give you a guarantee without time limit. The price is about thirty pounds in London; no U.S.A. price has yet been announced, but may be in the near future.
Here, now, are the features built into the Compass as integral parts of its mechanism:
Bens: 35 mm. focus working at ƒ 3.5.
Shutter: Automatic exposures from
1/500 to 1% seconds. Also time cxposu res.
Focussing: From infinity to 21 inches by linked range-finder, focussing scale, or on ground glass focussing screen.
Hange finder: Just described.
View-finder: Brilliant optical finder, di-
roet and right -angled (Viewfinder and rangt '-finde ■r have different a pertu res.) F ¡xposure meter: Built into the vie wfinder. y 'ilters: An) ,• sol of thro e filters e an be furnished wit h the can nera, the standard set c on.sist ing of yellow, o ranp* and green T. ,ens hood: Colla psiblo, built into cam-
Stereoscopic bead: The touch of a button makes possible the taking of stereoscopic pairs of negatives.
Panorama: A bush on the camera foot
into which the tripod is screwed makes possible a series of connecting negatives embracing more than half the full circle.
Spirit level: Mounted on top of camera.
Tripod bush: Taking the standard 3/16 inch tripod screw.
Film pressure plate: A spring-operated plate which gives maximum assurance of a flat (Urn on exposure.
The only accessory announced for the Compass camera itself is a tripod which is hut little larger than a fountain pexx wheix folded aixd which is said to make a pistol-grip for the camera when attached. The tripod wlxeix exteixded is usable at two heights, îxiixe and twelve inches. (This suggests that the xxew camera is for the use of pygmies after all or perhaps you set the tripod on a diningtable which you take with you in case lxo big rocks show up.)
The most xxovel feature axxnounccd by the Compass people is xxot their camera but its innovations in developing and printing. These, they claim, will ‘Revolutionize photography.” To briixg out a camera that is a “real miniature,” i.e., of pocket-size and without a basketful of lenses which altogether make it weigh more than even the old-fashioned type of camera, it was necessary to devise a new way of making pictures photographically.
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After you have exposed a single film cr glass plate in the Compass, you can examine your negative within ten minutes! Each film or plate is enclosed in a paper envelope which serves as holder in which it is exposed and also contains the chemicals for its development. After exposing, the whole works is soaked in a basin or tray of clean water, in full light, then removed and set out to dry. In this way, presto, the film is developed, fixed, washed, and dried without being removed from the envelope!
If examination is desired before drying, the film may be removed from the envelope in the time stated. This method of handling exposed film, the makers claim, not only does away with darkrooms and developing tanks but ensures absolute cleanliness and freedom from dust and mechanical damage, which are critical necessities in miniature photography.
We return now to the camera itself which presents the innovations most likely to make photographic history. “Hitherto,” state the makers, “skill and experience on the part of the user were indispensable for good photographs but we have built skill and experience into the camera. We have accomplished a simplified linking of the different technical features which have made this the easiest camera in the world to use, though it was the most difficult to design and manufacture. The Compass is not merely a camera; it is a system of photography.”
This “new” system cannot be fully described in this brief space but the essence of it concerns methods of exposure and is as follows:
The only ability needed by the user, say the makers, to make excellent pictures is to be able to tell the difference between a brilliant or clear or overcast or dull day and to add two and two! There are two systems of exposure. One, that now used with ordinary cameras fully equipped with a fast lens, graduated apertures and speeds, and filters. By this system any kind of adjustment to which you are accustomed may be made with the Compass’ flexible equipment. Two, a system designed for users without experience—a fool-proof system they might have called it.
This, presumably, is the way the inexperienced user goes at his exposure: He is, let us say, out in the back-lot doing landscapes for the next international salon exhibition in New York. He removes his Compass from among his small change, if he can find it. He squints through the view-finder which also contains the exposure meter. He slowly pulls out the meter’s slide which makes the image grow darker and darker. When it has
practically disappeared, only the brightest parts being still visible, he stops and reads the number shown on the scale engraved on the meter slide.
This number is called a “unit.” The unit numbers on the meter slide are duplicated on the shutter (we are now ignoring the usual shutter speeds as being too complicated for the user who v/ishes to eliminate experience). Our photographer sets his shutter at the same unit number he reads on his meter slide. Now he is all set. He lines up his landscape through the view-finder, presses the trigger and—there is his masterpiece, all ready for a quick bath and the magiclantern-projector.
I should like to mention, briefly, the 35 mm. lens, obviously a wide-angle. The makers’ claim that “no other lens has a higher standard of general utility or greater adaptibility to special purposes” is definitely open to argument. A 35 mm. lens would seem to be ruled out entirely for any serious attempt at portraiture, as the portraits made with the Compass I have examined would seem to prove.
If the new miniature interests you, you will, I am advised, have an opportunity to learn more about it soon in forthcoming announcements. German supremacy in modern camera manufacture has been challenged. Rumors are abroad that it will be challenged again before very long by a new American product. All of which bids fair to cram the immediate future of photography with sustained interest.