From Camera-wiki.org
Jump to: navigation, search
This article needs photographs. You can help Camera-wiki.org by adding some. See adding images for help.

Hermagis patented a detective camera to be named the Hippographe in the early years of the 20th century, but this camera does not seem to have been made.[1] The company later sold cameras of two different types named Hippographe; one is a strut-folding camera, the other a box-form SLR camera. Both were made in Germany, at least before the First World War; the reflex camera is said by Halgand's Collection Appareils to be made by Mentor;[2] Both have a Mathet-Hermagis focal-plane shutter, with instantaneous speeds from 1/2 to 1/1300 second, and 'B'.[3][4] The shutter's slit-width is adjustable without opening the camera back.

The name suggests an association with horse-riding, and invites comparison with the Vélocigraphe, though that camera was about twenty years earlier. Whereas the Vélocigraphe may have been for use by cyclists, Collection Appareils suggests that the name of the Hippographe was intended to suggest that its fast shutter made it ideal for photographing moving subjects (such as horses), rather than by horse-riders themselves. This is supported by a number of publicity postcards featuring photographs of moving subjects.[5] The catalogue recommends the reflex camera for naturalists, sports photographers, reporters and amateurs 'who wish to leave nothing to chance'.[3] An earlier magazine/catalogue produced by Hermagis includes an article with a table relating the speed of a moving subject, the focal length and shutter speed used to the sharpness of detail on the plate, and gives a trotting horse as an example.[6]

Hippographe detective camera

Jules-Fleury Hermagis and Gaston Broyot held a patent for a falling-plate detective camera named Hippographe, some years before either of the models below.[1] Like them, it seems to have been designed with a focal-plane roller shutter, offering fast speeds. No evidence has been seen that this camera was made.

Hippographe Pliant

The strut-folding Hippographe was made for 6½x9, 9x12, 10x15 and 13x18cm plates, and was adaptable for film-packs and a plate magazine.[3] It is wooden-bodied, with black leather covering and bellows, and nickel-plated fittings. The notes at Collection Appareils note that the camera is very similar to the Goerz Anschütz cameras, without going so far as to identify it as a rebadged Goerz model. It has front rise and sideways shift. The catalogue reproduced at Collection Appareils lists the camera with several Hermagis lenses: an f/6.8 Néostigmat, an f/6.8 Aplanastigmat extra-rapide, or an f/4.5 Anastigmat. Each is mounted with helical focusing down to 2 metres. A telephoto lens (or perhaps a rear-mounted tele-converter?) was also offered. The camera has a folding Newton viewfinder, as well as a ground-glass focusing screen. The accessories offered in the catalogue include a filter for use with Autochrome plates.

Hippographe Reflex Carré

The reflex Hippographe was made for 9x9, 9x12, 10x15 and 13x18cm plates or film-packs. It was offered with the same lenses as the strut-folding model (but has rack-and-pinion focusing instead of helical).[3] As most box-form SLR cameras, it has a focusing screen at the top of the camera for reflex use, and can also be fitted with one at the rear, for use as a view camera.


  1. 1.0 1.1 French Patent 322041, Chambre photographique détective dite "l'hippographe", filed June 1902 and granted January 1903 to Gaston Broyot and Jules-Fleury Hermagis; at Espacenet, the patent search facility of the European Patent Office. The record at Espacenet gives only the first two pages of the patent; sadly the diagrams are missing. The patent is unusual in giving the brand-name under which it was intended to sell the camera.
  2. Technical sheets on the Hippographe Reflex Carré and Hippographe Pliant, at Sylvain Halgand's Collection Appareils.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Contemporary catalogue, page 57 and page 58, advertising both Hippographe cameras, also at Collection Appareils.
  4. French Patent 320551, Obturateur de plaque à rideau avec éclipse (Self-capping roller shutter for plate cameras), filed April 1902 and granted December 1902 to Léopold Mathet and Jules-Fleury Hermagis, and Addition 866 to the patent, filed September 1902 and published April 1903, describing the design of a focal-plane roller shutter; at Espacenet.
  5. Postcards have been seen offered for sale at on-line auction sites, featuring subjects including cavalrymen riding horses, and children playing on a rope merry-go-round; the caption in each case states that the photograph was taken using the 9x12cm Hippographe Pliant's 1/1000 second shutter speed.
  6. Hermagis, J.F. (given as J. Fleury-Hermagis) and Rossignol, N., 1897 Réduction en secondes les vitesses à l'heure ou au kilomètre, in l'Amateur d'Excursions Photographiques No. 3, pp337-340.