J. Lizars Challenge

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The hand cameras

The Challenge folding cameras were made from about 1898 by the Scottish firm of J. Lizars. Cameras were produced in several plate sizes: the common quarter-plate (3¼×4¼-inch) and 4x5-inch sizes, as well as for both smaller (2½×3½-inch) and larger half-plate (4¾x6½-inch) sizes, lantern-slide plates (3¼-inch square) and stereo plates for two 3¼-inch exposures. Luxurious "tropical" models made of teakwood were made. Brass fittings were typical. The common model was covered with black leather. The De Luxe version was available in leather covered body or uncovered body, the uncovered wood parts made of mahogany. That luxury model is more versatile since its bellows and universal swing front allow "enormous rise, extreme side movement, great extension with perfect rigidity, and can be set back for extreme short focus lenses, and tilted to any degree upwards or downwards" [Lizars, 1905]. Lizars preferred teak for the tropical variants since this oily wood seemed to be more resistant to humidity than mahogany.

Specifications of common 3¼×4¼" version

  • Type: Folding bed camera
  • Manufacturer: J. Lizars
  • Year of launch: ca. 1905
  • Film: 3¼×4¼" plates (8×10cm)
  • Lens: original lens might have been a Ross Rapid Symmetrical f8/5" or a Ross Homocentric f6.3/5"
  • Shutter: original shutter was of Bausch & Lomb
  • Viewfinder: reflecting type
  • Dimensions: 11.4×14.4×6.7cm (folded)
  • Weight: ca. 740g

Specifications of Challenge De Luxe Hand Camera

  • Type: Folding bed view camera
  • Year of launch: 1905
  • Film: 3¼×4¼" plates (8×10cm)
  • Lens: Beck Neostigmar Ser. IIIn No. 3 , or Beck Symmetrical lens

Another series of Challenge folders were the combined plate and roll film cameras in wooden bodies with rounded sides.

The field cameras

A series of field cameras was made of fine mahoganny and brass.


  • Examples at Early Photography:
    • Challenge Model A. Two examples, both in mahogany without leather covering: one in quarter-plate size, with single bellows extension (standard specification), a Taylor-Hobson 5.4-inch f/7 Rapid Rectilinear and a Thornton-Pickard roller shutter with speeds 1/15 - 1/90 second, plus 'T'; the other is 4x5-inch, with double extension with a 148 mm f/7.2 Zeiss Anastigmat series III, also mounted on the same T-P shutter. The notes state that doule extension was offered at extra cost. The Zeiss lens was not advertised by Lizars, though it is of correct age for the camera.
    • Challenge Model D, about 1898: mahogany body with black leather covering (the notes state that the camera was also available in polished uncovered wood), for 4x5-inch exposures on size 104 roll film (five inches wide); the camera also allows the use of plates. The camera has double-extension bellows and an Aldis 5¾-inch f/6.2 Series II, No. 2 lens and a Bausch and Lomb Unicum shutter (1 - 1/100 second, plus 'B' and 'T').
    • Challenge Tropical De Luxe, 1905: quarter-plate teak body with brass binding and fittings, red ('Russia') leather double-extension bellows, a 125 mm f/6.8 Goerz double-anastigmat and a Compound shutter with speeds 1 - 1/250 second plus 'B' and 'T'.
    • Stereo Challenge Model B, about 1904: polished, uncovered mahogany body for 3¼-inch stereo pairs on 3¼x6¾-inch plates; also adaptable for single, panoramic exposures. The camera has red leather double-extension bellows, 5-inch f/8 Bausch and Lomb Rapid Rectilinear lenses and a B&L single-speed ('I', 'B' and 'T') shutter.
  • Quarter-plate Challenge, about 1905, with 5 inch f/8 Ross Rapid Symmetrical lens and Bausch & Lomb shutter, sold at the nineteenth Westlicht Photographica Auction, on 28 May 2011.
  • Challenge Dayspool at Sylvain Halgand's Collection Appareils (in French)