Mandel PDQ Camera

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The Mandel PDQ Model G and Model H are instant cameras; wooden-bodied cameras which used waterproof "Super Speed" direct-positive photo-paper instead of film or plates. The unique camera type was made by the PDQ Camera Company, formerly the Chicago Ferrotype Company, owned by the brothers Louis and Manuel Mandel. A similar camera model, but available with a specially mounted double lens, i.e. an optical system supporting two focal lengths was the PDQ Champion PHOTOMASTER, marketed as "a complete portable photo studio".

It might be seen as the successor to the company's Mandel-ette camera; like that, the PDQ was intended for making quick, cheap portrait photographs, for example by street and fairground photographers. The PDQ has a better lens and shutter than the Mandel-ette however, and so would allow more flexibility of application than the earlier camera. The camera pictured here has a Schneider Radionar and Prontor-SV shutter, with speeds 1 to 1/200 second plus 'B' and 'T', a self-timer and a PC flash terminal. Another example with a 114mm f/4.5 Wollensak Raptar and Wollensak Betax shutter, with times 1/2 - 1/100 second, plus 'B' and 'T', was offered for sale at Westlicht;[1] These are both front-element focusing lenses.

The camera has a collapsible Albada type viewfinder at one side, an attachable 45-second sand-glass timer, and a kind of leatherette coating: 'Genuine DuPont Fabricoid leather'.

After making an exposure, the crank on the side of the camera would be wound, to pass the exposed length of paper into the developing cup (attached to the bottom of the camera body, toward the rear). The knob below the crank would then be pulled out, against spring tension, to operate the knife to cut the paper. The new exposure then falls down into the small development cup which is shaped like a cigarette package, but made of stainless steel.

All the examples of the camera seen are Model H or Model G, a Model J is mentioned by, but it is not clear how the models differ.


  1. PDQ Camera with Wollensak lens and shutter; tank and nameplate missing; at the 32nd Westlicht Photographica Camera Auction, in March 2018


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