Mars Camera

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The Mars camera is a detective camera made in mahogany by Emil Wünsche of Dresden from about 1890[1] to 1893. It was made for twelve 6x9cm or 9x12cm plates, or ten 12x16.5cm plates. It has a brass-bound 130mm f/8 Aplanat lens, with three apertures in a rotating disc,[2] and rotary shutter, operated by pull-strings.

The Mars is a magazine camera: the plates, in metal holders, are stored in the back part of the camera body, under spring pressure (there is a pull-string to relieve this pressure while changing the plate).[2] The plate at the front of the magazine is in the exposing position. The wooden part projecting on top of the camera is a plate-changer. After each exposure, the camera can be turned upside-down, and the holder with the exposed plate falls into the wooden changer. Then the changer is shifted to the back of the body, where the exposed plate falls back into the plate magazine when the camera is turned right-side up again. The next plate at the front of the magazine moves forward into the exposing position. Some examples of the Mars have a dial counter showing the number of plates exposed; this was perhaps a late addition or optional feature; it is not referred to in Wünsche's patent describing the camera,[1] and is absent on the example pictured here and the one cited at Westlicht.[2]

There are Watson finders for horizontal and vertical orientation.

Wünsche later made a leather-covered magazine camera with a more conventional falling-plate changing mechanism, the Mars 99 (apparently in 1895,[3] though the name might well refer to 1899). There was also a stereo camera of similar design to the Mars, the Mars Detektiv-Stereoskop in about 1897.[3]


  1. 1.0 1.1 German Patent 57138 Photographische Camera mit Plattenwechselvorrichtung (Camera with plate-changing device), granted to Emil Wünsche in 1890, at Espacenet, the patent search facility of the European Patent Office.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Mars Camera serial no. 6123, sold at the eighteenth Westlicht Photographica Auction, on 4 December 2010. Several excellent photographs, showing features such as the selectable aperture disc and pull-string controls.
  3. 3.0 3.1 McKeown, James M. and Joan C. McKeown's Price Guide to Antique and Classic Cameras, 12th Edition, 2005-2006. USA, Centennial Photo Service, 2004. ISBN 0-931838-40-1 (hardcover). ISBN 0-931838-41-X (softcover). p1018.