Multipose Portable Cameras

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Multipose Portable Cameras Limited was a camera maker in about 1930. The company is known for only one camera, the Maton, and appears to have been based in London,[1] though the co-claimaint of the patent was Anatol Josepho of New York (also the inventor of a photo-booth), and all examples of the camera seen are marked in French and have a French lens and shutter, so it may very well have been French-made.

The body of the Maton is made from brown bakelite. It is broadly upright and rectangular in shape, with a moulded grip at the back (which rather resembles a knuckle-duster). There is a small crank on the right hand side, which operates both the film feed and the shutter. The camera works rather like a hand-cranked cine camera; the patent describes a mechanism with cammed feed wheels such that, while the film uptake is continuous, driven by the crank, the section of film in the 'gate' is held stationary while the shutter opens to expose it. The design is reminiscent of the Debrie Sept, only about two years earlier which, however, has clockwork drive and is intended to take real cine sequences as well as stills. The Maton might have been intended for making a series of informal portraits of a subject, perhaps by a street or fair photographer.

The camera makes pictures 24x30 mm on paper-backed roll film. The film runs across the base of the camera, from a supply cassette at the front to the uptake cassette at the rear. It does not pass behind the lens; the image-forming light is reflected downward by an angled mirror behind the lens. It seems that problems must have arisen with the film loading and/or transport in the camera as first designed. In the original patent, both film cassettes appear to be square; however, an example sold at Westlicht has a square hole at the uptake end (at the back), but a round one at the supply end (perhaps the design was altered to make it easier to see how to load the film).[2] and another patent describes the design of a cylindrical light-tight cassette.[3] Further, the original patent shows the start of the film with a narrow tape leader and a tapered end to the sensitised film itself. However, another patent shortly afterward describes an improvement, involving a narrowed leader section of the film (like that on modern 35 mm film) and a short series of perforations at one edge of the film, with toothed wheels added to the camera to feed this section during loading.[4]

The auction listing at Westlicht states that the camera took 24 exposures per load; however, the camera has frame-counter windows on the top, showing both the number of frames exposed and the number remaining, and in the diagrams in the patent, these add to 36 frames.[1]

The lens is an 85 mm f/4.5 Roussel Trylor, rather long for the format. It has front-element focusing to two metres. The shutter is a Gitzo with speeds 1/25 - 1/100 plus 'B'. For the instantaneous speeds, the shutter opens when the crank handle passes its lowest point; for 'B' ('Pose') it opens at that position, and the closing position is also marked. The aperture is set on the shutter body (down to f/32).

At the top of the camera, there is a brilliant finder, with two eyepieces; the mirror can be rotated for use with the camera vertically or horizontally oriented.

There is a tripod bush set in the left side of the body, which also has the removable film-chamber cover for loading.

Later patents describe an enlarger apparatus based on the camera. A lamp-house is attached to the front of the lens, and a bellows and film-holder to the open film-chamber.[5] The (developed) film is loaded just as when it was exposed. A separate patent describes a more-or-less normal double dark-slide for the enlarger.[6]


  1. 1.0 1.1 US Patent 1,830,168 Photographic Camera, filed 1928 and granted 1931 to Anatol M Josepho of New York and Multipose Portable Cameras Ltd, of London, and describing the Maton; at Espacenet, the patent search facility of the European Patent Office.
  2. This detail of the film chambers was shown in photographs previously shown in the listing of the Maton sold at the nineteenth Westlicht Photographica Auction, on 28 May 2011; fewer pictures of the camera are now shown.
  3. British Patent 325,673, Improvements in or Relating to Photographic Film and Like Containers, filed 1929 and granted 1930 to Multipose Portable Cameras Ltd, at Espacenet.
  4. British Patent 327,493,Improvements in or Relating to Photographic Apparatus, filed 1929 and granted 1930 to Multipose Portable Cameras Ltd, at Espacenet.
  5. British Patent 314,050, Improvements in Photographic Enlarging Apparatus, filed 1928 and granted 1930 to Multipose Portable Cameras Ltd, at Espacenet.
  6. British Patent 314,049, Improvements in or Relating to Photographic Film Holders, filed 1928 and granted 1930 to Multipose Portable Cameras Ltd, at Espacenet.