Murer's Express Newness

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Murer & Duroni of Milan made a range of box-form falling-plate detective cameras from around the turn of the 20th century.[1] They are all wooden-bodied, with leather covering. All use a falling-plate mechanism, operated with a lever on the right-hand side of the body, which allows the exposed plate to fall forwards to the bottom of the camera under its own weight, where it is captured by spring-clips, while a spring behind the remaining plates pushes them forward. On most cameras, there is a counter window in the back, showing the number of plates exposed.[2] There are cameras for several plate sizes, and with different levels of specification.

Collection Appareils shows advertisements from about the turn of the 20th century for several similar ranges of detective cameras, with the names used below.[3][4][5] Very similar cameras to those described in the advertisements are seen with an impressed stamp on the back, including 'Murer's Express' and 'Newness', plus 'Murer' and either a letter identifying the model size, or 'S' and 'L' either side of a candelabra logo. McKeown gives the letters identifying some of the models: A (8×8 cm), G (9×12 cm), H (13×18 cm) and I (Stereo 9×18 cm). Some of these can be seen on examples cited here. 'SL' is included in several other Murer & Duroni model names, and may be the equivalent of de luxe rather than a model designation. David Tomei explains 'Newness' as a translation of the Italian 'Novità' (innovation),[6] and thus perhaps more a slogan than part of the model name. In France the cameras were named 'Murer simple Détective' and 'Murer Express Détective'. McKeown acknowledges that it is not completely clear what are the correct names under which to record these cameras.[1]

Simple Express

Murer&Duroni's budget line of magazine cameras was called Simple Express[7]. It was only available for 9×12 cm plate size, but holders could be obtained allowing 6.5×9 cm plates to be used in the same camera. It was available for a six- or twelve-plate load.

The Photo-Hall-Paris catalog page at Collection Appareils[3] offered the first two variants of the Simple Express camera as its current model of a Simple Détective Camera, named "Murer", thus expressing that this was an OEM product, made by Murer&Duroni, but sold by Photo-Hall Paris as their "Murer" simple detective camera.

It has an achromatic lens, a simple 'I' and 'B' guillotine shutter, aperture selection of one from several fixed apertures by means of the diaphragm-exchange lever on the front, as with the Express Newness models. The twelve-plate model was also available with a better lens named Rectiligne (presumably a Rapid Rectilinear). It has Watson-type viewfinders for horizontal and vertical orientation. The lens is fixed-focus, but a set of auxiliary focusing lenses for it was offered.

Murer's Express Newness

The cameras of the Murer's Express Newness product line are clearly a de luxe choice relative to the Simple Express cameras. In the Photo-Hall-Paris catalog it was offered as Photo-Hall's own model of the Express Détective camera type, also named "Murer" by Photo-Hall. It was made from walnut wood, with first-choice morocco leather covering.[3] It was available for 6.5×9 cm, 9×12 cm and 13×18 cm plates, all with a six-plate load. The two larger sizes have a plate-counter. The regular Murer's Express Newness models were also available for other plate sizes. The specification is otherwise similar to the Simple. The lens is still described as an achromat. Again, there is a swinging arm/pointer on the front of the camera, below the lens, as lever to move one of several stops behind the lens. The camera has two tripod bushes.

Express Détective No. 1

This (and the No. 2 below, advertised alongside it) are probably not contemporary alternatives to the Simple and the Express described above. It is hard to be certain whether the No. 1 and No. 2 are later (in which case the range expanded and improved) or earlier (i.e. the range was simplified); the advertisement offers a kit of focusing lenses, and mentions that they will fit both current and older models, suggesting that the No. 1 and No. 2 cameras are later.

The specification of the No. 1 is similar to the Express above. It has an achromat lens, a single-speed 'I' and 'B' shutter, selectable aperture stops, and two Watson finders; these, however, have small folding hoods/covers. All models have a plate counter. Again, focusing is available only by use of auxiliary lenses. The camera was available in more plate sizes:

  • 8×8 cm (for six plates), with only a single Watson finder.[8]
  • 6.5×9 cm (for six or twelve plates)
  • 9×12 cm (for six or twelve plates)
  • 13×18 cm (for six plates)
  • 9×18 cm stereo camera (for twelve plates)

Express Détective No. 2

This camera has a Rapid Rectilinear lens, and a shutter with two instantaneous speeds (R and L: rapide and lente), plus 'B'. A set of auxiliary focusing lenses is mounted in the camera; confusingly, these are operated using the front arm-control that selects the aperture stop on other models; the aperture is adjusted with an iris diaphragm.[9] Again, the camera was available in several sizes:

  • 6.5×9 cm (for twelve plates)
  • 9×12 cm (for six or twelve plates)
  • 13×18 cm (for six or twelve plates)[10]
  • 9×18 cm stereo camera (for twelve plates)[11] with a single viewfinder in a small folding hood. There is no linkage between the aperture selectors for the two lenses.

Clearly, the range continued to change, and there are examples of the camera which do not conform exactly to the descriptions above. For example, the 9×12 cm camera in the Tomei collection conforms approximately to the specification of the No. 1 above, but has a two-speed shutter.[6] Another shown at Collection Appareils has specifications broadly as the No. 2, but has the auxiliary focusing lenses mounted outside the body, and selected by hand.[12]

McKeown describes the camera as having an f/6.3 or f/4.5 Murer Anastigmat lens;[1] however, no examples have been seen with a lens so marked. He also lists the camera as available in more sizes: 4.5×6 cm and quarter plate (3¼×4¼ inch). No examples of these sizes have been seen.

The cameras are very similar indeed to detective cameras sold by Gaumont in France, and other companies elsewhere. David Tomei states that Murer made and exported these cameras.[6]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 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). p704.
  2. Express Newness SL at Sylvain Halgand's Collection Appareils; a high-specification model, with an iris diaphragm, two-speed shutter and viewfinder covers. there is a picture of the camera with the back open, showing the plate counter.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Advertisements (catalogue pages from Photo Hall) for the Simple Détective and Express Détective at Collection Appareils.
  4. Advertisement for the Express Détective No. 1 and No. 2 at Collection Appareils.
  5. Second advertisement for the No. 1 at Collection d'Appareils.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Notes on the Express Newness SL falling-plate box camera, about 1900, for 9×12 cm plates, in the Collection of Elisabetta and L. David Tomei.
  7. Simple Express at
  8. Express Newness 'A' at Collection Appareils.
  9. Newness Express at Collection Appareils; apparently a de luxe model, with brown leather, two-speed shutter, folding viewfinder hoods and spirit levels beside each finder. The front arm-control on this camera selects one of three focusing lenses, and the lens has an iris diaphragm.
  10. 13×18 cm camera with two selector controls on the front, presumably for aperture stop and focusing lens, plus two-speed shutter, viewfinders with hoods, and brown leather, offered for sale at the fifth Westlicht Photographica Auction, in April 2004.
  11. Express Newness Stereo falling-plate camera for 9×18 cm plates, about 1905, sold at the nineteenth Westlicht auction, in May 2011.
  12. Another example of the Express Newness at Collection Appareils, with auxiliary focusing lenses mounted on the front; the front arm-control selects the aperture stop. It has a single-speed shutter, no covers on the viewfinders, and a single spirit level.