Soho Reflex

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The Soho Reflex is a large-format single-lens reflex camera made from about 1905 to the 1940s[1]. The cameras were made in the Kershaw factory in Leeds, but made for Marion & Co. of London (Kershaw also sold them under their own name, as the Kershaw Patent Reflex[2]). Both Kershaw and Marion took part in the merger to form APM in 1921; during the short life of the merger, the camera was sold as the Apem Reflex[3].

The standard reflex model was made in a large range of sizes: 3½x2½ inch, 4¼x3¼ inch (quarter plate), 5½x3½ inch ('postcard'), 5x4 inch, 4½x6 cm, 9x6½ cm, 9x12 cm, 10x15 cm and 12x16½ cm[4]. All models have a rising front (for perspective control). A rotating back (i.e. the plate-holder can be turned through 90°, to allow landscape or portrait format pictures without rotating the whole camera) was added around 1920. A special front allowing tilt and swing movements was available at extra cost. The brochure[4] also lists prices for all but the smallest centimetre-size model in tropical finish. Finally, a stereo model was available, being a modified version of the postcard size.

The structure of the cameras is fairly simple. The camera body is a leather-covered, wooden box. A ground-glass focusing screen comprises more or less the entire top of the box. A folding leather focusing hood is normally mounted to shade this screen. The front of the box, with the lens panel, is attached to the body by a leather bellows, and can be racked forward and back by a knob on the left hand side, to focus the image. The lens panel can be slid vertically to offset the lens above its normal position (the rising front). Inside the box is mounted the mirror, which reflects the image-forming light from the lens up to the focusing screen. As with all SLR camera designs, the mirror must be moved out of the light-path from the lens to the film or plate before the shutter is released. In these cameras, pressing a single lever first raises the mirror, then at the bottom of the stroke releases the shutter. The shutter, a focal-plane shutter with cloth blinds, is in the back of the box. Most models offered shutter speeds between 1/16 and 1/800 second plus 'T' (as listed for the quarter-plate model[4]; some later models offer 1/1000 second). The shutter is tensioned manually by winding a knob on the right-hand side. The same knob is used to set the speed. A wide range of lenses was available. The mirror action includes a backward movement as well as a simple swing up, in order to allow shorter-than-standard lenses (which would project into the camera body) to be used without fouling the mirror[4][5]. This feature was the subject of a patent by Abraham Kershaw in 1904.[6] On the back of the camera is mounted the plate holder (dark slide), which could be loaded with a glass plate, or (with a 'film sheath' inserted in it) a sheet of flexible film. A film pack adapter (a holder taking a pack of sheets of film, rather like a Polaroid pack, allowing rapid use) or, when this became available, a roll film holder could be attached instead.


images by ebayer camcentre (Image rights)


Notes

  1. Early Photography
  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)., p 458.
  3. Apem Reflex at Early Photography
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Soho Ltd brochure for the Soho Reflex range at Camera Eccentric; this gives many details, a few pictures and instructions for use of the camera. The company was Soho Ltd after the break-up of APeM, from 1929-1946, giving some idea of the date of the brochure.
  5. Description of the Kershaw shutter and mirror mechanisms at Early Photography
  6. Abraham Kershaw's 1904 Patent describing the mirror mechanism allowing the use of short lenses in an SLR, at Espacenet, the Patent search facility of the European Patent Office.

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