Derby

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History

Designed in 1930, the Foth "Derby" was intended as a low-cost alternative to the Leica and Contax cameras that had come on the market. The German-designed Derby was a strut folding viewfinder camera for 127 film rolls, made by Foth from 1931 to about 1940. The Derby sported a cloth focal plane shutter capable of shutter speeds of 1/500th of second. It was marketed as a vest-pocket camera suitable for action photography. The first versions of the camera had a film gate size of 24 × 36mm (akin to the 35mm format of the Leicas), while all later versions used the full 30 × 40mm format the 127 film format was capable of without a need to change the lens.

Identifying your Foth Derby

The Foth Derby comes in a bewildering range of variants. In total five discrete types can be distinguished, each with their own sub-types, lens combinations and viewfinder options, augmented by additional variations subject to the market the camera was sold to. The technical and construction details common to all Derby models are:

  • Cloth focal plane shutter with speed settings of B, 1/25, 1/50, 1/75, 1/100, 1/200, and 1/500.
  • Leather-covered aluminium body construction, with a strut folding system.
  • Lens with helical focussing.

The dichotomous key provided here provides an avenue at identifying the types.[1] The cameras were sold both to the continental markets (with distance scales in metres) and to the British and North-American markets (with distance scales in feet). The final incarnation of the camera design is the full aluminium model, the readily identifiable French-made Gallus Derby-Lux and Derlux.

Original Model numbers

A perusal of the historic literature shows that Foth does not seem to have distinguished between the models with different gate sizes (24x36mm and 30x40mm). A reference in an instruction booklet refers to Derby Type 3 as ‘Mod[ell] II’ [2], and a 1936 advert by the German photographic dealer Wauckosin (Frankfurt am Main) refers to a Derby II as the new improved model.[3] On the other hand, a brochure put out by Burleigh Brooks Inc (New York, selling the coupled rangefinder version (Derby Type 4) refers to that as the ‘Model II”, while the other (clearly a Type 3) is labelled “Standard Model.”[4]

Serial numbers

The later units of the Foth Derby cameras can be uniquely identified by the serial number of their lenses, the early units do not carry any serial numbers at all. Careful inspection will reveal the presence of manufacturing codes, which most likely represent the staff codes of the individuals who machined and assembled the lenses and camera bodies (see here for a guide on how to locate these codes).

Derby type 1 (1930)

The camera was sold from 1930 (or 1931?) in Germany, and from 1931 in foreign markets, such as France (where it was marketed as the Foth Derby Sport).[5]

General

  • 127 film but 24 × 36 mm images;
  • two round and red film counter windows on back;
  • film advance knob lacks inscription on top.

Variants

  • Type 1a: film counter windows with brass rim
  • Type 1b: film counter windows plain edge.

Dimensions

  • Length 120 mm; Height 78 mm; Depth (closed) 37 mm; Depth (open) 63 mm; Weight 435 g.

Viewfinders

Lens Options

Covering

  • Black and brown leather, the latter ‘De Luxe’ version imitating crocodile, being uncommon.
  • The leatherette on the lens board is plain


 
 

Derby type 2 (1931–)

The Derby 2 changed the film gate from 24 × 36 mm to the full 30 × 40 mm that the 127 format was capable of. This version also introduced the self-timer. The camera was sold from 1932 in foreign markets, such as France (marketed as the Foth Derby Sport). [6] The price in Germany was Reichsmark 65.

General

  • 127 format, 30 × 40 mm images;
  • two round red windows on back, windows without rims;
  • self-timer with small red dot on the lever (black dot on Type 2C.

Variants

  • Variant 2A film advance knob lacks inscription on top; leatherette on the lens board is plain; lens lacks serial number.
    • Sub-variant 2Ai: as above, but with embossed lens board, ‘Germany embossed in leather on left end; and no colour on self-timer.
  • Variant 2B film advance knob bears inscription ‘GERMANY,’ pressure plate has a notch on the left and right;
leatherette on the lens board is plain; lens lacks serial number
  • Variant 2C film advance knob bears inscription ‘GERMANY,’ pressure plate has a notch on the left and right;
leatherette on the lens board is embossed; lens bears a serial number.
  • Variant 2D film advance knob bears inscription ‘GERMANY,’ pressure plate is straight on the left and right;
leatherette on the lens board is embossed; lens bears a serial number.
The single unit of the Derby 2D so far seen has a small BLACK dot on the lever of the self-timer.

Dimensions

  • Length 120 mm; Height 78 mm; Depth (closed) 37 mm; Depth (open) 63 mm; Weight 434 g.

Viewfinders

Lens Options

Covering

  • Black and brown leather, the latter ‘De Luxe’ version imitating crocodile, being uncommon.
  • The leatherette on the lens board is plain (Derby 2A) or embossed (Derby 2B; 2C).

 
 

Derby type 3 (1935–1939)

This model was sold from 1935 in Germany, [7] and from 1935 also in foreign markets, such as France (marketed as the Foth Derby Sport), [8] the United Kingdom,[9] the United States,[10] Australia,[11] and Japan.[12]

While it was no longer stocked by major French suppliers in 1937, [13] a British catalogue offered the Derby with Foth Anastigmat f/2.5 and f/3.5, and with an "interchangeable mount" that allowed to take a Zeiss Tessar f/2.8 or f/3.5 and a Dallmeyer 4-inch f/5.6 telephoto lens.[14][15] Meanwhile, in the USA the camera was still advertised in trade magazines in 1940,[16] and in mail order catalogues in 1941.[17]

General

  • 127 format, 30 × 40 mm images;
  • two green and two red oval windows on back, windows without rims;
  • self-timer with small red dot at end of lever )
  • film advance knob bears inscription ‘GERMANY’

Dimensions

  • with Foth Anastigmat f2.5/50—Length 120 mm; Height 79 mm; Depth (closed) 41 mm; Depth (open) 65 mm; Weight 460 g.
  • with Foth Anastigmat f3.5/50—Length 120 mm; Height 79 mm; Depth (closed) 37 mm; Depth (open) 63 mm; Weight 452 g.

Viewfinders

Lens Options

Derby type 4 (1936–1940)

The camera model was sold as ‘Model II’ in the USA and distributed by Burleigh Brooks, NY. It was advertised as having an ‘American made coupled rangefinder’.[18]

General

  • 127 format, 30 × 40 mm images

Viewfinders

  • The aluminium front standard of the standard Forth Derby 3 was replaced with an elongated one to the top of which a rangefinder with attached. The coupling was quite crude and was comprised of an external prong that connected the focussing ring with the rangefinder unit. The small telescope finder that had been mounted centrally in the Forth Derby 3 was taken off and moved to the far right edge of the camera.

Dimensions

  • to be added

Lens Options

Covering

  • Black leather.

Variants

  • Removable rangefinder Derby 4a (no yet seen)
  • Non-removable rangefinder Derby 4b

 
 


Derby type 5

Made by C.F. Foth & Cie in Paris. Compared to the German-made units, the build-quality of the French Derby 5 and the Gallus Derby is quite coarse, as evidenced by the broad aluminium rims.

General

  • 127 format, 30 × 40 mm images;

Dimensions *n/a Viewfinders

  • range finder attached to the bottom of the camera. New focussing wheel on the front standard

Lens Options

Covering

  • Black and leather, the latter ‘De Luxe’ version imitating crocodile, being uncommon.


Gallus Derby (1937–)

The Gallus Derby was manufactured in France by Gallus, probably under license by Foth. Compared to the German-made units, the build-quality of the French Derby 5 and the Gallus Derby is quite coarse, as evidenced by the broad aluminium rims and the greater weight of the camera (almost 10% heavier than the Foth Type 2).

General

  • 127 format, 30 × 40 mm images;

Dimensions

  • Length 123 mm; Height 82 mm; Depth (closed) 41 mm; Depth (open) 66 mm; Weight 473 g.

Viewfinders

Lens Options

Covering

  • Black and leather, the latter ‘De Luxe’ version imitating crocodile, being uncommon.


 

Lenses

The early models of the Forth Derby and of the Foth-Flex do not carry lens serial numbers. The first serial numbers occur with the introduction of the second model Foth-Flex as well as the Forth Derby 2B. The observed serial numbers for the Foth-Flex fall into the range of 10,000 to 30,000 (10169 lowest and 26640 highest recorded number). Foth Derby lenses seem to follow-on in the sequence and fall into the range from 35,000 to 87,000 (35,036 lowest and 86,753 highest recorded number). Unlike with the Forth-Flex, where the runs of the f2.5/75 and f3.5/75 lenses seem to be discrete (with numbers over 20,000 reserved for f2.5/75), the f2.5/50 and f3.5/50 lenses mounted on the Derby seem to be part of the same run, apparently with no differentiation in the numbering scheme.

Foth Anastigmat f-2.5/50mm

The lens exists with and without serial numbers. Both have the same f-stops: 2.5, 3, 3.5, 4.5, 5.5, 6.3, 9, 12.5, 18. The lens was fitted with a focus scale in metres or feet with the following spacing:

  • Metre-scale: 0.75, 1, 1.25, 1.5, 1.75, 2, 3, 4, 7, 10, ∞.
  • Feet-scale: 2½, 3½, 4, 5, 6, 6¼, 10, 13, 23, 33, ∞.

Foth Anastigmat f-3.5/50mm (Berlin Model)

The lens exists with and without serial numbers. Both have the same f-stops: 3.5, 4.5, 6.3, 9, 12.5, 18. The lens was fitted with a focus scale in metres or feet with the following spacing:

  • Metre-scale: 1, 1.25, 1.5, 1.75, 2, 3, 4, 7, 10, 20, ∞.
  • Feet-scale: 3½, 4, 5, 6, 6¼, 10, 13, 23, 33, 66, ∞.

Foth Anastigmat f-3.5/50mm (Paris Model)

The Paris-built Anastigmat f-3.5 found use in the Derby 5 with the following f-stops: 3.5, 4.5, 6.3, 9, 12.5, 18. The lens was fitted with a focus scale in in metres or feet with the following spacing:

  • Metre-scale: not observed yet, but existence can be inferred.
  • Feet-scale: 3½, 4, 5, 6, 6¼, 10, 13, 16, 23, 33, 66, ∞.

SOM Berthiot Flor f-3.5/50mm

The SOM Berthiot Flor found use in the Gallus Derby, with the following f-stops: 3.5, 4.5, 6.3, 9, 12.5, 18. The lens was fitted with a focus scale in metres with the following spacing:

  • Metre-scale: 0.75, 1, 1.2, 1.5, 1.75, 2, 3, 4, 7, 10, ∞.

Gallus Gallix f-3.5/50mm

The Gallus Gallix was fitted in the Gallus Derby-Lux. It has the following f-stops: 3.5, 4.5, 6.3, 9, 12, 18. The lens was fitted with a focus scale in metres with the following spacing:

  • Metre-scale:1, 1.25, 1.5, 1.75, 2,3, 4, 7, 10, ∞.

   

Images that aid in the identification of variants

Below follows a series of images that aid in the identification of variants. For that purpose, also consider using the dichotomous key.

Viewfinder Types

Shown below are the various types of viewfinders known for the variants.

Types of Film Pressure Plates

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Notes

  1. The typology set out in this study was created by observation of a large number of Derby cameras in the author’s collection
  2. Directions for using Forth-Derby-Camera 3x4 cm with Focal Plane Shutter up to 1/500 sec. Anastigmatic Lens 1: 3,5 or 1:2,5 Automatic Self Timer. Printed in Germany [No date],
  3. Advertisement: “Derby II das neue vervollkommnete Model. Wauckosin & Co. , Frankfurt am Main, Kaiserstraße 50.”
  4. Brochure: Forth Derby Cameras. Standard Model. Model II with American Made coupled range finder. Burleigh Brooks, New York
  5. Catalogue Photo-Plait 1931, p. 59 (price 550 francs).
  6. Catalogue Photo-Plait 1932, p. 82 (price 375 francs); 1933, p. 26 (price 390 francs); 1934, pp. 34-35 (price 390 francs); Catalogue Photo-Sport 1933, p. 8 (price 390 francs).
  7. Price in 1936: Reichsmark 48 for the f=3.5 and Reichsmark 60 for the f=2.5 Model. Both the black and the brown models were sold at the same prices (Advert Wauckosin & Co. Frankfurt).
  8. Catalogue Photo-Plait 1935, p. 34 (price 380 francs with f3.5 and 510 francs with f2.5 lens); 1936, p. 52 (same prices); Catalogue Photo-Hall May 1935, p. 12 (price 380 francs with f3.5 lens); May 1936, p. 12 (same price).—Catalogue A. Maillard (Paris) March 1934, p. 7 (295 francs with f3.5); March-April 1935,. 7 (290 francs with f3.5).
  9. A British 1939 catalogue offered the Derby with lens options: Foth f2.5 (£8/10); Foth f3.5 (£6/10); Zeiss Tessar 2.8 (£13) and Zeiss Tessar f3.5 (£11/10).
  10. Distributed by Burleigh Brooks of New York. See advertisements in Popular Photography 1937 (price US$23.75 with f3.5 and US$ 33.50 with f2.5 lens); Sears Catalogue 1938 (price US$19.98 with f3.5); Popular Photography 1939 and Camera Craft January 1939 (price US$21.50 with f3.5 and US$ 27.50 with f2.5 lens).
  11. [Private advertisement] The Sydney Morning Herald 10 March 1938, p. col. 3.—[Private advertisement] The Argus (Melbourne) 31 May 1938, p. 11. col. 4.
  12. The Derby is listed with Foth f/3.5 (¥107) and f/2.5 (¥155) in advertisements by Asanuma Shōkai in Asahi Camera January 1936, p.A7, February 1936, p.A7, and April 1936, p.A7, and in advertisements by Nichizui in Asahi Camera July 1936, p.A8, August 1936, p.A8, and September 1936, p.A33.
  13. It seems that the camera was no longer stocked by Photo-Plait after 1936, even though two other Foth products, such as the Foth-Mixte and the Foth-Flex, were stocked by the Paris photo supplier (Catalogue Photo-Plait 1936, p. 52). The same end date applies to Photo-Hall (Paris).
  14. Peeling & van Neck 1937 catalogue, reproduced in Ron Holloway (2009) Foth derby. Photographica World no. 130, p 37.
  15. The British Journal Photographic Almanac 1938, edited by Arthur J. Dalladay. London: Henri Greenwood & Co., Ltd. Publication date not indicated, certainly late 1937. Column on the Foth Derby on p.287.
  16. Popular Photography March 1940, p. 106 (price US$19.50 with f3.5 and US$ 24.50 with f2.5 lens).
  17. Montgomery Ward 1941 Catalogue, p. 6 (price US$17.95 with f3.5 and US$ 22.95 with f2.5 lens)
  18. Brochure ‘Forth Derby Cameras.’ Burleigh Brooks Inc., 126 West 42nd Street, New York, N.Y
  19. 19.00 19.01 19.02 19.03 19.04 19.05 19.06 19.07 19.08 19.09 19.10 19.11 19.12 19.13 19.14 19.15 Picture by Dirk HR Spennemann. (Image rights)

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