The Ensign Commando was first issued to the armed forces by the end of WW2.
With the war over, the Commando was then made available to the general public
The Commando makes 2¼x2¼ inch (6x6 cm) pictures on 120 roll film; all but the first version of the camera can also make 1⅝x2¼ inch (4.5x6 cm) pictures, with a mask for the smaller format in the viewfinder.
The camera is unusual in that it is focused by movement of the film plane, not of the lens, like the Mamiya Six. The focus control is a knob on the left hand end of the top housing, opposite to the advance wheel.
The lens is a Houghton-Butcher Anastigmat in the earliest cameras, and an Ensar Anastigmat in later ones. Most lenses are 75 mm f/3.5; some early cameras have an f/4.5 lens. All but the last version of the camera have an Epsilon shutter with speeds 1 - 1/200 second, plus 'B'; the last version, from 1949, has a top speed of 1/300 second.
The shutter release is on the top housing, and there is a double-exposure prevention interlock between it and the film advance. The shutter is cocked manually.
The camera has red windows for film advance; all but the earliest version have optional automatic frame spacing for the square format (so the red window does not have to be used), at the expense that only 11 frames are obtained.
The following differentiation was never made during the production years: this has been defined in modern days aimed to help both users and collectors.
1945 Military Edition
As said, initially the Commando was made for military purposes, although probably it was released a bit too late and did not see much use on the front.
This version is 6x6-only so it has only one red window at the back door. The front of the top cover is chromed.
1946 Civilian Edition
|Ensign Commando 1946|
image by Simon Harvey Williams (Image rights)
The version of the Commando sold to the general public had few differences with the military variation. It was made available right after the end of WWII, in early 1946, and now had clear Ensign and Epsilon markings.
This edition added the dual-format capability by means of hinged masks - a clever feature, unlike other cameras the mask is always present - so there are two red windows for film advance on the back. There is also a sliding mask at the front of the viewfinder to accommodate the smaller 6x4.5 format. The front of the top cover is now black: it has a rectangular-shaped leatherette covering.
1948 Civilian Edition
|Ensign Commando, 1948 version|
image by John-Henry Collinson (Image rights)
The second variation of the Commando was introduced in 1948 and simply added a re-design of the film loading system by replacing the knob with a flat disc.
1949 Civilian Edition
|Ensign Commando 1949|
image by Rob Barnard (Image rights)
This variation was made in 1949-1950, until the model was discontinued and replaced by the Ensign Selfix 12-20 series.
- 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). p397.
- However, it was in short supply, and customers had to wait 6 to 9 months to get one once ordered. See the third comment, by Rick Manson, at this photo.
- Notes on the Ensign Commando at Early Photography.
- The military version was unmarked, e.g. the lens is "H.B.M.Co. Anastigmat". Example pictured at Adrian Richmond's pages
- 1949 Commando serial no. C6860, with 75 mm f/3.5 Ensar and Epsilon shutter to 1/300 second, sold at the 24th Westlicht Photographica Auction, on 23 November 2013.