Ensign No. 3 and No. 3A

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The Ensign No. 3 and No. 3A are large-format folding cameras made by Houghton-Butcher in about 1930.[1] They are wooden-bodied, with metal in the rounded ends of the body and the removable back, and an aluminium folding bed. They are covered with black leather.

In the catalogue cited, the cameras are listed immediately after the range of Ensign Carbine models, and are of similar design, but are not named as Carbines themselves (there is a Carbine No. 3 in the same catalogue; it is a modest-specification model for 120 film). The Ensign No. 3 is for a large roll-film giving quarter-plate (3¼x4¼-inch) images; the No. 3A is for a postcard size roll-film, 3¼x5½-inch. At extra cost, either camera could be equipped for use with single plates in metal holders as well as roll-film. A panel in the back is then removable (it slides out of a pair of rails that then hold the plate-holder, or a focusing screen), and the pressure plate for roll-film is also removed for use with plates. For this reason, the camera does not have the film-pressure device common to many Ensign roll-film cameras, which gives extra pressure for film flatness during exposure.

The cameras were offered with a wide range of lenses, from an f/8 Rapid Aplanat to an f/6.3 Tessar, and with either a three-speed (presumably everset) shutter or a dial-set Compur with speeds from 1 second to 1/200 second, plus 'B' and 'T'.[1]

As standard, the camera has a bellows with extension sufficient to focus down to about three feet. The lens standard pulls out of the body by hand along simple rails, and engages with a focusing scale on the left at the front of the bed. The standard latches at infinity focus; to focus closer, the small knurled knob on the scale pointer must be pushed inwards, allowing the standard to be pulled further forward. The focus scale is adjustable for use with roll-film or plates (it swivels slightly, and pulls forward or back about 5 mm; a pointer at the near end of the focus scale points to F (film) or P (plate) accordingly).

A de luxe model was offered with double-extension bellows. This model has the plate-fitting back as standard. The lens standard on the de luxe camera racks to and fro for focusing with a knurled wheel on the right of the bed. The extra bellows extension allows much closer focusing; the catalogue states that objects may be photographed at greater than life size. One combinable lens, the Ross Homocentric, was offered for the de luxe camera, which can be separated to use one half of it as a long-focus lens with the extra bellows extension.

The following page (p22) of the catalogue lists identical cameras, now described as Speed Ensigns, equipped with one of a range of f/4.5 anastigmat lenses, from the Aldis-Butcher Anastigmat as standard, or at extra cost a Ross Xpres, Cooke Aviar or Zeiss Tessar, each in a Compur shutter.[1] For the postcard-sized camera, only the Aldis-Butcher or an f/4.9 Xpres were offered. The de luxe (double-extension) option was again offered.

All the cameras have a small amount of front rise, operated with a lever mounted round the lens, and push-pull sideways shift (or rise if the camera is used in landscape orientation). There is a brilliant finder which rotates in its mount for use in either orientation, and has a bubble level attached. This finder collapses when the camera is folded. There is no wire-frame finder.

There are tripod bushes for either orientation, and a table-stand on the bed.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Ensign catalogue dated 1930, pp 20-22, at Pacific Rim