The Foton is a high-specification 35mm camera launched by Bell & Howell in 1948, with a small number of interchangeable lenses and a coupled rangefinder. The standard lens is a 'Filmocoted' Taylor-Hobson 2-inch T2.2 (f/2) Cooke Amotal anastigmat (the aperture is marked in T-stops). This can be focused either by twisting the lens itself, or with the focusing wheel on the front right-hand side of the body; The rangefinder is in a separate eyepiece from the viewfinder.
The lenses have a screw mount. The focusing helical thread is part of the camera body, not the lens. A four-inch T4 (f/2.5) Panchrotal was available; An example has been seen at Westlicht with a Cooke 216 mm (8½ inch) f/5.6 Telekinic and a shoe-mounted rangefinder unit to serve one of the telephoto lenses; clearly, this suggests that the camera's own rangefinder does not couple with all the available lenses. McKeown states that a twelve-inch Cooke lens was also available.
The camera has a focal-plane shutter with metal blades, travelling vertically, with speeds 1 - 1/1000 second, plus 'B'. The shutter release is on the front of the body (there is a button on the top housing where a shutter release might be expected; this is the rewind release). It also has both a 6 frame-per-second spring motor advance (with the winding key in the base) and a manual advance knob on the top housing. Advancing the film cocks the shutter; there is a frame counter, and an indicator window beside the film advance knob, to show when the camera is wound on and cocked. There is a control by the shutter release to select single or continuous exposures.
There is a film speed reminder dial tucked under the hot shoe.
In 1949, the camera was advertised for $700 in the July issue of U.S. Camera. In just a few months, the advertised price had dropped to $498 (see the advertisements below).
Scans by camerawiki (Image rights)
- The Foton at Scott's Photographica Collection.
- Foton, including a picture with the four-inch Panchrotal lens and one with the film chamber open, at Stephen Gandy's Cameraquest.
- Foton serial no. 697076, with Amotal standard lens and Cooke 216 mm f/5.6 Telekinic, and shoe-mounted rangefinder, offered for sale at the 27th camera auction by Westlicht Photographica Auction.
- 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). p123.