J-B Ensign

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The "J-B" Ensign is a box camera made for a few years from 1929 by Houghton-Butcher. It makes eight 2¼x3¼-inch exposures on 120 film (Ensign's E20 size). The body of the camera is cardboard, covered with black leatherette, but the internal structure is wood. It has a meniscus lens and a 'T' and 'I' shutter. It has Watson finders for horizontal and vertical orientation. It has a leather strap handle on top. The name is impressed on the front, below the lens. Film spools are loaded directly into the camera, instead of into a removable internal 'cone' part as with some box cameras. For this reason the spools sit above and below the film 'gate', and the camera is unusually tall for its format, misleadingly like a postcard format camera. A portrait supplementary lens, a tripod attachment and a cloth case were offered for the camera.[1]

Notes on the camera at David Purcell's Redbellows show some advertisements, leaflets and packaging for the camera.[1] They note that the camera was sold at a much lower price than most entry-level cameras, and was given away as a promotional item, including by John Bull magazine. It is speculated that this promotion may explain the name of the camera, though it is sometimes listed as the Junior Box Ensign. One of the documents shown is a letter accompanying the camera when supplied by John Bull, which offers insurance (against house fire etc., not for the camera!) - thus the camera was promoting more than just magazine subscriptions.

See also the Kodak Baby Hawkeye, a smaller camera of about the same quality, also used as a promotional giveaway.