|Camera industry in Dresden|
|Balda | Certo | Eho-Altissa | Ernemann | Feinmess | Heyde | Hamaphot | Huth | Hüttig | ICA | Ihagee | Kochmann | Kerman | KW | Eugen Loeber | Ludwig | Mentor | Merkel | Meyer | Mimosa | Pentacon | Richter | Unger & Hoffmann | Werner | Wünsche | Zeiss Ikon | Zeh|
|Camera distributors in Dresden|
|Camera industry in Freital|
|Beier | Pouva | Thowe | Welta|
KW is a German manufacturer, founded in 1919 by Paul Guthe and Benno Thorsch. KW stands for Kamera Werkstätten Guthe & Thorsch.
|1933 ad for Patent-Etui-Kamera|
image by Dirk HR Spennemann (Image rights)
|6.5×9cm Patent Etui 1929|
image by Geoff Harrisson (Image rights)
The company was successor of the camera factory Guthe had founded in 1915. The innovative, compact Patent Etui cameras were introduced in 1920 and continued in production until 1938. The case - or Etui - of these cameras was slim enough to allow them to be slipped into a pocket.
In 1937 Paul Guthe emigrated to Switzerland; as a Jew he no longer felt safe in Germany. Benno Thorsch emigrated to the USA in 1938, for the same reason. Benno had already met Charles A. Noble of Detroit (who was of German origin) while Noble was on a visit to Germany. Thorsch had suggested selling KW in exchange for Charles' Detroit Photographic business.
The sale went ahead and Charles moved to Germany with his family. Charles soon realised that the company's future was in making 35mm SLR cameras.
The new company Kamera-Werkstaetten Charles A. Noble is mostly known for the Praktiflex 35mm SLR, developed by Benno Thorsch and Alois Hoheisel. The company moved to a larger factory building in the Bismarckstrasse and launched the new camera in 1939, that became the Praktica after the war.
KW was situated in the Eastern part of Germany, in the suburb of Niedersedlitz, in Dresden, the centre of German photo-optical manufacture. It was nationalised in 1945 by the East German post-war Soviet controlled regime. Charles A. Noble and his 23 year old son Henry H. Noble were arrested and imprisoned later they were sent to a Soviet Special prison, formerly Buchenwald, Charles was released in 1952 and returned to the USA, but in 1950 John was sentenced to 15 years in a Soviet work camp in Siberia and was only released after President Eisenhower's personal intervention in 1955.
The company launched the innovative Praktina in 1952, and was renamed as Kamera Werk Niedersedlitz. In 1956 it launched the Praktisix 6x6 SLR and took over the production of Zeiss Ikon's Contax F/Pentacon F.
After the reunification of Germany in 1990 John H. Noble tried to get back the factory and camera brand. He got back his father's old factory in the Bismarckstrasse and named it Kamera Werk Dresden. Today it makes the Noblex panorama cameras, carrying on the Noble name. John H. Noble died on the 17th November 2007.
|1936 ad shows Pilot and Patent Etui scanned by rebollo fr (Image rights)|
35mm film cameras
120 film cameras
|1937 ad shows Reflex-Box and Pilot 6 scanned by Nesster (Image rights)|
127 film cameras
- The first model of the Pilot 6 had a fixed lens, and from 1938 onwards it had interchangeable lenses.
- A devout Christian, Charles A. Noble had worked as a missionary in the USA before settling in Detroit, Michigan, after the birth of his son John in 1923. He had later taken over an ailing photo-finishing business that his wife worked for and turned it around into one of the largest in the USA.
- The history of the KW by Klaus-Eckard Riess in his camera site
- Site on the Praktina, with a history of KW
- Praktisix, Pentacon Six cameras and lenses information at Praktisix.com
- "Every Camera Has a Story: KW, the Patent Etui, and John H. Noble" by T. Rand Collins
- Flickr photos of Studio City Camera Exchange founded in California by Benno Thorsch after leaving Germany, on Flickr