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Abram Kershaw was the founder of A. Kershaw and Sons Ltd, makers of camera components and other optical equipment in Leeds, UK, in the late 19th century. A particularly successful product was the Kershaw focal-plane shutter; protected by a patent, Kershaw shutters were used in large-fomat SLR cameras by several makers. Kershaw made the Soho Reflex range of such cameras from about 1905, originally for Marion (the name refers to Marion's Soho Square address). The range included cameras for a wide range of plate sizes, from as small as 4½ x 6 cm, tropical models (with wood, metal and leather materials selected to withstand tropical heat and humidity) and stereo models. Some of the cameras made by Kershaw were also sold, under their own brand names, by several other companies.
Kershaw made military equipment during the First World War, opening a new factory in Leeds in 1916 for the production of rifle-sights and binoculars. The company also made military equipment including aerial bomb-sights during the Second World War.
In 1921, a number of British camera makers including Kershaw, and makers of films, plates and printing papers, including Marion, came together to form Amalgamated Photographic Manufacturers Ltd (APM); this was a strategy to cope with difficult times by combining resources, and might be compared to the formation of Zeiss Ikon in Germany in 1926. However, the organisation did not last long; the plate and film makers separated from it, as Apem Ltd, in 1929 (eventually becoming part of Ilford). The remainder of APM became Soho Ltd in about 1930. McKeown (p. 458) states that during both the APM and Soho Ltd periods, the Kershaw factory produced most of the companies' cameras. Kershaw also continued to produce other optical equipment independently of APM.
The Kershaw family sold the company to the Rank organisation in 1947. The company name became Kershaw-Soho (Sales) Ltd. It was during this period that many of the folding cameras, perhaps the most familiar of Kershaw's products, were produced. Kershaw-Soho named most of its cameras after birds, the directors being keen birders. The company name changed again, to GB Equipments Ltd, cameras being branded G.B. Kershaw. Finally, the company stopped producing cameras, but the 'Kershaw Division' remained a distinct part of the Rank organisation for some time. A note on UK dealer F. & S. Marriott's site suggests that Kershaw stopped making cameras in order to concentrate on making cinema projectors for the new Cinemascope wide-screen format (introduced in 1953).
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- Kershaw 110
- Kershaw 450
- Kershaw 630
- Curlew (three models)
- Eight-20 King Penguin
- Eight-20 Penguin
- Peregrine (three models)
- Soho Reflex (numerous models and sizes; see the brochure, linked below)
- Ilford Prentice
- McKeown, p. 651.
- McKeown, p. 458
- Information from the display on Kershaw in the Leeds Industrial Museum, Armley Mills, Leeds. The display includes a tropical strut-folding camera dated to the First World War, for 4x6.5 cm exposures on 127 film (then a new film size), thought to be a prototype never made commercially, and a Second World War bomb-sight.
- Aerial photograph showing part of Leeds in 1983, at Leodis - a photographic archive of Leeds. The Kershaw building is visible at the top centre of the picture; it was vacant at this time.
- McKeown, p. 67
- Fred and Stephanie Marriott's 'Pieces', no. 28
- It is fairly easy to see both a curlew and a peregrine within an hour's journey from Leeds; to see a king penguin is more of a challenge.
- Photographs at Leodis show the Rank Optics Kershaw building, fronting Kershaw's original building onto Harehills Lane in Leeds, looking north and looking south-west. Notes with the photographs state that Rank left the building only in 1983, and that the Kershaw Division specialised in fibre-optic instruments.
- Stocklist including a note about Kershaw Curlew and Peregrine cameras, at F. & S. Marriott.
- Soho Ltd brochure for the Soho Reflex range at Camera Eccentric
- Photograph showing part of the Kershaw factory in Leeds in 1955 at Leodis: a Photographic Archive of Leeds; the caption identifies it as A Kershaw & Sons, scientific instrument makers; by this date, the camera production was under a different company name. This is the plant opened in 1916.
- Kershaw Cameras at www.collection-appareils.fr (in French)
- Kershaw page at Collection G. Even's site (in French)