Thornton-Pickard Ruby

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The Ruby is a wooden folding field camera made by Thornton-Pickard from about 1890 to 1907.[1] Intended for use on a tripod, the folding bed includes a turntable. The design was changed to make the camera also usable as a hand camera.[2]

McKeown states that the camera has a 'Ruby' Rapid-Rectilinear lens.[3] This is mounted on a Thornton-Pickard roller-blind shutter on the front standard.

The Royal Ruby is a very similar camera, introduced as a high-specification version of the Ruby (Notes at Early Photography describe it as the top of T-P's range[4]) in about 1900,[5] and continued in production for some years after the standard Ruby was discontinued. McKeown states that all Royal Ruby cameras are triple extension (allowing close focus, or long-focus lenses).[3] Examples exist with roller-blind shutters on the lens board,[6] and with a built-in focal-plane shutter.[7] Royal Ruby cameras have been seen in quarter- half- and full-plate, and 4x5-inch and (perhaps) 5x7½-inch (or 13x18cm) sizes. Notes at Early Photography state that 5x7½-inch and 8x10-inch cameras were introduced in 1907, when the quarter-plate and 4x5-inch sizes were discontinued.[4][5][8] There is also a half-plate stereo model.

The Special Ruby, strangely, was introduced as a lower-specification version of the Ruby, also shortly before the standard model was discontinued.[3] Wood and Brass shows an example from 1909-12, with a spring back (for easy insertion of dark slides in front of the focusing screen) and with triple extension;[9] the notes state that these features were among those left off the Special at first, and that they were reintroduced in about 1908, so the camera is very similar to a standard Ruby. McKeown lists the Special Ruby as double extension.[3]


  1. Half-plate Ruby of about 1897, at Wood and Brass.
  2. British Patent 22136 of 1895, Improvements in Photographic Cameras, granted to John Thornton and Edgar Pickard, and describing changes to a stand camera 'such as is well known as the Thornton Pickard Ruby Camera' to make it suitable for hand-held use as well as on a stand; at Espacenet, the patent search facility of the European Patent Office.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 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). p918.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Royal Ruby at Early Photography: details and pictures of a quarter-plate camera and a half-plate one with nickel-plated fittings.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Royal Ruby in half-plate and full plate sizes, dated by the site owner to about 1900 and 1907 respectively, at Wood and Brass.
  6. Half-plate Royal Ruby outfit, dated by the auctioneer to about 1925; camera, T-P wooden tripod, two lenses and several front shutters, sold at the fifteenth Westlicht Photographica Auction, on 23 May 2009.
  7. Half-plate Royal Ruby, dated by the auctioneer to about 1904, with built-in T-P 'Unit' focal-plane shutter, offered for sale at the tenth Westlicht auction, on 18 November 2006.
  8. Royal Ruby camera described as 13x18cm (and with 13x18 reducing masks for the plate/film holders) but perhaps actually the similar 5x7½-inch size, sold at the 36th Leitz Photographica Auction in June 2020.
  9. Half-plate Special Ruby, about 1909-12, at Wood and Brass; this example has triple extension and a spring back. Its shutter is missing from the lens board.