Wing New Gem

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The Wing New Gem is a wooden camera that makes fifteen separate exposures, each about 1¼ inch square, on a 5×7 inch (13×18 cm) plate. It was made by Simon Wing and Company of Charlestown, MA, in about 1901.[1] The camera would probably have been used commercially for tintype 'gem' portraits. The plate, developed as a positive by reversal, would be cut into its fifteen parts; small portraits to be given or sent to family and friends.

The camera has the form of a simple box, with a plate-holder at the back. The lens is set in a small wooden board; this slides in a rectangular brass frame, which has detents so that the board click-stops in three positions vertically. The brass frame slides horizontally within the front of the camera body, and would be set in five different positions (the brass frame is engraved with mar showing the centre-line of the lens, but there are no obvious markings on the body for this to be aligned with). Behind the lens there is a rectangular wooden tube to restrict the image to the correct area of the plate in each exposure. The area around the lens board is covered with an arrangement of overlapped wooden panels that slide over each other to fill the camera front.

The example shown by McKeown has a pneumatic shutter mounted on the front of the lens. Another example with the same shutter was sold by Westlicht,[2] perhaps suggesting the shutter was supplied with the camera. Other examples seen elsewhere on the Web do not have this shutter.[3][4] Using relatively slow tintype in a studio, it would have been quite possible to use the camera without a shutter.

There is a viewfinder mounted on a stalk from the lens board. This appears to have a simple front lens, projecting an image onto a small ground-glass screen.


  1. 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). p999-1000.
  2. New Gem camera with pneumatic shutter; a lot in the 20th Westlicht Photographica Auction on 1 November 2011.
  3. A New Gem previously shown at Historic Camera had the front of the lens more-or-less flush with the lens board, so a shutter would be hard to mount.
  4. New Gem at Pierce Vaubel; several good photographs. This example has a brass lens to which a shutter could easily be push-fit. A plate from the camera is also shown.