Everyone enjoys a mystery and here’s an enigma that certainly has me scratching my head. Maybe you too, although it’s possible you might be able to help solve the puzzle. You see, the subject of my bewilderment is this camera…
In April this year, I had a serious operation. I was pretty sore afterwards but was determined to get out and about to help my recovery. My wife even hired a wheelchair so that she could take me out to the park, or meet the kids from school. Calling into my local friendly camera shop, Skears Photographic, in Northampton one day, Steve Skears asked me if I wanted a challenge. Did I? Of course I did!
He produced the amazing looking camera you see above from behind the counter, telling me that it was a handmade project that they had acquired several years ago in a big bundle of other equipment but they didn’t know anything else about it. After selling it a couple of years ago to another regular customer, the camera came back into their possession earlier in 2018 and well, Steve and the staff at Skears all thought it was right up my street.
They were right.
I was given a roll of ILFORD XP2 Super to go with it, which they would process for me. The idea was that having this camera would help me get better quicker.
The Nameless Camera
The first thing I noticed about the camera, was its lovely Mamyia-Sekor 100mm f/3.5 lens, which had been made for the Mamiya Press system of the 1970s. I originally had assumed that it was a 6×6 camera, not noticing the rectangular – not square! – frame under the removable pressure plate. Spending a little time pouring over it fixed that.
The camera has a coupled rangefinder and there’s even a frame counter. It was obvious by the attention to detail that as much thought had gone into designing it, as had been spent on building it.
Out and about
Most of my photography lends itself to the landscape format and I’d always wanted a 6×7 camera but the price of a Pentax 67, Mamiya RB67 or Mamiya 7 had always meant owning one would have to stay a dream.
I am probably best known as a railway photographer, having started out with a Kiev 4a in 1981. My main medium format camera, a Mamiya C220, is lovely but the square format is not always suited to the work I do and I usually end up cropping out the top and bottom of each shot.
So, with the Nameless Camera, I loaded it up with the ILFORD XP2 Super and at my first opportunity (once the rain stopped), I was out with the new toy. I have to admit I got a bit carried away and ran off two rolls of ILFORD XP2 Super and a roll of Fomapan 100 and have to say that my first results were incredible, so, so sharp.
The results of those and subsequent rolls speak for themselves.
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Getting to grips with it
I quality of the results to one side for a moment, I realised that I wasn’t loading the camera correctly. There was no information on where the start mark of the film should be set, or when the counter should be reset. Steve Skears gave me an old roll of film, which enabled me to work out where the start should be. The end result is that I (usually) get a full ten frames on a roll of 120 film.
Here’s how to load it:
- The tripod mount also secures the back of the camera. Remove it and slide off the back.
- Lift off the pressure plate load your new roll into the left side of the camera
- Pull the leader across to the right and tuck the leader into the take-up spool in the usual way.
- Line up the start mark with the label.
- Reset the counter, by sliding it to the left. The counter makes a click when it is reset.
- Replace the pressure plate.
- Slide on the back and screw the tripod mount back on.
It’s so well made, there are no foam light seals needed. Here’s the above in pictures:
The split image, coupled rangefinder is very accurate, if not always very easy to see. Several of my photographer friends have pointed out that this camera is “very me”; I certainly find it a pleasure to shoot with.
I took the camera away with me on a family holiday to Norfolk recently, where I had great fun shooting with it. It attracted a great deal of interest from people, the strange red-headed man with that funny looking camera!
I have thoroughly enjoyed using this camera. Its beauty lies in the fact that one person must have spent a great deal of time thinking, designing and making it. Their time was worth it; it is a fantastic camera to use.
You really cannot beat having a proper independent local camera shop; especially one which is equally passionate about film as digital, so I’d like to thank all of the staff at Skears, for putting up with me and my sometimes temperamental cameras. I’m not sure I’ll ever come across another camera quite like this one again but have been assured they have a box of cameras for me should I want to have a dig around.
A word from Skears Photographic
I mentioned to Skears that this review was in the works and in the intervening weeks they’ve been working away to get a few more cameras ready for sale on their website and would like to offer all EMULSIVE readers 10% off all used cameras. Just use the discount code EMULSIVE until 11th August 2018 Skears normally only ship within the UK but are happy to deal with any international requests. Just drop them a line via email before you order.
On top of this, Skears, Martyn and I would like to ask for your help. Do you have any idea who built the camera, or perhaps someone who might? It’s not exactly a run-of-the-mill design and someone out there must have some idea of where it came from. Leave your thoughts in the comments, or drop me a line using the contact page!
Camera with no name technical specifications
|Camera name||The Nameless Camera|
|Viewfinder coverage||100% -ish|
|Lens||Mamiya-Sekor 100mm f/3.5 E with cable release and coupled rangefinder
4 elements in 3 groups (Tessar type), 55mm filter
|Other||Automatic frame counter with manual reset|
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I came across a DIY camera club several years ago in Tokyo of which the members are mainly made up of retired connoisseurs. They gather regularly to share their latest creations – mostly franken cameras like this.
A very interesting camera. Solid made. But the format is not clear for me: it seems to be less as 6×6, may be 6×4.5 ?
The lenses of Mamiya professional are very good: So I made DIY a combination of ROYER and MAMIYA.
I would kill for a modern copy. (An affordable < €600 6×7 camera). Seems like this is makeable.
Interesting discovery. I visited Skears a couple of years ago when in the UK, having been directed there by Jessops in Milton Keynes. Polite and helpful to a total stranger. Would love to visit again.
@atlantean526 @SkearsPhoto Very cool
@atlantean526 @SkearsPhoto I love this camera! If you ever run across another, I will take it!