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Barnet Ensign Ross Ful-Vue II Pseudo TLR camera

 


 

UKRoss Ensign Ltd was the last (1954) incarnation of a long running British camera manufacturer, which started in 1838 as Claudet & Houghton. I don't want to get bogged-down in the twists and turns of the company history, other than to note that my collection includes a circa 1898 Houghton Victo half plate field camera, made by George Houghton & Sons - an early derivative of Claudet & Houghton.

 

 

The Ful-Vue II was made by Barnet Ensign Ross (which became Ross Ensign in 1954) between 1950 and 1953. The Ful-Vue is a very simple camera, which was produced in various guises for about 20 years. The first model (1939) was a classic box-shaped pseudo TLR. The second version (1946) introduced the distinctive curvy styling, and the Ful-Vue II enhanced this design by the addition of a new shutter assembly which provided the camera with a flash synch terminal, plus an improved three-point focusing lens to replace the two-point predecessor.

 

Ful-Vue II

Advertisement from an August 1952 edition of Picture Post.

 

The film transport mechanism is unsophisticated; the advance knob does no more than wind the film on to the receiving spool, without any form of device to ensure sufficient winding, nor prevent double exposure. The user must monitor correct film advance via a ruby window which does have a nice concealed safety cover.

The shutter is a self-energising single blade with two settings - Instant and Time (I & T) - where Instant is 1/30th sec., and Time the duration for which the release is depressed (Bulb)

The camera produces 12 6x6cm negatives on 120 roll film.

The lens appears to be comprised of a single element with a fixed aperture of f/11. Focus settings are 2, 3 - 5, and 6 yards (not feet - as often stated elsewhere) to infinity. My camera seems to require a slight pull/push as the focus control is rotated. Estimates of the focal length vary, but I think it's about 75mm, which is roughly equivalent to 43mm in 135 film format.

 

 

Framing is via a Brilliant finder. This system was introduced in around 1910, and comprised an objective lens, mirror and screen with a second lens. Previously, Brilliant finders had produced a very small image, usually no more than 1cm across, but the Ful-Vue has a comparatively massive finder; almost 4cm square. The finder is viewed from some distance (i.e. waist level), and provides a left-to-right reversed image. The mirror isn't glass but polished chrome metal.

All this technology is encased in a sheet-metal body. The right side removes for film loading, making the camera resemble a small biscuit tin! The lens/shutter mounting plate is presumably Bakelite.

The camera deserves some recognition beyond its limited technical specification. The design abandoned the conventional box shape in favour of modern aesthetic appeal, and over a million cameras were apparently made and sold.

The Ful-Vue II has a weight of 401g. The body width is about 7.5cm, 9.5cm deep, and 10.4cm tall.

Ful-Vue Sync changesA red, blue and silver-grey body colour variation were sold to celebrate the 1953 coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. The Ful-Vue II was initially fitted with Ensign's own bayonet synch, but later models (such as the Coronation cameras) have a Compur co-axial type.

A user manual for this camera can be found here.

 


 

I bought my camera in June 2019, in a Northumberland antiques shop. The price was - after an unsolicited £2 discount - £5.00. I picked it up for an inspection and immediately liked it. The shape is appealing and it fits nicely in the hands. The viewfinder is interesting, because it resembles a mini screen (like on an android phone) and works at a similar viewing distance. The camera is fully operational, and in good condition, but the viewing path is full of tiny fibres. The viewfinder housing is not sealed, and therefore a dust trap. It should be removable - via a single spring clip that connects the two housings - visible when the right side is removed for film insertion. This spring is reputed to be stiff, and I can't shift mine. I'd rather not force it and risk bending the thin plate body. Never mind: I bought the camera for display only.

The Ful-Vue II is small, cute, retro-futuristic, screams 50s, and begs to be picked-up and played with. It's also British - nice!