Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ansco Shur-Shot Jr.

Judging from the nicks and rust on the metal trim, this Ansco box camera saw a lot of use since it was built around 1948. The camera was conceived to meet the modest objectives of family snapshot shooters, and that is reflected in the materials from which it is made, mostly sheetmetal, paper and plastic for the winding knob.  However, when you open the camera and remove the film-holding frame a somewhat different picture emerges. The simple materials are put together with origami-like precision, and the insides of the camera still look much as they must have when the camera was newly displayed in a camera shop's window.

The basic construction is very similar to 120 rollfilm cameras which first appeared a half-century earlier. The glass meniscus lens is located behind the shutter and aperture to obtain the optimal performance from a simple lens design. There is only one aperture and one shutter speed available, no cable release socket, and no tripod mount. Film advance is purely manual with the use of a ruby window on the back door. The features that give away the post-WWII origin of the camera are the bold, sans-serif lettering on the front, the bakelite winding knob, and the brilliant viewfinders which give a much nicer preview of the image than the earlier ground glass type.

I don't recall now what inspired me to purchase this ultra-simple box camera. I had it sitting in a china cabinet for a long time before I got around to putting a roll of film through it. My expectations for it were not high, even though I had gotten rather nice results from some of my other box cameras. When I closely examined the scans of the negatives, however, I was astounded at the resolution obtained from the camera's simple lens as shown in the two images below. The first is a full-frame shot of our former home in a valley north of Las Cruces. The second is a small crop showing the barbwire fence that was about fifty yards from the camera, and the house which is another 150 to 200 yards.

I haven't shot another roll of film with the Shur-Shot Jr. and don't know if I'll do so again, but the results I got from it have been a source inspiration for me to continue using simple cameras.

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