Friday, March 23, 2012

Detrola Model E

Made: Probably 1939
Lens: Wollensak 2 inch f3.5 Velostigmat
Shutter speeds: 1/25 sec, 1/50 sec., 1/100 sec., 1/200 sec., T and B
Aperture: f-stops: 3.5 to 22 
Film: 127

Trying to finish this post quickly this morning since my connection has been spotty.  Detrola was once well-known as a maker of Radios.  From 1938 to 1940 they took a shot at making cameras.  Maybe they were trying to copy the success of Argus which started as a radio maker and then moved totally into cameras.  Detrola seems to have been fairly ambitious in their move to cameras, however troubles with faulty materials made their cameras less than successful.  From what I have read the main problem seems to have been with buckling of the bakelite in the bodies and viewfinders of these cameras. From 1938 to 1940 Detrola released ten models and then they were out of the business.

I have to admit that I got my Detrola Model E just because I liked how it looked.  And as far as looks goes it is still one of my favorites.  Mine doesn't seem to have any of the buckling problems.  The lens and shutter are both in good shape and overall the camera is pretty clean.   It seems like at one time I saw that this camera originally sold for around $12.  That would be in line with the Argus cameras of that time.  As far as pictures go the results are average at best.  The Argus A might be its most comparable camera and my personal experience is the the A gives better results.

All of the Detrola's except the Model A have a telescoping lens.  One problem I have had is that it is easy to push the lens back in and not notice it.  At least mine doesn't lock in position very well.  Still like with a lot of these old cameras it helps to pay attention to everything with each picture I take. 

The Detrola also has the limitation of using 127 film which is somewhat expensive.  I have a roll of 46mm x 100 ft of Kodak Portra that I am going to try putting on some of my used 127 backing papers.  If it turns out to work well it could be a fairly economical solution to the 127 film problem.  And while I got this mostly to use with my Yashica 44LM I am also curious to see how the Detrola will do with a different film. 

It may sound funny, since I tend to value cameras by how much I like the photos they make, however the Detrola is in the small handful of cameras that would be the last ones I would part with.  For some reason I have a fondness for it despite my general dissatisfaction with the pictures it makes. Most all of the Detrola's are inexpensive to buy.  The most important thing to check is for warping.

Well, I made it this far without getting cut off.  I probably better not press my luck and end things with a link to the gallery


  1. Looking through the gallery, I can see that this was probably a fine snapshot camera for families but that was about it. Still, it does look good, and I'm not surprised it remains one of your favorites.

    1. Jim I think you are right about that family snapshot evaluation. I have probably put more effort than a sane person would put into getting some better images out of this camera and the ones in the gallery were the best I could do. I am not saying I am the most skilled photographer, however I usually am able eventually able to make a camera shine if it is capable of doing so. I am going to make one last shot by putting some Portra through it. Sometimes a camera will show something with a different film that it didn't show before.

  2. I love old film cameras. Old film cameras are like having an affair. You can have as many as you want. Your wife doesn't mind and in the end you don't lose your house. :)