Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Spartus Folding Camera Model No. 5-500

Back when I was in the deepest grip of camera mania I bought this camera off Ebay.  The main attraction was its Art Deco design.  I didn't pay much for it and I had it for a while before I started to appreciate it.  So far my experience has been that while not being a very good picture taker it is great to look at.  It helps that the camera was in like new condition.  I don't think that it was used much.  I imagine that it sat in its box for years. Probably the Spartus Folding camera was designed in the late 1930's. It started out as the Falcon Folding Camera in 1940 and shortly after the design was taken over by the Spartus Company of Chicago.  Spartus continued to make the Spartus Folding Camera up to the 1950's.

One of the things I like most about old cameras is that they can give me a feel of having a link to an earlier era in photography.  Sometimes that feeling is ruined by a camera that is so decrepit that it is hard to get a feel for what it must have been like when it was in its prime.  The Spartus Folding camera was in such good shape that it was not hard to imagine what it would have been like to use it when it was brand new. 

As you can see from the image above the Spartus Folding Camera is very simple.  About the only choice you have to make is to select an aperture of either f/16 or f/22.  There also is a choice of instant or timed for the shutter. Since there is no option for flash, the best time to use the Spartus would be on a sunny day.  That was a common limitation for cameras of the time. And since people back in those days seem to have spent more time outdoors this would not have seemed like a great limitation.

As far as the pictures it makes, well they aren't too great. Although I think the results would have met the expectations that most people would have for such a camera at the time. For a price of $7.95 the Spartus Folding Camera must have satisfied the needs of many picture takers back in the 1940's.  That is evidenced by its long production run, and by a fair number of these cameras still being around.

The Spartus uses 127 film, which was fairly popular for amateur picture making up to the 1960's.  Today with the demise of Efke, the last maker of 127 film, it appears that making use of cameras like the Spartus Folding Camera will be more difficult.  For the image here I took some 35mm film and put it on 127 backing paper.  That works reasonably well, however I don't think that I often will be willing to go to the trouble for the images that the Spartus Folding Camera makes.  Still I think the Spartus Folding Camera is very worthwhile for its design alone.  My advice if you are planning on getting one is to hold out for one in very good condition.  I would guess there still are a lot of good ones out there.  And having one in excellent condition adds much to being able to appreciate the non-picture-taking qualities of the Spartus Folding Camera.