Envoy Wide Angle - A Surprise British Oddity

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by ralf_j., Sep 9, 2008.

  1. Envoy Wide Angle is a high precision British made camera which was produced for a period of 25 years. It should not be confused with the Ilford Envoy plastic cameras which are inferior in quality. Its body is made of die cast metal and the shutter is rimset type and came in several variations throughout its existence. The more expensive ones featured a Synchro Compur version. The lens however was never changed, a 64mm f/6.5, 4 element marvel manufactured by Taylor, Taylor Hobson ltd covering an angle of 84 degrees. This focal lenth is the equivalent of 25mm in 35mm format photography. Although the maximum aperture is 6.5 all accounts on the web indicate to avoid using it at that opening, and I can only speculate that the results would be less than desirable.
    The focus is fixed, obviously not a real draw-back when considering the great depth of field this particluar optic offers; for instance at:
    • f/11 -- 10 - 60 ft
    • f/16 -- 6 - 400 ft
    • f/22 -- 4 - ∞ ft
    • f/32 -- 1 - ∞ ft
    I got this strange camera on loan from a friend at work. He had been searching for one for a long time and got lucky a couple of months ago. Even then he did not get the complete unit - but, I'd say, as the pictures indicate, a half a camera. Furthermore, someone had violated the camera by ripping the parallax adjustments piece together with the rivets that were holding it put, leaving two exposed holes on the top housing. The leatherette is worn as well especially in the grip areas. The lens however appears to be in remarkable shape, as is the shutter on the fast speeds. The slow speeds do require a cla as the blades are sluggish and do not open all the way.
    At some point this camera came with plate holders and a 120 film insert that aligned with the advance knob on the top housing. These example's accessories had been lost over the years. I had full intention of taking advantage of it so was happy to note that my Rollex 6x9 rollfilm back was a perfect fit. The first color negative roll was a disaster as I had not noticed the holes on the top housing left exposed from the missing rivets. But the second attempt, with a T- MAX 100 proved successul after I plugged the holes with a pice of electrical tape enforced with some Loctite glue. The day was bright and sunny for the beach shots, with a constant light so the camera was basically used as point and shoot after initial settings. I cropped out some of the light leaks on the edges caused by the film holder. There is a slight pincushion distortion more apparent on straight lines like the horizon, however I'd say, this lens performance is very acceptable considering the time it was design in. Here is the camera with a couple of results:
    Seascape Vista
    1/125s, f/16 on T-MAX 100
    Wolfe's Pond Beach, Staten Island, NY

    The Jetty
    1/125s, f/16 on T-MAX 100
    Wolfe's Pond Beach, Staten Island, NY

    Met Life Clock Tower
    1/100s, f/11 on T-Max 100
  2. Very interesting....

    Nice work. How did you ever figure out that the Rollei back would work and what are the odds that the camera and a back to fit would ever end up in the same hands?

    Congratulations to you, the owner, and the camera.
  3. Hi JDM, thanks for commenting. The Rollex back is a common rollfilm holder made for plate cameras in 6.5x9 or 9 x 12 format. Rada is another brand which is of higher quality in workmanship in my opinion. I measured the track width and it was the right fit. The tracks were used to slide plate holders as mentioned above. So I just replaced the plate for the roll film holder and voila. The format on 120 film is virtually the same 6x9.
  4. Ralf,

    Very Nice images! I'm struck at how sharp they are..given the depth of field and the expert handling....it's still a
    wonder to behold, when you consider how you doctored up a roll film back on a plate mount!!
    Are complete cameras that hard to come by? Kudos! Great stuff!!
  5. Excellent post.
  6. Great pics. That camera is a real wolf in sheeps clothing.
  7. Stunning images, it's so rare to see a classic wide fixed-lens camera!
  8. What a great job of rescuing that unique old camera. First time I have heard about it. There is only a
    small note on it in my old copy of McKeown's, but a Google search turns up quite a few references. I
    don't suppose I'll find one I can afford, but it seems like one might be able to build something around the
    right lens.
  9. Ineresting indeed.

    I have never tried using the Envoy Wide Angle as they are still fairly sought after in UK. You were fortunate to get one with the Compur shutter as the native UK Epsilon shutter was troublesome.

    The pics look nice and sharp.
  10. Chuck - thank you for the kind and encouraging words. Considering this type of camera and its rarity, it is really what you can get, and was really happy that my friend loaned it to me. The rollfilm back was really not a big deal as it was made to replace plates when they were not the desirable medium. How is your Graflex SLR coming along? Were you able to procure a lens for it? How about that board?<p>

    Thanks Gene as always.<p>

    Ken you are right, at first glance there is nothing much to look at, but when I saw the image on the ground glass while testing it, I was sold. I did owe it at least a couple of rolls. Thanks.<p>

    Pat - thanks! Do you know of any other unique units like this one? This is the only one I have come across.<p>

    Mike C. - thanks for the kind words. It seems they are hard to come by, even on eBay(UK), I have been on the look-out for one since my friend told me. I am not sure what he paid, but will make it a point to ask him. A check for completed listings also turned up nothing.<p>

    Colin - thanks for looking at my results with the Envoy Wide Angle. This example has the cheaper 4 speed shutter with no name on it, so I am inclined the to think it may be the Epsilon shutter. The Compur ones are even harder to come by.
  11. Ralf, all three pictues are beautiful. what a find indeed.
  12. I image any teenage asking what that artefact is for. Fabulous Ralf, well done job. Second one is great.
  13. From comments here and after looking at auction prices, I think that it is unlikely that I'm going to find one of these cameras any time soon. I do like wide-angle photography, though, so it seems worthwhile to look into emulating some of the features of the Envoy in some kind of diy project. I'm encouraged in this by the fact that the Envoy resembles a couple of pin hole cameras I have built, one from a Billy Record, and the other from a Recomar. It is a big advantage in such projects to start off with a box in which film transport and light-tightness have already been addressed. With no need for variable focus, it isn't much of a problem to stick a lens and shutter on such a box. Where I come up short, however, is in knowledge about affordable w/a lenses that would cover the 6x9 real estate.
  14. I have one of those cameras. I love the simplicity of it and the fact that the the lens is extremely sharp, but I have had
    major film flatness and light leak problems with mine. I am still trying to resolve those issues. I think the Taylor Taylor & Hobson lens
    was a pre-existing model that was originally sold separately as a lens for large format photography. The lens easily screws
    right out of the front of the Envoy.
  15. That camera must be the ancestor of the Brooks Veriwide.
  16. Rob - thank you for the comments. It is a nice beach, not my first choice as a site to take a dip in though<p>

    Luis - this beach is a picnic site as well with a very nice park adjacent to it, we were there celebrating a friend's kid birthday and there were quite a few adults that laughed and shook their head at my camera, while I pittied them and their fancy digital SLRs, aka, computers with lenses.<p>

    Mark there is a remedy with the film flatness, use the a rollfilm back, like I did. The leaks were not that bad in my case.<p>
    Bob - I would have to look that camera up. Thanks
  17. Wow, that is one skanky looking camera and those are some great looking pictures! There seems to be some center to edge light fall-off but it is probably exaggerated by the scan and anyway it works well for the subjects you chose.
  18. Thanks August. It's a good camera with one purpose, wide angle photography. Too bad I do not own it.
  19. Hi, Ralf One of the more stupid things I did way back in my early collecting days was sell a complete Envoy outfit with case, plate back, instructions, etc, for just A$150 to another local collector. It was actually one of the later versions with Synchro Compur shutter and in very nice condition, but I thought it a bit quirky with a glorified box-camera style body so I was glad at the time to get rid of it for that price, and recover some of the outlay for a package deal of several older and more interesting cameras that had come along with it from a deceased estate.

    I later found out that these Envoy outfits were originally often issued to Police and Forensic Departments for photographing "Scene-Of-The-Crime" situations, which might explain the morbid collecting interest in them today. To be honest, I'm still not that impressed whenever the guy in our Cam Coll Club to whom I'd sold the Envoy outfit brings it along for the Show-And-Tell-Gloat. The only painful part for me is that I wished I'd sold it for more. However, one other camera from that same Deceased Estate package deal sale that really does irk me in retrospect, was a very early Ensignette #1 in black laquered brass in absolutely mint condition, with perfect paintwork and pristine bellows etc.. I'm embarrassed to mention just how much I sold it for .......... but if I saw one today, I'd cheerfully pay double that amount.

    In my defence, all I can say is that at that time my collecting criteria weren't as clear as they are now. There are a Million Great Collecting Stuff-Up Stories Out There, and this has been one more of them ..........

    (Pete In Perth)

    PS - By way of balancing the ledger, I do still have the pristine EKC Rochester 1911 No 3 FPK Model G and 1905 No 2 Folding Brownie, both resplendent with maroon bellows and with everything working just fine still, that also came via that deceased estate sale. I'm happy to say that I've never seen a better looking example of either camera, even from the George Eastman Museum.
  20. Wow, Pete, what a story. Well the ENVOY Wide is definitely in a class of its own, and does not have to appeal to everyone's taste, but it will give you those sweeping vistas that wide angle shooters usually crave. Oh well, I will be on a lookout for one.

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