Huge Wooden Camera - R. R. Robertson of Chicago

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by ernest_dalby, Aug 25, 2009.

  1. Hello All,
    I am a new member, this is my first post. Can anyone tell me a little more about this camera? I am going to try to add a picture:
  2. Does it have glass on the back? If so, the size of the glass is the appox. size of the film it takes. If you want filmholders let me know & I will recommend someone to make them.
  3. Yes, apparently it does (looks like 11x14), it is just that I'm not with the camera! I can't measure anything or ascertain the condition or quality or anything. Here are some larger pictures - I just put them on PhotoBucket:
    I have more pictures of the gears and stand if it helps to figure this out. Google had little, eBay even less....
    Thanks so much for any assistance with this ID!
  4. This beast looks way bigger than an 11x14 camera!
  5. Robertson made cameras for graphic arts. Did this come from a print shop?
  6. Origin unknown, however it is located in Buffalo, NY. A complete mystery. I have been given a price of $800 to acquire they know something I don't? I think they are going by size/condition rather than by facts about the item. If it wasn't for conventional photography, then for pre-historic stats?
    Thank you all for your input. I appreciate it!
  7. The back might be worth something, depending on what size. I'd write or call the owner and get some more facts about the thing.
    However, it is true, as noted above, that Robertson made graphic arts cameras. I've worked at some similar cameras that had Robertson branded lenses on them (probably made for them by other makers). Process lenses are the ones that were used on these cameras.
    In any event, stories abound about print shops giving away or dumping cameras like these, although those are usually later metal ones.
    The only thing that gives me pause is that back -- graphic arts cameras usually have vacuum backs on them, not regular film-holder backs like on a view camera. So it could be some sort of adaptation of some sort. If the camera's small enough, it could perhaps be used as a studio camera, but its lack of movements would be severely limiting.
    For 800 smackers, I'd pass on it. Maybe offer them a hundred or two, just to get the back.
  8. Agree it is a graphic arts camera. The part you show in your pix is the upper part of a carriage which would run on a piece of railroad-type track 15 feet long or more, probably at one end of the track would be a glass-fronted swivelling/hinged easel to hold flat artwork for copying, suspended from the easel on brackets would be two lighting units with large bulbs or carbon arcs.
    You would not readily be able to separate the camera from the carriage, so any transport would require a fork-lift truck and box va or pickup truck. The camera and carriage could well weigh 250 lb or more, the whole rig 1000 to 1500 lb or more. I operated a similar camera in my youth (British "Littlejohn"brand), I do not believe cameras like this were made with front or rear tilt, so I would think the fact that the front and rear standards are leaning indicates damage. I can only guess what size film it takes, the lens panel seems very small in relation to the front of the camera, on the other hand very large film was often held on a vacuum back, as others have said, or else in a darkslide with a permanently sticky sheet of plate glass to which a sheet of film was attached, rather than a conventional double dark slide. Cameras of this kind came in sizes from 8x10" (unusually small) through to 12x15", 16x20", 20x24", 30x40" and even 40x60".
    As regards buying the camera, I would say only if
    a) you pay little or nothing ($800 is FAR too much) and
    b) there are some film holders with it (yes you can have them made, big ones could cost $500 or more each)
  9. C3B79322-3BA8-4446-9694-0B8509CB6096.jpeg This response is years late in coming, but I just acquired a camera like this. It was a copy camera in a print shop for the past 40 or so years; I cut the copy railing off (you can see it to the side of the included image) and will be using the camera for portrait and still life work. The size of the camera is mind-boggling. It takes 2’x2’ negatives!

    She arrived at my studio on Monday morning, now I have to build a darkroom around the back of her.

    I’d be curious to know if you ended up getting this one, and what your experiences with it have been so far!
    John Farrell likes this.
  10. Looks like you've bought yourself an expensive hobby, feeding that thing with film!

    Like dhbebb, I once operated a huge 'Littlejohn' graphic arts camera. (All metal, not wooden though). Biggest film I ever fed it was 20"x24", but I believe the vacuum platen was larger still. That size of lith film was horrendously expensive 40 years ago. I dread to think what you'll need to pay for continuous tone film as a special order these days.

    "ernest_dalby was last seen: Dec 3, 2009"
    - according to the OP's profile. So you might be talking to the wind Anja.
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2017

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