The Ensign Autorange 16-20 - The Camera for the Discerning Masochist

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by john_seaman|2, Jul 27, 2015.

  1. The Ensign Autorange 16-20 is a British coupled rangefinder roll film folder from the mid 1950's. It's equipped with the well respected Ross Xpres 75mm F3.5 lens. This one came with its ever ready case in an Ebay lot with a few other cameras.
    Houghton-Butcher who traded as Ensign, never made a 35mm camera, and seem to have disappeared by around 1960. My Wallace Heaton Blue Book of 1955 gives the price of the 16-20 as thirty nine pounds and fifteen shillings. There are other Autorange cameras for different sizes, the 6x9 820 being the most desirable apparently, as they can go for thousands.
    As so often, despite what some say about ever ready cases, this one had kept its contents in lovely condition. These cameras have a similar rangefinder coupling syaten to Super Ikontas, with a rotating optical wedge on the end of an arm – upon opening the camera, you have to move the arm into its operating position.
  2. It features a double exposure prevention system which is perhaps unique to Ensign. If you forget to wind on or cock the shutter, and try to press the button, the outer sleeve moves downwards to reveal a metal spike which digs into the end of your finger. I can still feel the pain when looking at these pictures. What were they thinking about?
  3. The slow speeds of the Epsilon shutter are sticking but the faster speeds seem fine.
    I took it on a bus trip to Skegness, with some Velvia 100. The transparencies came out well exposed with the help of my Polaris digital meter. The Xpres lens seems to have lived up to its reputation.
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  4. The viewfinder and rangefinder are combined, and the finder is bright and clear, with a very good bright line frame. On paper it should be easier to use than a Super Ikonta with separate viewfinder and rangefinder windows. However the rangefinder spot is rather small and faint, and is difficult to use against average subjects. You have to find a very contrasty area to make it out at all, and I missed focus on some shots because of this. Focusing is by turning the knurled ring on the front of the lens.
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  5. Skegness is an East Coast seaside resort at the Nothern end of the Wash, very popular with people from the East Midlands. It is said that Skegness traders call Leicester people "chizzits" because they are always asking "how much is it?".
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  6. One problem with Skegness is that the sea has retreated a long way, resulting in a huge sandy beach. But traditional amusements are still popular.
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  7. Another from the beach.
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  8. This attraction does not seem to be very popular.
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  9. Most of these were "scanned" by photographing them on a light box. I missed this one so its done on my Epson Perfection 4870.
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  10. The distinctive Clock Tower. Holding the camera in its normal position gives vertical shots. You have to turn it on its side for landscape.
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  11. The Jolly Fisherman is regarded as a symbol of the town. This statue of him is outside the railway station. I think there were moves to get rid of him for something more trendy a while ago, but he seems to have survived.
    That's the last picture, many thanks for looking.
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  12. SCL


    Very nice, I'm sure it is glad to being exercised again. The double exposure prevention cracked me up. I guess today it would have to come with a big warning tag, childhood prevention, etc :)
  13. Me too ... I just love the little spike popping out of the shutter release. Wonder why it didn't catch-on?
  14. John--thanks for sharing! Interesting camera. The colors in the "Scooped Ices" photo and the one following are amazing! Thanks again.
  15. Great results!

    What the hell are scooped and whipped ices?

    I live in Seattle.
  16. I would guess that scooped ices are the ones where the seller digs the ice cream out of a big tub and plonks it into a cone for you. Whipped ices must be the ones where the whipping process traps air in the mixture making the ice cream softer.

    John, I've heard about that double exposure prevention mechanism but never seen it close up before. Thanks! Nice to see Skeggie seafront at its lurid best. I hope the finger gets better soon.
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  17. Nice work, John; despite the fingerpricker the camera obviously performs well enough, and the Xpres lens lives up to it's reputation. It's great to see that English seaside culture is still alive and well, right down to the donkey rides, and you manage to capture a selection of portly gentlemen. These Ensign folders are an odd mixture of quality and quirks; I have the Selfix 820 and, while it's quite nicely made, it's a great lump of a camera and not particularly pleasant to use. Thanks for a colourful post.
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  18. Thanks for the comments. Perhaps I exaggerated about the spike, it's not actually pointed but its not blunt enough to avoid a degree of discomfort.
    Yes the English seaside is alive and well despite reports of its demise, and yes, there's no shortage of well nourished folk, many of them sporting tattoos, which seem more popular than ever. The Jolly Fisherman himself, of course, being a prime example (not that he has any obvious tattoos). I should have mentioned that the old railway posters for Skegness, showing the jovial and rotund character rather improbably prancing along the beach, also feature the slogan "SKEGNESS IS SO BRACING".
  19. Wow John, there is so much "Englishness" in your post that it makes e dizzy :) Those scenes are quite amazing, and you can't get more British than the Ensign, even if it is a Super Ikonta clone.
    The lens on your does produce a very sharp image, colour is good too. I have an Ensign 820, with the 105mm Ross Xpress, looks impressive too, but I do have trouble getting really sharp images from it. I'm sure the fault is not with the lens, but maybe some film flatness issue. The Ensign is not the only folder I have trouble with, especially in the 6x9 format. The smaller 6x4.5 cameras seem to fare much better.
    Thanks for the interesting post.
    ] likes this.
  20. Informative post. I've never heard of this camera and it looks to be a very capable performer. The Velvia 100 worked well here and the images are outstanding. Thanks for sharing.
  21. Cool. Love the spike. Perhaps thinking "that'll learn them"
  22. John, I'd dead jealous of your Autorange 16-20 acquisition, only having a couple of the basic Selfix 16-20 models myself, although one has the same lens and shutter as yours. Regarding 'Bracing Skegness', I once made the mistake of staying for a weekend there at the Billy Butlin's Concentration Camp one April during a motoring holiday around Ye Olde Englande. I had been told by a well-meaning lady friend (originally from Skegness) that Butlin's reputation for endless bingo, fish and chips and flat beer was a thing of the past. No, it damn well wasn't, and 'Bracing' Skegness' turned out to be more like 'Arctic Winds Skegness', with a chilly blast coming in from the North Sea day and night. Our next stop (Scarborough) turned out to be far more to our liking. (Pete In Perth)
  23. Nice camera and photos. First impression from s quick look it seems reminiscent of the Moskva 5

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