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The Amazing Fotochrome Camera


nano_burger
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Hi,

 

On a whim, I got a Fotochrome camera on eBay. The camera was

obviously never used and was in its original packaging. From what I

can glean from the internet, this proprietary camera was designed to

use a proprietary film (Fotochrome direct positive) in a proprietary

film canister. A strategy guaranteed to fail, which it quickly did,

leaving plenty of these cameras around as new old stock.

 

The camera has a funky design that reflects the image 90

degrees to the film plane running along the bottom of the camera.

It looks vaguely like a Minolta 110 SLR only larger (being a medium

format camera). Putting your eye to the viewfinder, you have a

feeling like you are about to bite into a big sandwich. The big

glass lens has no info besides モFotocolor.ヤ A ring selenium cell

surrounds the lens and a zone focusing scale marks the focusing

ring. It boasts a tripod mount and a knob film winder.

 

This camera's vacation is over. My desire is to get this

thing working taking photos. Some of the challenges I see are:

 

Film. The proprietary film is long gone probably with the

processing as well. My plan is to modify the camera for 120 film.

Luckily the film chambers are plenty big for the 120 roll. I plan

to rig a top and bottom holding pins hacked out of an old Kodak

folder I have. The negative area is 6x9, one of my favorites.

 

Film transport. The original transport borrows a page from 127

instamatics and the film placement is controlled by a reference pin

that cocks the shutter and stops the advance of the film. I donメt

like the idea of punching holes in the 120 film, so Iメll be looking

for ways to manually cock the shutter. I have yet to unscrew

anything, so Iメm not sure how realistic this is. There is no red

window so Iメll be counting knob turns to position the film

horizontally.

 

Exposure Controls. The camera has a single shutter speed with a

coupled selenium meter. The selenium cell seems long dead, so the

shutter fires at max aperture all the time. Strangely there are two

yellow filters, one in front of the shutter and one behind. The

rear filter is moved out of the way when the flashbulb reflector is

deployed. These look like color correction filters rather than

exposure controlナsomething to counter the color cast of the film I

would guess. The two filters will not adversely affect my black and

white filmナin fact it may improve some subjects. Iメll have to do

some tests, but I plan to use slow microfilm and hope it is in the

exposure index range. Other ideas to control exposure are, ND

filters or a lens cap aperture (Iメd have to get several caps to have

a range of apertures).

 

Foam light seals. Black gook after 37 years. Easily cleaned out

and replaced.

 

Flash. Uses M3 bulbs. I have none, so Iメll be shooting in daylight.

 

If anyone has ever worked with this camera or has tried a conversion

like it, Iメd like your views and opinions. Thanks!

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after reading your post i spent about ten minutes examining a Fotochrome at World

Trade Camera here in NYC, and there doesn't seem to be an easy way to bypass the

shutter / film advance knob / holes in film lock.

 

probably the easiest way to expose film i can think of is to rig up a sheet film back

using 4x5 or 2.25 x 3.25 film holders....

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Alan,

 

I think I found a work around for the film transport issue. I noticed that when the shutter is cocked and the shutter release is pressed, the shutter fires which releases the film registration pin. If that button remains pressed, the film can be advanced freely as the pin will only reengage once the shutter release button is released.

 

So, if I grind off the part of the pin that feels for the hole in the film, the camera will act like it does now with no film in the camera. So my shooting procedure will be 1. Press shutter release, 2. Advance the film, 3. Release shutter release. Clunky, but should work. If I forget to advance the film, I could put the lens cap on and fire a dummy exposure and pick up at number 2.

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Taping the pin down will not work. It will not feel the hole in the film and not cock the shutter. It will have to be cut off at it's highest point so it is always feeling the hole (the camera thinks).

 

I tried taking the mechanism apart by taking out visible screws, but could not figure the disassembly out.

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  • 1 year later...

Some more information about the Fotochrome Camera:

 

I worked for the company that credited itself with the development of the Fotochrome: Harrison Fotochrome Inc. I was working as a lab technician (Orlando, Florida) when the company started distributing the cameras.

 

The "film" was an Ansco direct-positive color print material. The ASA rating was "10" (the same as Kodachrome back then). I got a good look at some of the cameras that were returned by the customers. The camera was designed for failure for several reasons. Some of them:

1 - proprietary film (Ansco brand positive print material (plastic base).

2 - selenium cell controlled exposure (very slow and eratic if it worked at all).

3 - small aperature lens and slow shutter speed

4 - tried to fire a flash bulb with a single cell (some models used two batteries)

5 - zero quality control: some cameras would not advance the film at all, the flash was inoperative on many cameras (the shutter components could be and were installed backwards and/or upside down).

6 - The shutter speed, even in bright light was too slow.

 

For the first 6 weeks after the cameras introduction, the magnagers joked about how our company was going to give Kodak and Polaroid a run for the money, that is until our stock room filled up with returned, defective Fotochrome cameras.

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  • 4 years later...

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