Blair Hawkeye Detective Camera

Discussion in 'Plate Cameras and Accessories' started by M9reno, Nov 15, 2015.

  1. M9reno

    M9reno Member

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    Yesterday while I was waiting for the start of an internet auction, in which I had my eye on Leica items, the screen suddenly changed, I instantly clicked a button, and accidentally made myself the highest (and only) bidder of the first lot: an 1890's Blair Hawkeye Detective camera! The hammer went down for US $400.

    https://tamarkin.infinitebidding.com/?method=getLotInfo&lotref=B2443E98A8&seq=1

    Do members have advice or views on my unforeseen win? I have no experience outside of 35mm film. Is this camera any good (either in interest or usability), or will it have to sit on my desk as a small monument to my stupidity?
     
  2. I think that you will enjoy using it and also displaying it in your home. By the way there is a big world outside of 35mm and if you stick around here you will be drawn into MF photography and may be 4"x5" photography.
     
  3. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    by all means use it and enjoy it !

    http://www.vintagephoto.tv/blairhawkeye.shtml
    http://www.antiquewoodcameras.com/hawkeye.html

    what a great camera you bought ...
    a focusing box camera with a beautiful brass lens...
    find a few FILM holders, they will most likely
    fit without a problem .. i use a plate camera with film often
    with modern film holders and no focus problems at all ...

    good luck !
    john
     
  4. summicron1

    summicron1 Subscriber

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    wow, and in "very goog" condition --

    but seriously, sure, shoot that sucker. It's a detective camera, so nobody will know that you are taking their pictures, too.

    No, seriously, they won't. Not these days, when everyone thinks a camera is a cell phone or, at worst, something vaguely similar to a 35mm slr.

    But a box? Especially a goog one? Nah!
    Funny how that works, eh?
     
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    M9reno

    M9reno Member

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    LOL.

    And thanks for your responses. Maybe this accident wasn't as unfortunate as first thought.

    Assuming this thing actually works (and has a lens - nowhere mentioned in the lot description), which would be pretty cool, how does a complete newb to plate cameras like me go about starting out? I don't even know what most of the different parts of this set are. Can you buy dry plates, or is it a make-your-own thing? Is there a recommended manual out there?

    Apologies if these are really obvious/dumb questions. Thanks again.
     
  6. There are no dumb questions here. Only being dumb by not asking the question. None of us was born with this knowledge; we all had to learn it somewhere.
     
  7. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    hi m9reno

    one of the links i posted has images of the camera and how it opens
    it also explains how it is focused.
    the spring back can be swapped out for the focus screen / ground glass so you can focus
    it looks like there are also sight finders ( milk glass ) like regular box cameras have ..
    the plate holders might have film converting septums in them they look like sheets of metal with
    edges and are held in by the bottom of the plate holder ( spring loaded )
    if they are there you can just trim a sheet of photo paper and slide it in like film, if not, you can tape
    ( double sticky ) a sheet of photo paper in there. photo paper is slow and depending on how bright the sun is
    and how much blue light there is in the light it can be anywhere from iso 6 to about iso 24.
    according to what i have read, there is a spring / wire that is cocked to trip the shutter. there are stops/aperture wheel.
    you can use a regular film holder in this camera probably ( a modern one ) the difference in your focal distance ( a few mm ) won't make your
    negative too far off focus wise. these cameras don't shoot wide open, so the DOF will take care of the difference ...

    towards the bottom of this link there is an olde chart with f-numbering systems on it
    you might have to do a little figuring out to decide what system your lens uses ( might be different than the modern f-numbers )
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F-number
    shouldnt' be hard to figure out ( there is also an explanation on doing the calculation in the link )

    good luck with your fun camera !
    john

    ps slavich in russia i think might still make / sell dry plates they are heavy and expensive to ship i would guess,
    kodak used to make tmax400 as a dry plate until not too long ago, where regular film cost 60$/box the plates cost 400$ for the same number.
     
  8. AgX

    AgX Member

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    The camera being a detective one, you now should think about how to dress it up to have it come up for its intended use...
     
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    M9reno

    M9reno Member

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  10. AgX

    AgX Member

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    No, I rather thought of a nice handbag with a nice hole in it.

    Actually I wonder to what extend those cameras were bought more as gadgets than as user cameras. That reminds me a bit on the small Minoxes.
    But some detective cameras as yours are quite versatile and rather only share compact design with true detective (to be hidden) cameras.
    (One major photo encyclopedia is shortcoming on this term, another is lacking it completely.)
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 16, 2015
  11. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    hi m9

    that's for 4x5 sheet film not glass plates :smile:
    ( kodak i don't think made iso 100 glass plates, only 400 )

    paper might be easier to start with seeing you haven't processed sheet film before, slower iso, easier to work with ..
    --- with paper you can develop it in the red light and load it in a red light, with film, it needs to loaded in pitch black
    be processed differently which might be tricky if you have never done it before ...
    (plus you are not quite sure of the fstops and shutter speeds :smile: )

    YIKES that film is expensive !
     
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    M9reno

    M9reno Member

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    John: many thanks. The price is certainly an argument in favor of using paper first, especially in an old, presumably totally untested camera. The paper negative can then be scanned and easily turned into a positive with Photoshop.

    AgX: from limited reading about this it seems that the word "detective" was just a fashion of the 1880's and 1890's, covering a huge range of equipment from completely ridiculous gadgets to real cameras. The general intention seems to have been to convey the possibility of shooting quickly and unobserved, with relative portability and ease, so that the Oxford history of photography draws the connection with the idea of the Leica in 1914.
     
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    M9reno

    M9reno Member

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    PS: in the above I was referring to The History of Photography by Helmut Gernsheim - 1955 Oxford University Press 1st edition.
     
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    M9reno

    M9reno Member

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    newbdg-2.jpg chapel-2.jpg

    Well, I've finally managed to run a few experiments with the Hawkeye, following the advice kindly provided in this thread, and using card-sized cutouts from an old batch of photo paper instead of glass plates. The results aren't bad - the lens (which I discovered is sadly not brass-mounted when opening the camera to clean it) has a distinct 19th century flavour. Exposure is for approximately 1.5 seconds or less in EV 12-13 (for ISO 100) conditions, tricky hand-held as in the second example (the first is supported on a parapet). I'll continue to play with this rewarding camera.
     
  15. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    beautiful !
    be careful, using this sortof camera will be addictive ..
    pretty soon you might end up buying bottles ( or making your own ) emulsion
    and self coating stuff to expose ...

    have fun !
    john
     
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    M9reno

    M9reno Member

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    Tower.jpg Sofia3.jpg Chapel2.jpg

    Thank you very much for all your help, John. My method is getting better day by day - these are from yesterday, this time using a projector stand to steady the camera. The out-of-focus rendering is impressively harsh, almost the impression of heat rising from boiling tarmac. The detail in the centre is actually quite good, though the mediocre flatbed scanner does it little justice - 'scanning' using my digital camera would probably yield much more, though that one is ironically back in Germany for the second time in as many years for rangefinder re-calibration! I have been wondering about the focal length of this lens - the angle seems quite wide to me, and the (fixed) aperture something in the region of f/32 and /22 judging from the time needed to expose and assuming my paper is about ISO 6, but the depth of field quite narrow...
     
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