Beseler -  C6

 Press Camera 4x5.


Still Press Type Camera for  USA Air Force.

Originally equipped with 135-mm f/4,7 Raptar lens, Rapax synchromatic shutter and solenoid release.

Manufactured by the Charles Beseler Company, East Orange, New Jersey.


By Jo Lommen.

Two in One

Press Camera and well suited for Studio Work

The official "Purpose of Equipment" reads: "Camera, Still Picture, 4x5 outfit designed to fulfil the requirements of a wide range of still, ground photography assignments both indoors and outdoors with or without the use of synchronized flash. In addition, the provisions for precision movements of the lens standard make the camera well suited for studio work." Very advanced for its day with viewfinder/rangefinder adaptable to three lenses 90 mm, 135 mm, and 240 mm. The outfit is almost too heavy to hand hold. It seems that the camera is exclusively designed for professional 4x5 trained press photographers. To handle this camera you need to be physical strong, fast and for all having the courage to tackle the challenge. Because it is sure a challenge to work with the Beseler.

The Beseler is a beautiful designed 4x5 inch camera, all black die-cast aluminium body with all features of a technical camera such as tilt, shift, swing, drop bed, rising front and ground glass focusing. For press work there is a focal plane shutter available with 1/1000- 1/500 and 1/250 M or X synchronized exposure times while T-B 1/30-1/60 and 1/100 are unsynchronised. Fast lens exchange by a lens board latch. Further more: Build in release knob. International back for use with double sheet film holder or quick change magazine for 6 exposures. Retractable sports-finder. Optical view finder, mechanical optical indicator for focusing the camera lens accurately at any distance from 5 feet to infinity. There are flash brackets on both sides of the camera.

The camera uses 4 by 5 negatives mounted in a film holder, film pack adapter (no longer available), or quick-change magazine (Grafmatic works fine!). Originally the camera is equiped with a self capping focal plane shutter and a front (between-the-lens) shutter, a coupled rangefinder designed to operate with lenses from 90 mm to 250 mm in focal length without changing cams. Furthermore a focus spot, a sports-finder and an optical viewfinder with automatic parallax correction. The back is equiped with lock bars to secure quick change magazine or special attachments. Spring loaded mounting arms on the back hold the ground glass and focusing hood assemblies in place.

Beseler History

The name Charles Beseler Company comes from Charles Beseler, a businessman in Germany in the 19th century who sold magic lanterns and stereopticons.
Beseler died in 1909, but his company remained and then moved to New Jersey in 1919. The company manufactured photographic enlargers and other photographic equipment throughout the 20th century. It also imported the Topcon line of cameras into the US during the time that the company made cameras.The Charles Beseler Company was originally founded in 1869 as a manufacturer of Inhalers, Laryngoscopes, Magic Lanterns with Oil Lamps, High School Stereopticons, and Museum Stereopticons.
In 1943, the company's expertise had evolved to the point where the firm became an innovative audio-visual company primarily serving the military and education markets with the first opaque and then overhead projection equipment. By 1953, Beseler entered the amateur and professional photography fields. It was during this time that the 45 Series Enlarger was born and other darkroom products were soon developed.
Today, the Charles Beseler Company continues to be the leading supplier of photographic darkroom equipment to the educational market. Proudly made in the USA - at a modern manufacturing facility in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania - Beseler's line of high-quality photographic equipment continues to withstand the test of time and remains the industry standard for professionals and amateurs alike.

My camera came with a Wollensak 135 mm lens in a Rapax shutter and unfortunately missed the desirable focal plane shutter and thus the high speed press photographing feature. Also the use of barrel lenses (lenses missing a build in leaf shutter) would not be possible due to the lack of the mentioned focal plane shutter. Although the complete focal plane shutter mechanism was still present in the camera, the blackout fabric shutter blinds were missing. These cameras were made for the US Air Force and I can imagine why the curtains were missing. Very often these cameras were used for special official occasions like jubilees, award decorations etc. These circumstances did not require fast exposures. To prevent blank negatives as a result of a closed focal plane shutter, the rubberised shutter fabric was removed to bring this risk to zero. For more details see: Marine Corp Photography.

Safety Control

On the other hand there was and is no need to take such a  radical measurement, as the Beseler build in release button (7) has been equipped with a safety control. You won't be able to trigger the build in shutter when the focal plane shutter is not in "open" position! A very clever and technical perfect solution. One more reason for me to start the focal plane curtain restoring project. More about this project further on this page.


The camera is equipped with a build in coupled mechanical rangefinder which eyepiece is situated on the right side of the top cover. Focal range 5 feet to infinity. It is a system of fixed and moveable mirrors, cams and levers, showing a double image in the eyepiece when the object is out of focus. The correct focus position is approached when the two images coincide. The optical viewfinder on the left side of the top cover is marked with two frames to match with the angular field of the lens used. The outer frame covers a 135 mm lens. The inner frame covers a 250 mm lens. You may like to check the right adjustment of the rangefinder or just like to focus by the ground glass. This can be achieved by opening the front lens shutter on "T". The shutter will stay open. The next step is to open the curtain or focal plane shutter by:


1) Pressing time setting knob (3) inwards and turning to B-T setting.

2) sliding the selector (6)button to I-B

3) turning the winding knob (1) anti clockwise until it snaps.

4) sliding the - selector button (6)- downwards until it snaps.

5)You will hear the curtain running and ending in its open position.

The image will appear on the ground glass.

After focusing, lock lens position by pulling the extension lock next to the focussing knob, upwards.


 Between - the - Lens Shutter

Between-the-lens 5 blades shutter. Flash connector Synchronized for M, F or X type lamps. Hand or solenoid operated, Synchronizer equipped with "OFF" position. Cable release socket. Shutter controls located around the shutter rim are as follows: shutter release lever, cocking lever, press-focus lever and synchronization adjusting lever. Speed settings Time, Bulb 1, 1/2 - 1/5 - 1/10 - 1/25 - 1/50 - 1/100 - 1/200 and 1/400 second. Flash equipment Graflite. Both sides of the camera are equiped with a Flash Bracket.


The Focal Plane Shutter.

The focal plane shutter is essentially two lightproof, black rubberised curtains wind on rollers. The relative positions of the end of the curtains can be varied to provide rectangular openings of different width for the control of shutter speed. The shutter controls located on the right side of the camera body consist of a shutter winding knob (1), a time setting knob (3) with associated shutter speed dial (2), a selector button (6) and a synchro knob(4). Synchronized speeds marked on the indicator dial are: 1/1000 - 1/500 and 1/250. The unsynchronised speeds are T (Time) - B (bulb) 1/30 - 1/50 and 1/125. The selector button marked " I-B " above and " T " (open) below is set at " I-B " for instantaneous or bulb exposures. When the focal plane shutter is to be used as a time exposure, this button is moved down to "T" (OPEN) to open the shutter after is has been wound and up to " I-B " to close the shutter after an exposure has been made. The synchro terminals (5) for the focal plane shutter flash cable are located at the bottom of the control panel. A synchro knob above and to the left of the connector is turned to the " M " index marking when flash bulbs are to be used and to the " X " marking when electronic flash is to be used. The shutter is self capping so that it can be wound without fogging the film when the dark slide has been removed.



For those who are interested to know how the curtains are positioned on the rollers, herewith some drawings to illustrate the complicated working of the focal plane shutter. The drawing will help you to manufacture new curtains when your camera needs new ones. If you are in need of the blackout fabric, please let me know and I'll see what I can do. Anyway make notes and take photos of the positions of the gear before taking off the winding key. Mark their position with nail-polish. If the old curtain is still present, take photos of the old curtains' position on the rollers to help you when replacing the new curtains.



Beseler Focal Plane Shutter Restoring Project.

The scarce information which could be found on the internet about the Beseler camera and more specific of the focal plane shutter forced me to find it out by myself. It was clear that the focal plane shutter should exist out of two blinds with each two straps. First of all one has to find out the length of each blind and its straps. Next problem was where exactly the straps and where the blinds should be mounted to. The most complicated part is to find out how the mechanics, winding key gears, sprockets and speed dial should be positioned. The top rollers are connected to the winding key gear and it is obvious that the whole exercise starts here. Both lower rollers on the underside of the shutter are equiped with tensioned springs. I'll spare you a long detailed and complicated explanation how this works and confine myself to a few essential parts showed here below in four drawings of the focal plane shutter blinds as well as two photographs of the shutter assembly. I'm far from a professional technical designer but I tried to make it clear how the mechanics work and how the blinds should be placed. So please contact me for more specific details.






The control panel showing shutter winding key and coupled gear, speed dial, time setting knob and synchro knob with flash terminals.


On the left the control panel cover and on the right the stripped focal plane shutter.

The two rollers on the right are the upper rollers and coupled to the winding key. The rollers on the left are the underside tensioned rollers.


The last two photos show the "T" exposure procedure.

Blind 1 is partly covered by blind 2 when winding. The self capping shutter can be wound without fogging the film even when the dark slide has been removed. Blind 2 stays in start position while blind 1 is drawn down when selector button is on "T" mode and the release knob has been tripped once. When tripped the second time, the upper blind will be released and pulled down, closing the film frame and thus finishing the exposure. The "I-B" mode is in fact the same procedure but the exposure runs by pressing the release button only one time. The width of the slit decides the exposure time.

Loading Camera

Prepare camera back. Slide both slide locks to the right. Slide the ground glass assembly into the lock bars. Insert the loaded film holder between the back of the camera house and the ground glass assembly. A slight backward pressure on the "ears" of the ground glass assembly will move the frame back and facilitate insertion of the film holder. The holder slides easily into its position. The tension of the ground glass assembly holds the film holder tight against the camera housing thus preventing light coming in. Draw dark slide and expose. After exposure don't forget to push back the dark slide. You may insert the Grafmatic holder the same way as the double film holder.


Exposure using the Focal Plane Shutter.

Set the front shutter in "T" position. Cock the shutter and trip the release lever. The shutter opens and stays "OPEN" allowing the use of the Focal plane shutter. Set the focal plane shutter selector button (6) on "I-B" position. As we already opened the front shutter, you may now choose the exposure speed of the focal plane shutter by using the time setting knob (3) on the side control cover. Depress the time setting knob and turn it into the desired position opposite the index mark on the speed indicator (2) dial. Release the knob and let it snap into the nearest detent. Now wind the winding knob anti-clockwise  until it reaches a full stop. The shutter is now cocked and ready for tripping.


Exposure using the Between-the-Lens Shutter.

It is the other way around. Make sure that the Focal Plane shutter is in "Open" position. To do this, set the time setting knob on B-T and wind the shutter anti clockwise following the arrow. Now slide the "I-B "  selector button down in "T" position. The lower blind will be drawn down while the upper blind stays in the upper position. The Focal Plane shutter is in "OPEN" position and thus allowing the use of the front shutter.

More Lens Movements.


Left: Rising Front Knob - Middle: Lateral Shift Knob and standard lock levers - Right: Lateral Swing Knob.

As mentioned before the Beseler camera is well suited for studio work. The lens standard assembly consist of the lens board with shutter/lens assembly, a lens standard frame assembly and support and the sports finder assembly. On the sides of the lensboard frame assembly you'll find the rising front lock knobs, the lens tilt and lens tilt lock knobs used to swing the front about a  horizontal axis. Furthermore the body cable release tripper that operates the front shutter release lever. The sportsfinder assembly slides down into grooves in the sides of the lens board frame assembly. When the sportsfinder is pulled up into operating position, it is used in conjunction with the peep sight on the top cover. The lens standard support includes lens standard lock levers to hold the support in place within the camera box or on the drop bed and extension assembly. Furthermore a lateral swing knob used to swing the front standard about a vertical axis and a lateral shift knob that is pulled out and rotated to move the lens standard laterally. The lensboard frame assembly is connected to the inside of the camera box by a light tight bellows. Note: The lens standard assembly cannot be pushed back into the body of the camera until the extension assembly has completely retracted (by turning the focusing knobs), in which position the pins are depressed by the entry of two flat springs at the rear of the rails into the rear of the bed. Thus the lens standard cannot accidentally be pushed back off the extension track.


Focal Plane shutter

Light Leak Testing.

It can happen that your negatives are fogged after exposure. Look where these leaks are clearly visible on the negative and think! There are some possibilities: The camera may have a light leak and the holder may have a light leak. Or even both. So the best thing is to use a new film holder to exclude the holder being the cause of the trouble. Then the camera remains as being the culprit. The most obvious cause would be that the bellows has one or more pinholes. In that case the negatives look fogged almost all over the film, not specific on a certain spot. You may try that out by shining with a torch inside the bellows while the room is darkened. Small pinholes can be repaired with a good quality black self adhesive tape on the outside. Use tape that matches with the surface of the bellows.

More difficult is finding the light leak in the camera. In that case the negative may shows a horizontal or vertical light stripe. Sometimes on one side, left or right. Sometimes just a small fogged part on one of the sides or even on top or bottom of the neg. There is only one way to find out what is wrong and that is testing with real film. Load the film-holder on both sides with film. To be sure what is left and right or up or down, always place your film with the notch to the right upper side into the holder. Place the camera - without the film holder and without the focusing ground glass- in a dimmed room. Remove the lens board with lens and draw the bellows half way out. Now take an electronic flash and fire inside the bellows while keeping an eye on the camera back, especially around the back frame area and the curtain of the focal plane shutter. If you can see flash light coming out, than you probably have found your light leak. Use black mat tape or something else like black velvet to repair the leak. Check everything carefully and check again. Now if you are convinced you found the leak and repaired it, place the camera on the table and close both shutters. Place the film holder including two unexposed films with the #1 film to the front and draw the dark slide. Take your flash and fire flashes on the camera from all directions. Close the dark slide. The second test should be done to ensure the good working and light leak proof of the focal plane shutter. Slide the film holder out of the camera and replace the film holder #2 to the front. Open the front shutter by setting the rim selector to "T" and trip. The shutter should stay in "Open" position. Select and set the diaphragm. Go outside in the daylight and select the exposure time on the dial of the focal plane shutter and wind the focal plane shutter. Your camera is ready to take a photo. After exposing #2, develop both films. If film # 1 is completely blank it proves that no light has entered the film holder. If number 2 shows an acceptable nicely exposed photo, you may presume that you found and repaired the light leak...

...if not start again.

Beseler Rangefinder chain repair

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Jo Lommen Classic Cameras

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