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

In the Handbook Operation and Maintenance instruction the Beseler Camera is described as: "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 250 mm. The camera is a "press" type, which uses 4x5 inch negatives mounted in a Film Holder or Grafmatic quick changing magazine. The camera is equipped with a self capping focal-plane shutter and a front in-between-the-lens shutter, a coupled rangefinder designed to operate with lenses from 90 mm to 250 mm in focal length without changing cams, a focuspot, a sportsfinder, and an optical viewfinder with automatic parallax correction. The back is equipped with lock bars to secure the Grafmatic or special attachments. Spring loaded mounting arms on the back hold the ground glass and focusing hood assemblies in place.

The Beseler Camera Housing assembly consist of the box, the top cover assembly, the focal plane shutter, the focal plane shutter cover, the range finder, the range finder selector, the focuspot, the bellows and the back assembly. The principal parts of the housing are made of aluminium die castings, painted black and partly covered with leather. A leather carrying handle is attached to the left side of the body by retaining clips, from which it can be quickly removed. Above the handle is the focuspot lever which contains terminals for connection of the focuspot cable. Immediately in front of the handle there is a finger grip which gives the photographer a firm and comfortable hold on the camera when focusing or shooting.
The top cover which encloses the top
of the box assembly, mounts the sportsfinder peep sight. The top cover can be removed by unscrewing the thumbscrews to obtain easy access to the focuspot lamp. On the front of the top cover are three windows, two for the range finder and one for the viewfinder. Beneath these windows Is the range finder selector actuator, which permits easy adjustment of the range finder for lenses of any focal length between 90 mm and 250 mm.
The selector indexing strip indicates the proper setting of the range finder for the lens furnished with the camera. The indexing strip can be marked for other lenses, as required.
The bottom forward edge of the box assembly is cast in the form of a half hinge. This half hinge mates with another half hinge, which is cast as an integral part of the drop bed. The drop bed, which mounts the extension assembly, is held in the correct open position by bed struts. The drop bed is raised and snapped in closed position when the camera is not in use. In the open position, the drop bed serves as a support and carriage for the lens standard frame.


It 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. Unlike the Graflex press type cameras, the coupled rangefinder is 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. Beselers' line of high-quality photographic equipment continues to withstand the test of time and remains the industry standard for professionals and amateurs alike.

My Beseler C 6 camera came with a Wollensak 135 mm lens in a Rapax shutter and unfortunately missed the desirable focal plane shutter blinds 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 above 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 in my camera were missing. Very often these cameras were also 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, very often the rubberised shutter fabric was removed to bring this risk to zero. On the other hand, the Beseler camera front shutter could not be fired without the focal plane shutter not being in open position. Anyway I decided to bring the camera back in original condition by mounting new blinds into the shutter mechanism, which was a bit more difficult than expected. Further on in this article you can read about this successfully completed project.

Focusing using the Range Finder

The camera is equipped with a build in coupled mechanical rangefinder which eyepiece is situated in the middle of the top cover. Focal range is 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 is approached when the two images are superimposed. 
Beneath the windows on the front side of the camera you'll find the range finder selector actuator (18), which permits easy adjustment of the range finder for lenses of any focal length between 90 mm and 250 mm. The selector indexing strip (19) indicates the proper setting of the range finder for the lens furnished with the camera. The indexing strip can be marked for other lenses, as required. Check if the right lens is mounted.

Beseler Range Finder Selector for 90, 135 and 250 mm lens.


The Focuspot is used when illumination is not bright enough for accurate focusing by natural light. A lamp and projection lens, working in conjunction with the rangefinder mirrors are used to throw a a double image of the light filament on the subject when the subject is out of focus and a single filament when the subject is in focus. The rangefinder as well as the Focuspot works fine with the 135 mm lens mounted.
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.


1) Press time setting knob (3) inwards and turn to B-T setting.
2) slide the selector (6)button to I-B
3) turn the winding knob (1) anti clockwise until it snaps.
4) slide the - selector button (6)- downwards until it snaps.
5)The curtain runs down and stops in open position. The film frame is open
The image will appear on the ground glass.
Focus the subject and secure the track position by pulling the extension lock before sliding the film holder between focusing panel and camera back.



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 front shutter can be released by pressing the build in shutter release. The selector slide button 6 should be set on T which means that the focal plane shutter stays in open position. The shutter release knob is now coupled with the leaf shutter of the lens rather than with the focal plane shutter. A very clever solution to prevent blind exposures.


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 window (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 for focusing on the ground glass, set dial on "B-T"  wind the shutter and then slide the selector button down to "T" (OPEN). The shutter now runs to the open frame situation which enables focusing on the ground glass. To close the shutter, slide the selector back in the I-B setting.
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 that means that the shutter can be wound without fogging the film when the dark slide of the film holder has been removed. In other words, both blinds or curtains travel as one unit together along the film surface not allowing light to reach the film surface.


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, pleasecontact me 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.
These two rollers on the right are the upper rollers and coupled to the winding key. The rollers on the left are the
 lower and spring 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 by the lower spring roller which closes the film frame and thus finishes 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 provides the exposure time. Note: the spring tension always stays equal regardless the width of the slit.

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. All these features together with a nice and ergonomic design, makes the Beseler an attractive Press Camera, for the collector as well as for the practising amateur or professional photographer.

Beseler Rangefinder chain repair

Technical pages

Jo Lommen Classic Cameras