With the support of Lou Moss, owner of the well-known Peerless Camera Store near Grand Central Station, and Ben Berkey who was the owner of a large consumer photo-finishing laboratory, Paul Klingenstein set up the Kling Photo company. Paul Klingenstein was a German Jew who had left Germany in 1934 for the United States. In order to manufacture an advanced professional camera for Peerless the company he worked for, he decided to bring a new camera on the market. The camera was named Meridian. It was intended to be an mixture of the standard press camera of that time, the Speed Graphic, and the much more sophisticated (but due to the war unavailable) German Linhof Technika. Klingenstein sketched out the camera, applied some engineering and contracted with a Lafayette Street precision machine shop to produce 1000 cameras. Eventually 2000 were manufactured and sold. The Meridian "B" was designed by Victor Yager the very same who designed and manufactured the Vidax camera. The patent application was filed in June 1949. Although in production for only a short time, Paul Klingenstein's Meridian "B" is regarded as a classic today. Like all the other such as Busch, Burke & James, Graflex and Beseler, these press cameras have the same typical features like drop bed, sliding lens standard, lens board, bellows, coupled rangefinder, 4x5 revolving back, optic view finder and frame view finder. Only a few of them like this Meridian, had a four way swing back like the technical cameras used to have. Although these cameras were generally used as press cameras, all of them were based on a similar design idea. Swing front, drop bed, rise, slide and tilt which made the camera suitable for architectural work as well. Having all these features mentioned, the Meridian camera could be compared with the famous German Linhof camera. Unlike the Graflex cameras which were made out of wood, the Meridian house is made of die cast aluminium covered with black leather. The hinged drop bed functions as a door and if closed protects the camera for transportation risks and when swung down, allows the lens standard to slide on the bed rails for easy and accurate focusing. Many lenses were available from wide angle to long lenses as the length of the bellows permitted up to 16 inch lenses to be used. The photo below shows the Meridian Model "A" with its typical round lens board equipped with an unique bayonet mounting connection to the lens standard board. This type of lens board is hard to find not to mention the almost impossible search for exchangeable lenses. The later Model "B" is equipped with a more common square 4x4 inch lens board like the other competitors of that time. The lens board design however is at least very remarkable! Another remarkable difference with the Model "B" is the inside rack that is fixed to the housing. The "B" Model allows focusing of the inside rack with a focusing knob on the outside of the housing.
Let's see how it woks.
Make sure the four screws on the backside secure the revolving spring loaded back, firmly to the camera body. Open the camera by lifting the small catch on top of the front door lock. The camera door will open automatically and can be brought into position by pulling it down until the bed braces snap into full locked position. Squeeze both lens-standard knobs and pull the lens standard to the infinity stops. There is no need to secure the position, as the well designed construction locks the lens standard on the track automatically on each random position. From this point on you can slide, rise, tilt, shift the front lens standard. To complete the technical camera, you may revolve the back into portrait or landscape mode. Another great feature is the adjustable rear view section which can be set in each desired position. Not alone these two features makes that the camera deserves more respect than its competitors. The general workmanship is of higher quality and only surpassed by Linhof and MPP. My Meridian camera came with a Kalart Rangefinder which can be used with only one specific lens. The rangefinder should be calibrated before exchanging lenses.
You may like to check the rangefinder if it works nicely and reliable. To do so you have to focus on a subject far away. The two images in the rangefinder should coinside with each other. Then the rangefinder is in correct adjustment. Now focus on a near by subject and turn the focusing knobs until both images coinside. Again the rangefinder is in correct adjustment. Now open the shutter of the lens. You'll be able to see the image on the ground glass to check if the image is sharp. What you see on the ground glass is what you'll see later on the negative.
The revolving back can be set on portrait or landscape at all the four 90 degree stops. The side flaps of the viewing hood are made of a stiff plastic material which is not very willing to stay open when needed.
Unlike the usual square lens boards of all the other Press Cameras, the Meridian lens board is round and is locked by turning it anti clockwise until it snaps in. In the middle between the red stripes, the central lever to allow shift and swing. Both vertical handles if squeezed together allow the lens standard to move for and backwards along the bed guides. Undependable of the infinity stops or a lens standard lock, the lens standard locks on every wanted spot on the rails just by letting the handles go free. The clever designed standard mechanism snaps in and the lens standard is locked. On the left the locked standard and the right in unlocked position.
The Meridian has front swings and shift, forward and backward tilts and triple extension bellows. The front shift is quite easy by turning the front standard lock a half turn to the right. The front standard can slide now from left to right or visa versa. The shift moves in guide slots an therefore suggesting that there is no swing possible at all. However turning the centre screw a turn and a half anticlockwise, the standard can be lifted out of the guide and can be swung in each direction. When found the right position you may turn the centre screw back until it holds its position. To be able to turn the centre lock, the lens standard should be moved upwards.
McKeown's guide says that Meridians have front swings, and when I got mine I was disappointed at first because I thought they had it wrong. I eventually figured out something that works, although I don't know whether it's supposed to or not, as I don't have a manual.*) I get front swings by backing off the same lever that allows shifts, but undoing it a turn-and-a-half instead of half a turn. The front standard can then be lifted about half a millimetre out of its guide slots, and will swing left or right by about 20 degrees. It can be locked by tightening the same lever about 1/2 turn. Lifting the standard out of its guide slot does add a tiny bit of rise to your swing, but in practice I don't usually even notice the difference. It also means that swings of less than about 3-4 degrees are not possible, as the rails tend to drop back into place. I find a similar problem with my SSG, which has a centre detent spring that has a nasty habit of popping back into the locked position when I am fiddling with small amounts of swing while doing macro shots, so the Meridian is no less useful for this.
Page is still under construction
*) In the mean time Jamie Brown from Iowa City IA sent me a
copy of his original 1948 Meridian manual
which I'm pleased to share with you.
Download the Manual
American Press Cameras