Carmen by Hüttig Dresden or
Le Radieux by Girard & Cie Paris ?
Le Radieux - The Shining
12 plate automatic camera
launched in the beginning of the 20th century.
At that time there were a lot of so called detective cameras which were more or less copies of "Le Radieux" on the market. Or should we say "Le Radieux" was a copy of Hüttig's Carmen. The "Carmen" differs on some small details but loads 24 plates instead of 12. It's a magazine camera with a simple guillotine shutter, a focusing Aplanat and diaphragm settings from 8 to 64, two brilliant finders and two water-levels. The key on the front-side cocks the shutter.
The text on the key reads
"Armé". That is not the name of the camera but it means
"armed" and that means cocked. Thus; turning the key cocks the
shutter mechanism. Turning the key at the rear moves the exposed
plate to the magazine below and sets the "film"-counter. The pressure
of the spring, mounted in the hinged back-door, pushes the next plate into
it's position. Above the sign "Le Radieux" you'll find the shutter
speed dial. It's nothing more than a break to reduce the speed of the guillotine
shutter. The more the shutter-speed dial is turned clockwise the more it's
lowers the shutter speed. The shutter-release can be pushed down by the right
finger, or by pumping up a ball which is connected by a rubber tube to the
shutter release. (the tube is missing in my camera) The pressed air fills a
small balloon who presses the release down. Shutter modus P and I.( Pause and
As far as the technical design depends, all the cameras with these different names, are 100 % equal. The mechanism to transport the plates, to focus, to set the diaphragm and to set the shutter-speed, their all exact the same. The visible parts at the outside, such as the frames of the view-finders, the buttons and hinges, differs in design and material. They can be found in nickel, brass and iron. Was it a French German or German French co-production? If you know the answer, please let me know.
The connection between the ball outside the camera and the shutter release inside. The photographer would press the ball to open the shutter. It worked like this. The ball pressed the air through the red rubber hose to a small rubber bellows between the shutter release bracket and the release knob. The bellows pressed the mechanical part of the release knob down the same way as it would have been pressed by the release button on the camera.
shaped brass thing (green arrow) between the two spring arms, loosens or
fastens the brake tension of the guillotine shutter by turning the shutter time
knob on the outside of the camera. It has figures from 1 to 7 to choose a
shutter time faster by turning it clockwise in and slower by
turning it anti clockwise out.
A view behind the camera front. The crank moves the lens to focus. On top of the lens, the diaphragm dial.
On the right photo the interior of the box camera and mechanism to hold the 12 sheaths in line waiting to be launched one by one after shooting. The exposed plates are hold by their feet until they passed a spring to break the fall. One by one they find their place on the bottom of the box, waiting for the moment to be liberated in the darkroom.
All together a very interesting camera with lots of facilities for that age. The fact that it has a kind of semi automatic film advance system, an easy adjustable focusing and a more or less reliable shutter mechanism, seems to me reason enough to categorize the " Le Radieux" camera as a press camera.
Girard & Cie. Established in Paris, 42 Rue de l'Echiquier , sold this camera, # 112689. Size 23 x 12 x 20 cm. Plates 9x12 cm. Guillotine shutter. "Le Radieux" printed inside behind the front cover.
There are more "Detectives" very much like this, using different names.
For instance the "Carmen" you'll find on page 62 from "Historische Kameras aus Sammlungen der DDR" by Kleffe Langner. The camera is very identical to the "Le Radieux" with minor differences like build in water-levels, lens adjustment and diaphragm dial and the crank which moved to the middle of the camera back-side. The Carmen was produced by Huettig Dresden in 1902. Some of the parts are definitely identical to the " Le Radieux" and it is most likely that the camera was produced in Dresden which was the capital of camera industry.
In a very interesting advertisement in those days Girard & Cie. announced that there were sold more than 21 thousand cameras in less than 18 month. The camera was offered for the price of 135 Francs.
Hüttig's "Carmen" Dresden 1901
cameras are seen very often at camera fairs, Ebay or flea markets.
If you consider to buy one, make sure the camera includes the plate-holders.
Imagine the people looking at the photographer who is seriously busy taking pictures using a more than one hundred year old camera.
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