The KW Patent Etui 9x12 folding camera with 118 roll film holder, 15 April 2024

The KW Patent Etui 9x12 folding camera with 118 roll film holder, 15 April 2024

A rather unusual looking camera arrived in the post today. Actually, it's two items that have been paired and sold together. The camera is a KW Patent Etui 9x12 folding camera, a beautifully well designed and very thin camera compared to the regular 9x12 folders I have seen. Attached to this, instead of a ground glass viewing hood, is a roll film back for 118 format film.

I wasn't actually looking for another 9x12 folding camera, I have the generic folding camera that I'm using for the Frugal Film Project and this certainly does not qualify for the FFP, but just lately I've been drawn to this era folding cameras and so I had to have it. That said, I've promised myself that this is the last camera, folding or otherwise, that I need (mind you, I did say that after getting the Polaroid Big Shot and since then have added five more beasties, including this one).

Unlike the generic folding camera, the KW Patent Etui is a different beast altogether. Made from around 1921-1938 this is a wonderfully designed slim form folding camera. With a fou-element lens in two parts the Patent Etui features a range of shutter speeds, from 1/100s to 1s (although I think these are out of tolerance) and a variable aperture from f6,3-f32. 

Like most of my cameras this fell under the Kamerastore's 'Not Passed' category, but mainly because of haze in the camera's lenses and viewfinder, which was relatively easy to clean. I think there is still a little haze remaining, especially in the rear element, but on this occasion it was impossible for me to separate the lens elements and I did not want to scratch the lens. They look much better, though. The viewfinder was also really dirty, but after a thorough clean this cleaned up really well and was restored to it's original brilliance.

After a thorough clean and removal of as much dust as possible it was time to look at the roll film holder. It was described as a Rollex 5A roll film holder for 118 format film. They were manufactured by the Balda-Werk camera company of Dresden,Germany from about 1927 to 1946. It's a 9x12 sized holder with a dark slide that fits securely to the back of the Patent Etui. When the film holder was disassembled for cleaning I discovered two 118 wooden spools,  one with a Kodak Verichrome paper wrapped around it. Sadly it was just the paper, the film had been removed long ago. 

I made an attempt to date the KW Patent Etui, although there are no obvious serial numbers on the camera body. The camera was fitted with a Rodenstock München Doppel Anastigmat Eurynar 13,5cm 1:6,5 lens, (serial number 163142) in an IBSO shutter made by Alfred Gauthier Calmbach between 1908 and 1926. According to several sources online, Rodenstock lenses with serial numbers up to 200000 were made before 1920, which puts this lens in the later 1910s. Hence, since the KW Patent Etui was launched in 1921, my new folding camera was probably produced in the early 1920s.

Now it was time to try making an exposure. Looking at the shutter, although it was clean some of the shutter speeds, especially the slower speeds, seem way out of tolerance. My existing film holders fit perfectly, though are a little tight in some instances. I took two film holders and for the first exposure I set the shutter speed to 1/50s and took a meter reading at ISO 800 using an ND4 filter. This suggested an aperture of f18 at 1/50s and I made an exposure accordingly. As mentioned, I wasn't sure that the shutter speeds were accurate so I exposed a second film at 1/100s at f32, the meter reading was f35.

The two images came out wonderfully, with almost perfect exposure. From my experience with the generic folding camera I was very concerned that the exposures might have been overexposed, but I needn't have worried. This suggests that the faster shutter speeds are reasonably close to their stated settings. Of course,  I need to confirm this with more exposures, but I was certainly reassured. 

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