Sometimes, that lovely old box camera on the shelf in the used bookstore/coffee shop works better than you think. This vintage Ansco was surprising, and I mean that in a good way.
I had been admiring this 50 to 70 year old box camera on the shelf every time I stopped by the neighbourhood coffee shop. Sometimes I would pick it up and take a look through the dusty viewfinder. Sometimes I would put the surprisingly clear lens to my ear to hear the healthy shutter click. It sounded right. It felt right. No fungus. No loose parts.
The front of the box – with its understated yet somehow glamourous pressed metal plate – proudly displays its name and birthplace:
The Ansco SHUR-FLASH
MADE BY ANSCO BINGHAMTON, N.Y.
I asked the shop owner if I could borrow the camera to see what I could make it do. He was happy to oblige…
I guessed by the apparent age of the camera that the shutter speed would be a little slower than I was used to, but I happened to have a roll of Kodak T-Max B&W with an iso of 25 sitting in a box of miscellany at home waiting to find a use. I loaded it, took a couple of shots and then got distracted by other cameras in my arsenal. Because of it’s size and the fact that I wasn’t sure if it was actually working, I hesitated to carry it with me, but remembered to pack it along on a couple of trips when I was hauling around my biggest camera bag.
I was glad to see that the shutter didn’t fail me, and the film was as forgiving as I had hoped it would be.
This camera is constructed of cardboard, and covered in black leatherette that was wearing off in several places.I carefully pulled off the back to reveal the Ansco sticker. Of course, you could use any 120mm film roll, but the sticker claims:
FOR BEST RESULTS USE
THE ALL-WEATHER FILM
The viewfinder is a simple long metal box running the length of the box. The shutter button begs to be slowly squeezed until feel the gentle click.
6×9 cm negatives yield those large originals that just can’t go wrong.
I returned the camera to its shelf at the coffee shop of a year long absence, where only I know of its abilities. It looks like a handsome little bookend, and the rest will be our little secret – until I find the right roll of film and ask to take it for another spin.