Folmer Graflex Century Studio 10A 24″ Large Format Antique Camera
|January 23, 2013||Posted by Photo GearHead under Cool Gear Auctions|
No vintage camera collector’s collection of vintage cameras is ever truly complete without at least one extremely old, super-big, very heavy, quite boxy, 100-ish year old, wooden, large-format camera sitting atop a highly polished brass, antique, studio camera stand, parked in the corner of their study right next to their genuine, antique bar globe!
Think of the prestige and adulation you’ll enjoy when you entertain your guests, wearing your finest red-velvet smoking jacket, puffing on your finest pipe, filled with the finest imported tobaccos — a glass of the very finest twenty-year old, single-malt Scotch in hand, served from your antique bar globe — throwing around phrases like “Top drawer, old chap!” and “Capital idea, my good man!” If a camera like the Folmer Graflex Century Studio 10A wasn’t in the room with you, perched a top a stunning, polished brass, antique, studio camera stand while you were doing all of this, well… you’d just look silly, wouldn’t you!
This is the Century 10A Studio Camera made by the Folmer Graflex Corporation. Folmer Graflex was originally founded by William F. Folmer and William E. Schwing (Who would often appear together as a double Bill! par-ump-pump-psshhhh!) way back in 1887, in order to manufacture light fixtures and bicycles. In 1890 the two Williams incorporated their company under the name “Folmer & Schwing Manufacturing Co. of New York.” Naturally, two years later, using their experience as manufacturers of quality gas lighting fixtures and Sterling bicycles, Folmer and Schwing turned their attention to making cameras — the evolution was inevitable; I’m sure you’d agree.
Actually — and, I didn’t know this — at the time, it became a very popular practice to mount cameras on bicycles! So, old Willy F. and Willy S., decided to start building their own cameras in order to offer prospective purchasers of their fine bicycles pre-camera-fitted optional upgrades.
Not satisfied with the notoriety they had already garnered for themselves within the highly competitive industry of attaching stuff to things for the retail market, the two Willys, (or, is it “Willies”? I don’t know.) in 1898, manufactured the largest camera ever built by humans — a gargantuan monstrosity with a full bellows extension of over seven-feet and a capability of exposing a plate of forty inches by forty inches! Now THAT’S a large-format camera! It goes without saying that the Willys were proud of the exceptional hugeness they had achieved.
Soon, however, it would come to be that all was not rosy for the partners. And, due to declining markets and persistent rumors that the two Williams had been double-Billing their customers, (Par-ump-pum-PSSSSHHHH! Betcha didn’t think I’d hit that again!) business began to wane for old Willy and Willy, and the company was sold to George Eastman in 1905 — who moved it to Rochester, NY and eventually turned it into a division of Eastman-Kodak. The company, however, in one incarnation or another, continued manufacturing cameras right up until 1973, when it was finally and completely dissolved.
The Century Studio camera was originally introduced in 1902, and quickly became a mainstay of upscale portrait studios throughout the early part of the twentieth century. However, the 10A model of the Century line of cameras was the final design in the series — being first introduced in 1925. So, the camera featured in this auction is most certainly not “over 100 years old” as the seller claims — but it is, at least, close to being 100 years old.
The seller has set a starting bid of $999.00, and a “buy-it-now” price of $1,299.00 — which does seem rather crazily-insanely astoundingly high. However, from what I’ve learned, these cameras do enjoy sales in two entirely different markets. Those being the vintage camera collectors market, and the home staging/interior decorating market. The latter of those two, apparently, consistently fetching the higher prices for these cameras. From what I understand, as well, it is not overly common to find these cameras with their original lenses, in good condition, still intact. And, apparently, the inclusion of such lenses causes the value on these cameras to increase dramatically. This particular auction does boast the inclusion of a truly massive “super good clean Carl Zeiss Jena F4.5… Tessa 4.5/300” lens. So, you be the judge. The camera is worth exactly what you’re willing and happy to pay for it, I suppose.
Either way, this is a very cool old camera. And, spending just a few minutes searching on the net should make it very apparent that all sorts of people — not only vintage camera collectors — just love to make restoration projects out of these old Graflex studio, mahogany bodied, bad boys!
The auction is located here, and ends on January 29th. There are currently no bids, as of the time of this writing.
Century Studio Camera:
Note: The camera in the below video IS NOT the camera featured in this auction. The producer of this video, to the best of our knowledge, has absolutely no relationship to the seller in the auction being discussed in this article. The video is presented here only for your info-tainment viewing pleasure.