|March 22, 2013||Posted by Photo GearHead under Cool Gear|
Featured today is the vintage, and kind of weird, Ross-Ensign Fulvueflex Synchroflash camera. A clever name for a camera, no? Try saying it’s name five times fast — Fulvueflex Synchroflash, Fulvueflex Synchroflash… fool-vul-flex sing-kro-flash… Do you get what’s clever about it? “Full view reflex.” Get it? Ah well… whatever.
The history of the Ross-Ensign camera company actually begins way back in 1836, when French sheet-glass manufacturer Antoine Claudet, (a personal friend of Louis Daguerre – yes, THEE daguerreotype guy) operating out of 89 High Holbourn, London, teamed up with a British optics maker by the name of George Houghton, to form a new company at Claudet’s previously mentioned address, which they called, what else? “Claudet & Houghton” — a clever name for a company, no?
Antoine and George would run their company for a full thirty-one years, producing products of optical glass, and gradually expanding the business into the production of various photographic materials, until, George Houghton, in 1867, would take full control of the company after Antoine Claudet passed away. Having brought his son on board a year earlier, George renamed the firm to “George Houghton & Son” after Claudet’s passing. “George Houghton & Son” — A clever name, no?
By the early 1900s, George Houghton & Son was manufacturing Ensign brand roll film, and if you want to talk about clevernesses, get a load of this: The logo that George Houghton and Son (now operating as Houghton Ltd.) came up with for their Ensign line of photographic products has got to be the clever-er-est of clevernesses. That’s a reproduction of the logo that appeared on Ensign brand products to the right. Do you get it? It’s the letter “N” written on a sign. Get it? It’s an “N-sign” — N-sign = Ensign. Clever, no? …ah, well… whatever.
So, the years went by and old George Houghton’s company saw its share of ups and downs. But, they kept producing their products. The early part of the twentieth century saw the Houghton company expand into a business which employed more than a thousand people throughout its offices and manufacturing facilities now located in both London and Glasgow. In 1915, they partnered with another company by the name of W. Butcher and Sons Ltd. and formed the Houghton-Butcher Manufacturing Company. Their operations continued on and Houghton Ltd. continued to release their photographic products under the Houghton Ltd. name up until the year 1930 when the name of the company was changed to simply “Ensign Ltd.”– seeing as how the Ensign camera brand that Houghton was producing had now become much more well known than the company itself, this was probably as clever business decision, no?
So, still the years went by, and, still, George Houghton’s old company continued to see its share of ups and downs — including a war-time bombing that completely decimated their entire London location — the location where the company had its very beginnings more than one-hundred years earlier.
In 1951, the company changed its name to the familiar Ross-Ensign Ltd. moniker, and began producing cameras of the classic and common 1950’s era roll-film type designs. With their “Ful-vue” line of cameras, Ross-Ensign had developed somewhat of a reputation for developing well built, sturdy cameras. But, in 1957 — just four years before the company, in its one-hundred and twenty-fifth year of continuous operations, closed its doors for good — Ross-Ensign would decide to break with their tradition of manufacturing well built, sturdy cameras and take the company in a whole new direction: That of producing a fairly un-well built, and truly not-very-sturdy plastic bodied “P.O.S.” camera. Clever, no?
In 1957, Ross-Ensign produced the last model in its Ful-Vue line of cameras — the Fulvueflex Synchroflash. The Synchroflash boasts a genuine polystyrene body and plastic lenses — the “Astaross” lens being a fixed-focus lens that provides the photographer with a full ONE, single choice for aperture settings. But, what the Ross-Ensign Fulvueflex Synchroflash lacks in its choice of aperture settings, it adequately makes up for with its ridiculously excessive choice of shutter-speeds… which happens to be a total of two — that of either “instantaneous”, or “bulb.”
Luckily, however, for modern vintage camera collectors, the Ross-Ensign Fulvueflex Synchroflash does have a number of things going for it. First and foremost, of course, is that it has a super-cool name that is wicked-fun to say: “Full-voo-flex Sing-kro-flash” Awesome! But, also, the camera is vintage, never sold well in its day, was cheaply constructed, and was only manufactured for a very limited time of no more than three years (1957-1959). So, it has become somewhat of a rare item, and should be somewhat of a draw for those of us that love to shoot awesomely-bad photos using old, crap-tastic cameras — due to Fulvueflex’s use of still readily available 120mm medium-format film.
The seller claims that he or she knows little about such old, manual-style cameras, so can not attest to its current state of functionality. However, they do report that they were able to wind the camera, and the shutter did release upon clicking the shutter release button. The original box that’s included in this auction states that this particular example of the Ross-Ensign Fulvueflex Synchroflash (I made you say the name again!) was manufactured in Calcutta, India by the “Ensign India Private Ltd.” company! Strange.
I was unable to find any information regarding Ross-Ensign actually manufacturing cameras in India. (After writing, but before publishing this article, I did manage to find some info, located here) So, I would suppose that this fact adds greatly to this particular camera’s rarity — whether or not it adds anything to its value, however, is a different matter. Also note that seller is located in India, and is selling the camera on an “as is” basis. The item comes with its original box.
The sale price for the item is set at $75.oo USD — which does actually seem to be quite high when taking in the camera’s stated condition and without a full guarantee of functionality. But, these cameras are becoming more and more rare — and the fact that this particular one was manufactured in India, might add to its attractiveness to collectors. So, if interested, you make the call. The sale is set to end April 21st. The sale for this vintage Ross-Ensign Fulvueflex Synchroflash (Ha! made you say it again!) can be viewed at this location.