This museum exhibit belongs to my dad, and belonged to his dad before him – a Soho Cadet 120 film camera dating back to the 1930s – back in the days when switching on meant extending the bellows.
He’ll take you through its story himself – over to Tim…
This Soho Cadet camera was owned by my father and in use until the 1950s. I believe that he bought it, new, in the early 1930s.
It has the original two-part sliding lid box.
There is a snug-fitting canvas and leather case. The case is not believed to be a standard part of the product since the camera does not fit in the box when in the case. The case is, however, assumed to be contemporaneous with the camera.
The camera takes 8 pictures on 120 size roll film, giving contact prints of 3 1/4 x 2 1/4 inches (9 x 6 cm).
The case of the camera is made of Bakelite in a dark red colour with metal fittings; some chrome plated and some painted.
The case is opened by pressing a release button adjacent to the film winding key and pulling gently on the unfolded front leg.
The bellows is extended to the operating position by pulling on the looped metal tag just below the lens.
The bellows has to be extended until a chrome lever, to the right of the lens, engages with a slot marked with a distance in feet. Altering the extension of the bellows is the method of adjusting the focus. I am sure that I remember the bellows being replaced, probably during the 1950s. A similar model, seen on the Internet, appeared to have a bellows which was dark red.
It is at this point that my investigation of the camera on the Internet, reached an impasse. All Soho Cadet cameras found so far have a very simple control system. Those cameras appear to have a simple shutter with T and I settings (Time and Instantaneous?).
This particular camera has three speeds from 25th to 100th second plus T and B on the Vaio shutter. The aperture is also adjustable from f6.3 to f32. The shutter assembly is labelled ‘Original Gauthier’ and the lens as a ‘Kershaw Astigmat’. A screw fitting allows a cable release to be fitted.
The viewfinder is the reflection type, familiar to all who have ever used a box camera. The viewfinder rotates through 90 degrees to allow both portrait and landscape formats to be used. The photographer must contain the subject within the correct portion of the cross shaped viewing window.
The film compartment is opened by sliding a spring-loaded metal plate.
Many years ago, my father dropped the camera whist visiting the Swallow Falls (near Betws-y-Coed, Wales). The camera bounced off rocks and into the water. Despite this, it was successfully dried out and used for many years afterwards. The accident resulted in minor damage to the Bakelite where the camera body meets the lid of the film compartment.
When the catch is released, the whole rear half of the case can be removed to fit or remove a film.
This camera appears to be a development from the basic Soho Cadet, using a Gauthier shutter, mated to a Kershaw (in-house) lens.
If anyone can shed and further light on this version of the Soho Cadet, I would love to hear from you.
So, if you know any more about my grandad’s camera, do let us know in the comments below…