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1948 Bell & Howell Foton Camera + EXTRAS!

  • This sale does ** NOT ** include the Deep Field panchro 4inch 100mm f/2.5 lens with its hood and both end caps, but I do have it listed in its own sale so see my other listings if you are interested.
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13.00 LBS
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1 unit(s)
Maximum Purchase:
1 unit(s)

Product Description



1948 Bell & Howell Foton Camera + EXTRAS!

+ Working Bell & Howell 1948 Foton, Serial #697028 Cosmetic: A/B++, Excellent plus plus, slight used marks, as pictured
+ Cooke Amotal 2" Inches F/2 with lense cap
+ Original Bell & Howell Foton Flash Assc. with Box in like new condition
+ Camera shell case with straps in good condition
+ Camera travel box/case in like new condition with straps
+ Original Foton Users Manual in excellent condition
+ 1949 Montgomery Ward Photography Catalog which features the Foton on the cover
+ Long lens hot shoe mount range finder



This sale does ** NOT ** include the Deep Field panchro 4inch 100mm f/2.5 lens with its hood and both end caps, but I do have it listed in its own sale so see my other listings if you are interested.



I have run film through this camera and everything works and is in very good overall condition.  I will be posting a video of the camera showing its operation shortly and will link below. Anybody that knows these cameras will likely know all about them, so I wont go into detail on its functions, and the photos and video will detail its condition, but if you have any questions please ask. 


A brief history of the Foton and the original owner of this specific camera:

From my research, Loren A. Chambers (1901-1986) whos name is on the camera case, was a semi-pro photographer in Seattle, Washington in the 1940's and 1950's. Though not particularly famous in any way, some of his commercial work is shown and the Washington digital collections:  (http://digitalcollections.lib.washington.edu/cdm/search/searchterm/Lorne%20Chambers/field/all/mode/all/conn/and/). He also had a thing for Magicians and in 1949 took photos at a convention in Portland - possibly with this Foton camera. (http://www.granhoudini.net/kosky.htm)  Not exactly the most riveting stuff, but anytime I can connect items from the past with the original owners I like to share what personal story there is associated with it, especially looking into the past of someone who would pay over $10,000 dollars in todays money for a Camera back in 1948!






A brief history of the Foton from cameraquest.com:


Bell & Howell Foton  Super Camera


Very few cameras are all time classics.  This is one of them.   Bell & Howell's 1948 effort to produce the best 35 mm camera did in fact produce the USA's best made 35 mm camera, and the highest speed full frame hand wound motor at 6 fps!!

An impressive post-war effort,  but the Foton's high original price of  $700 in postwar America assured it would not be the real competitor to Leica it deserved to be.    It's really too bad.  With a full array of lenses and accessories, the Foton would have been a real contender for the crown.   The Foton's mechanical 6 fps motor is remarkable.  By my count it would only take 33 years for a regular production 35 to equal its speed -- the 1980 Nikon F3!  Other advanced features for the time were a hot shoe and "T-stop" calibrated lenses for the utmost in exposure accuracy.  

The opened back shows the Foton's all metal vertically traveling shutter.    It's a strange unique design which also included a second shutter capping device in front of it.   Unlike the other great American 35 mm, the Kodak Ektra, the Foton had a excellent reputation for reliability despite its considerable complexity.   The shutter speed dial is to the right of the lens in the above pic with a range from 1/1000 to 1 second.    To remove a Foton lens, just unscrew it.   Like the Zeiss Contax, the 50mm lens helical is built into the body.    The two windows on the back of the top plate are the separate rangefinder and viewfinder windows.  The Foton's built in 50mm viewfinder  was typical of 1948 -- no brightline framelines, no parallax correction, small squinty field of view. 


Some sources claim 16,900 were made.  I personally find this difficult to believe considering how seldom I find them.   I have seen encountered about three dozen Kodak Ektras (a contemporary American system 35), yet only about six Fotons.     Ektra production is usually estimated to be about 2,500.     Unlike the extremely unreliable Ektras, most Fotons still work -- a testament to their sound design and workmanship. 

Considering the Foton's quality design, workmanship, and dependability, it makes a strong claim as the premier 35mm rangefinder manufactured in the United States, despite the Foton's limited range of lenses and accessories. 

It's interesting to note that the Foton's concept of a built in,  compact,  high speed motordrive lives on today in practically every higher end 35mm camera !













 Any other questions, please ask!





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