Bell's Straight Working Panorama Camera, c.1912
Close-up of the distinctive maker's label.
Comparison of Bell's camera and the No.2 Folding Pocket Brownie..
Dual-format panorama camera for 3-1/4" x 11" and 3-1/4" x 5-1/2" Images
No ... it's not an Eastman Kodak Folding Pocket Brownie Camera that got caught in a taffy puller This is a Bell's Straight Working Panorama Camera. Although 16" in length, it still has a strong resemblance to a Folding Pocket Brownie.

The camera was offered by the American Northern Photo Supply Company in 1912 based on patents issued to Isaac A. Bell in 1908 and 1911.

This scarce item is historically important as the first rollfilm camera to make panoramic pictures without spinning lenses, curved film backs, rotating tripod mounted bodies, and other gimmicks - hence the term "Straight Working" in the name.

The camera is also more elaborate than it appears. Hidden within the body is a clever yet simple duel format feature for making full-sized 11" wide panoramas or 5-1/2" postcard sized images.

A pair of levers mounted on the body rotate velvet cloth masks into the film plane to reduce the image size. For standard panoramas, the masks are rotated out from the film plane to the inner bellows wall.
An extreme wide-angle rapid rectilinear lens is mounted on a Wollensak Junior TIB shutter. While an f/16 aperture setting is sufficient for postcard sized images, stopping down to f/64 ensures that the 11" panoramic format is covered. Interestingly, the camera does not have a focusing scale, nor is one required. This is due to the great depth of field inherent with extreme wide-angle lenses and small aperture settings. For picture taking, the lens standard is simply extended to a preset distance.
Bell's Straight Working Panorama Camera, c.1912
Bell Camera Company, Grinell, Iowa
The similarity between the Bell's Straight Working Panorama Camera and the Eastman Kodak Folding Pocket Brownie is striking, as shown in the picture at the right. Both cameras have red or maroon leather bellows and metal lensboards that are nearly identical in shape.
Copyright ©2001 by Rob Niederman - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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The Bell's maker's label is striking and distinctive.