The Korona Hand Camera (also known as the Milburn Korona Camera by
collectors) is the first model of popular cameras offered under the
While Korona cameras are most often associated with the Gundlach Optical
Company, it was the Milburn Camera Company, founded by Gustav Milburn in
1894, that created the first cameras with the "Korona" name.
Prior to founding the Milburn Camera Company, Gustav Milburn worked for
Kodak managing sales people then later joined Henry M. Reichenbach and S.
Carl Passavant (both Kodak employees) to form the Photo Materials Company
(PMC) in 1891. He eventually left PMC in 1894 to establish his own company
where he created the first Korona cameras.
The September 1894 issue of The American Amateur Photographer (page 431)
announced Milburn's new venture:
Copyright ©2013 by Rob Niederman - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
The Korona Hand Camera, 1894
The Milburn Camera Company. Rochester, NY.
5x7 inch Milburn Korona Hand Camera with shutter marked:
"Made for Milburn Korona Company by Gundlach Optical Company."
Mr. G. D. Milburn, of Rochester, N. Y., has informed us that he has
severed his relations amiably [sic] with the Photo Materials Company
and intends to start in for himself in the manufacture of several
photographic specialties, among which are chloride printing out
paper, glossy and plain bromide paper, and a new style of hand
camera. We wish Mr. Milburn success in his new venture.
At the time Milburn started his new company, he must have already been working on a new camera. Barely one month after starting the Milburn Camera Company, the Korona Hand
Camera was announced in the October 1894 issue of The American Amateur Photographer (page 479). The article told of, "A new style of hand camera which appears to have several
points of merit that are worthy of attention." The announcement also mentions the new Korona as a "universal camera" that could be "placed on a tripod for view work or used as a
hand camera." Three models were offered, A, B, and C, the C style being the most fully featured version.
The Korona Hand Camera had several distinctive features including a back that completely folded up to expose the whole ground glass. Two extra plateholders could be stored in a pair
of specially designed metal brackets attached to the inside of the back. Unlike other cameras, the plateholders would be carried out of the way when the back was opened.
The front focusing arrangement was also unique. When the camera was opened, the front standard could be drawn out to a bar that was secured across the foucsing rail. The bar
could be preset for different types of lenses, which allowed the photographer to quickly get a subject into focus. Fine focusing was then accomplished by turning a pinion over the top
of the lens box. Milburn's intention was to copy the action of "old style portrait lenses" that had a rack and pinion movement.
Another key feature of The Korona Hand Camera was a drop bed with a joint, permitting it to be bent down for using wide-angle lenses. This was a feature also found in the satchel
style Folding Kodak Cameras.
Later Korona cameras made by the Gundlach Optical Company were unlike the original Korona Hand Camera. They had a more traditional design with dark, reddish colored polished wood
interiors and nickel-plated brass hardware.
Special thanks to Rob McElroy and Eaton S. Lothrop Jr. for digging up the original 1894 company and camera announcements from their archives.
Ernst Gundlach acquired Milburn's company in 1896 and continued to build
cameras under the Korona name at least through 1902, the year that
Gundlach acquired the Manhattan Optical Company.