In 1897, the Rochester Optical Company announced a major design variation of
the traditional folding plate camera. To be able to use long focal length lenses,
the back drops down like the front. This permits an extra long bellows draw for
telephoto photography, enlarging, and copying.
The expansive polished wood interior, brass trim and maroon bellows makes this
one of the most impressive American folding plate cameras. These larger format
‘long focus’ models are uncommon and typically in very poor condition through
years of hard professional use.
This particular example appears in catalogues from 1897 to 1900 and shoots nice
sized 6½ x 8½ inch (whole-plate) format glass plates. When fully extended, it is
30 inches long. As an advanced amateur / professional camera it wasn’t cheap
and advertised for $62.00 in 1897 (equal to about $1,736 in 2014 currency!).
The Victor Flat-Top shutter indicates this is an 1900 model made by the
Rochester Optical Company. The camera continued to be offered by the
Rochester Camera & Optical Company until it was acquired by George Eastman
and merged with Kodak in 1903. R.O.& C. Co. versions have a redesigned lens
board mount and improved front and rear focusing with course and fine
Reversible Back Premo, 1897-c.1903 Rochester Optical Company. Rochester, NY.
Front view of the Rev Back with Victor Flat Top shutter.
Size is 6-1/2 x 8-1/2 inch format.
Extra bellows draw is obtained by means of a folding back which drops and forms a bed for the rear portion of the camera.
The rear standard has an adjustable tilt (large brass hardware) for distortion control.