5 Frames with a Houghton Ensign Box 2¼B

By Ralph Turner

It’s funny what catches your eye when you’re casually roaming around the ‘Bay. The words “rapid rectilinear” caught my eye, a lens type well respected in it’s day. After a little negotiation with the seller, for a good price it was on its way to its new home. Although, as far as I could tell, not entirely un-interfered with at some point in it’s history, the box is in surprisingly good condition for a camera that’s about a century old with a working shutter and a clean lens.

After semi-stand developing a roll of Kentmere 100 in caffenol, I was pleasantly surprised how well the negs came out all things considered. There was a stop or two of overexposure (as expected) and fair bit of flare when the sun was anywhere but over my shoulder. When you also factor in a light leak from the rather pale frame counter window (even though I had a film box end flap taped over it when not needed) the scans came out pretty well. Although far from a stellar resolver, the lens did surprisingly well, with an even-handed, low distortion rendering. The biggest limitation to sharpness was probably me, with all photos taken handheld at the only shutter speed available of around 1/30th second.

The last time I used a box camera, flared trousers were still in fashion the first time round, so it was fun to use one again despite the tiny, rather awkward portrait/landscape viewfinders and decidedly limited functionality.

At some point I intend to use it again, though next time with a steady platform to stand it on. With no threaded bush, some sort of diy adaptation will be needed to mount it to a tripod.

There’s something quite rewarding about creating surprisingly useable images with a camera that was introduced in 1923 and processing them through a home-brewed developer.

Thankyou for reading my ramblings.

First frame: Parton Village, D & G. Remaining frames: Crossmichael Church, D & G.

More of my film-based images with kit old and (relatively) new can be found on https://grainery.app/login

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Comments

Peter on 5 Frames with a Houghton Ensign Box 2¼B

Comment posted: 13/07/2023

Thanks for this article, Ralph. It’s exactly the kind of thing I started reading 35mmc and emulsive for a few years ago. Interesting to see what these old mini-machines actually can make vs. mostly seeing them in a static object d’art situation.
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Ralph Turner replied:

Comment posted: 13/07/2023

Many thanks for your kind words, Peter, much appreciated.

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Geoff Chaplin on 5 Frames with a Houghton Ensign Box 2¼B

Comment posted: 09/07/2023

Surprisingly good images given the single shutter speed, and a good range of tones. A lucky purchase! Wait 'til you see what came out of my friend's Goerz 6x9!
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Dave Powell on 5 Frames with a Houghton Ensign Box 2¼B

Comment posted: 08/07/2023

Wonderful Don! I'm often amazed at how these old cameras can still produce such lovely images. And isn't Caffenol great? Cheers, Dave
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Ralph Turner replied:

Comment posted: 08/07/2023

Thanks very much, Dave. Yes, caffenol’s fantastic. It’s the only developer I use.

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Richard on 5 Frames with a Houghton Ensign Box 2¼B

Comment posted: 08/07/2023

Fantastic images for a 100 year old camera! I was interested to know the location, but Google said D&G was Dolce & Gabbana. However, after some further poking around, I guess you mean Dumfries and Galloway in Scotland. Lovely spot. ;-)
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Ralph Turner replied:

Comment posted: 08/07/2023

Thank you, Richard. Yes, indeed it is Dumfries and Galloway ☺️ and it is a wonderful place to be.

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don ball on 5 Frames with a Houghton Ensign Box 2¼B

Comment posted: 08/07/2023

fine shots.theres great fun to be had using these fine old cameras.
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