A lot of us have shot with Ilford film, but have you ever used an Ilford camera? About four years ago I vastly overpaid for a camera I knew nothing about from an antiques store while on holiday in Tasmania. I realised lately that the roll of film I had bought at the same time was about to expire, so it was about time to figure out how to get pictures out of this thing. From what I’ve been able to find on this camera, Ilford manufactured the Ilford Craftsman in 1949 for the entry level market and it apparently was also issued to police forces for crime scene documentation! Who knows what gory images mine could have seen…
Fortunately, the Craftsman takes 120 film (6×6 exposures for 12 frames per roll) so is still usable today, 70 years on. In the spirit of authenticity I was using Ilford FP4+ 125. I haven’t tried any colour film with the Craftsman yet but it definitely would be interesting to see the results.
The Craftsman is a little more than a box camera but a lot less than a true TLR camera. You get two options for shutter speed (1/25 and 1/75, plus a bulb setting) and two options for aperture (f9 and f18). It also has a limited focusing range for the taking lens, allowing you to choose from 4-5 feet, 5-7, 7-10, 10-20 and 20-infinity. However it’s not a true twin lens reflex as the viewing lens is fixed focus, so you are kind of flying blind on focus. Since the apertures are so small it’s very forgiving for the most part.
The limited settings can make exposure challenging, but also freeing. Outdoors, stick it on 1/75 and f18 and hope for the best. Indoors, stick it on 1/25 and f/9 and hope for the best… although the only indoor capture I took was blank, so possibly the slower shutter speed is broken.
Carrying around such an eye-catching art deco camera certainly attracts a lot of attention. My grandparents, who feature on the last two frames, said they remembered their grandparents taking photos with a similar box camera, back in the 50s! One of the nice things about working with older cameras is how it brings out people’s memories.
Amazingly, considering the camera likely hasn’t been used, cleaned, or serviced in 70 years, 11 of the 12 exposures produced recognisable images. The taking lens seems to have some fungus in it which combined with general dust and debris gives the pictures a definite vintage look! I don’t hate the effect, with some of the nature pictures it’s hard to tell whether they were taken in 1952 or 2022.
I really enjoyed my first roll with the Ilford Craftsman. It won’t become my daily driver but I have big plans for experimenting with colour film, long exposures, double exposures and more. One day I might even clean it.
More of my photography can be found on my website.