This camera dates from the 1850s. It is made of mahogany with brass
fittings, like most of the cameras of that time, and is very heavy.
Although it looks old fashioned to us, in fact it was a
technological breakthrough in its day. This camera had folded
leather bellows between the lens and film area. This made it
lighter than previous cameras, and it folded away into its own
carrying box. Some of camera's parts, like the lens, are much the
same as in a modern camera. But the difference is that the parts
are much larger and are made of different materials.
With modern cameras small electronic and digital cameras we focus
the lens and take the picture at the press of a button. With the
bellows camera, all the parts had to be moved and adjusted by hand
and the film had to be specially prepared. This took time and
How it worked
The photographer opened up the camera and set it on the tripod.
Then he or she looked at the image formed on the focusing screen at
the back of the camera. By moving the lens forward and back, the
photographer composed and focused the picture. Then he or she
prepared the glass plate with chemicals and slipped it into the
back of the camera.
It took a while for the photo to appear on the glass plate. For
portraits, people had to stand or sit very still for up to half an
hour. From time to time, the photographer checked on how the photo
was developing. When the picture seemed ready, the photographer
removed the glass plate from the camera and fixed the image using
This camera has several different names, which stand for the camera
parts or what it was used for - square bellows camera, folding
baseboard camera, flatbed camera, view camera and stand camera.