The Tube Camera Phenomena

Braun Gloria

Throughout history, camera designers have frequently desired to replace the flexible leather lens bellows found on cameras that make them more compact. Some early variations of the box camera were designed as a box within a box, which allowed the user to focus the camera and collapse it for storage. Later there was the English Wembley Sports, a Bakelite camera with a spiral lens tube that allowed focus and storage. The Zenith 127 boasted a slide-out lens tube that focused a meniscus lens to two feet, and, of course, the Argus A series with a sliding metal lens tube.

Argus A

After WWII, thin Russian leather for bellows was both scarce and expensive. This caused several European camera makers to develop steel lens tubes that pulled the lens into focusing position for the popular 6x6/120 film market. Some used the same body as the bellows version, and some a spiral spring to propel the lens outward and lock it in position.

First was probably the Braun Paxina around 1950/51, based on Braun’s “Pax” camera designs. The Pax had a square, metal, pull-out lens tube, which was very similar to the Beacon. Both were little more than box cameras. The improved version, the Paxina, had a round lens tube on a modified body. The top-of-the-line version, beginning in 1951, had a Steiner 2.9 triplet and a Prontor SVS shutter. Vredeborch followed in 1952 with the Nordina, which was very similar and had the same Steiner 2.9/Prontor SVS combination. Dacora joined the party in 1954 with the Digna, which included an Enna Correlar 2.9 lens and Pronto shutter. Gerlach marketed an Ideal with Reporter Achromat 7.7 lens and B, M shutter . Braun topped the market with the Gloria, which was a Paxina with a coupled split image rangefinder. The Steiner 2.9 became a Steiner Praxar 2.9/Steinheil Proxanar 2.9, which is easy and natural to use, despite being a little nose heavy

By 1955, other manufacturers marketed their versions of the 120 tube camera. Eumig, famous for movie cameras, offered an Eumigetta with a very good 5,6 movie style triplet lens ? in front of the B-I shutter. Goldammer offered a Goldeck with the Steiner 2.9/ Pronto combination, Balda Baldexette with a doublet and B-I shutter, and Durst with a Duplox with an Achromat lens. I assume the simpler lenses indicate that there was a lot of competition for this corner of the camera market. Most of the cameras were marketed in multiple versions, which had simpler (3.5-4.5-8) lenses on the same body. The most expensive was probably the Braun Gloria at about $50.00 from 1954-1957. Only Universal with the Meteor and Beacon with a square lens tube emerged in the U.S. market. The only Japanese I found was the rather simple Koroll.

All were a 35mm style, making them a little larger than the Yashica/Canon-style 35s of the next decade. They handled well, and with better lenses like the Steiner 2.9, they were capable of very sharp 6x6 slides. All the lenses were front element focus, shutters were lever set some with a red dot visible in the viewfinder to warn that the shutter was cocked, and some had body release. None had double exposure prevention, and all used the traditional red window film advance. The Steiner/Steinheil/Enna 2.9 triplet was in a huge (for the time) 42mm mount with the large first element protruding.

All a little large for the pocket, they all make a convenient, comfortable neckstrap camera to take to a car show or a park to capture memorable scenes in mpressive 6x6 Fuji slides. The 75-80mm lenses with 3.5-foot close-up focus make a fair snapshot/portrait camera, especially with a diffusion filter for glamour images of your better half. Don’t be surprised to receive some public attention for using “that antique camera” in a public place.



Lind’s List

eBay auctions

Various internet sources

Personal notes and collection