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Houghton Ensignette No. 2 Antique Folding "E2" Film Camera, Pre-1920
01223 242684 /ArthurRankHospiceCharity @ArthurRankHouse @arthur_rank_hospice
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Description

The Houghton company started out as a glass warehouse established in London by Frenchman Antoine Claudet and his British business partner George Houghton in 1834. Thirty-three years later, Claudet had either died or left the business and, with the arrival of Houghton's son, it became George Houghton & Son, then George Houghton & Sons 25 years after that - suggesting that the original George's son was also named George and was now running the business. By 1901 the company had moved to Ensign House in High Holborn and it was there, in 1903, that the firm began manufacturing photographic film. They branded the film as Ensign, and it soon became the mainstay of the business, and was evidently profitable too because three years later they bought up the Holmes Bros., A. C. Jackson, Spratt Bros. and Joseph Levi & Co. camera manufacturers, then built the biggest camera factory in Britain on Fulbourn Road in Walthamstow.

Many of their products were named Ensign, or other names based on it, such as the Ensignette. Designed by the Swedish engineer Magnus Niéll and patented in 1907, it was far smaller, and thanks to all-metal construction far more robust, than Kodak's legendary Box Brownie, and is arguably the world's very first pocket-sized compact camera - though more expensive than a Brownie (£2 10s. in a Boots catalogue from the same era, while a Brownie No. 1 was just 5s.), clever construction using pressed brass meant it was also affordable, and it caused something of a revolution in the amateur photography world and became a best-seller. It was followed in 1912 by the Ensignette No. 2, a very similar camera that was slightly larger to accommodate Houghton's new larger-format E2 film for 2" x 3" photos rather than the Ensignette's E1 film which yielded 1.5 x 2.25" photos. That both cameras were successful can be seen from the fact that Kodak, which usually sought to kill off rivals, started making film for both models, yet never made a camera of their own to use either format.

There is, unfortunately, no record of Houghton serial numbers, so it's not possible to date this one exactly. However, the front and back plates of the No. 2 were constructed from aluminium from 1920, and testing this one with a magnet reveals that they're not aluminium - but also that they're not brass. In fact, they appear appear to be steel, but there doesn't seem to be any mention of a steel version on any of the antique camera sites - brass, of course, was in great demand during the First World War for shell casings and suchlike, so it's my guess that a small number of Ensignettes were made from other metals during that period.

It is, therefore, a genuine antique - which makes it all the more remarkable that, despite it being the bottom-of-the-range model with an unbranded achromatic meniscus lens (more expensive versions with focusing lenses, including one made by Zeiss, were also available) and basic leaf shutter, it remains in full working order: the shutter speed and aperture controls, film advance and shutter are all operating exactly as intended. There are cosmetic faults, most notably significant paint loss on the back and minor scratches elsewhere, but overall condition is good - the front panel and sides are in good order and the text printed on them is clear and legible. Most important, the optics are surprisingly good (which is one benefit of positioning the lens behind the shutter) without marks or scratches; there is some haze to the viewfinder but it's still usable. We don't have any film to perform a full test, and it's likely that nobody does as it hasn't been made since 1951 (though if you're very lucky you might find unused vintage stock), but the camera doesn't appear to suffer light leakage: we tested by placing a bright LED light source inside and then examined it closely in a dark room and can see no problems - unusual for both the Ensignette models as Houghton used extremely thin leather for the bellows presumably in an effort to keep prices low.

Specs and Details
• Made By: Houghton
• Model: Ensignette No. 2
• Serial: 17777
• Type: Compact Still Camera
• Format: Ensign E2/Kodak No.129
• Produced: 1912
• Made In: USA
• Lens: Achromatic meniscus
• Shutter: Unknown leaf type (probably Everest)
• Shutter Speeds: I, T (I is likely somewhere between 1/25 and 1/40)
• Aperture: f/11, 16, 22
• Features: "Brilliant" viewfinder
• Dimensions (W x H x D; lens retracted): 12.7 x 6 x 2.3cm (5 x 2.4 x 0.9""

Due to the nature of this item it is not always possible for us to identify any missing parts.
For this reason we ask that you please check the pictures carefully, as these show everything that is included.

This item has been very kindly donated to the Arthur Rank Hospice Charity.

Arthur Rank Hospice Charity supports people in Cambridgeshire living with an advanced serious illness or other life-limiting condition and those who need end-of-life care. Our ‘Outstanding’ services are provided free of charge to patients and their families. Our aim is to provide the highest quality care, helping them to make every moment count.

100% of the money raised from this sale will go to the charity.

Our sales team do their best to check each item and ensure that the description and pictures provided are as accurate as possible.

Feedback is extremely important to the charity so if you are not fully satisfied with your purchase please give us a chance to resolve any issues by contacting us prior to leaving feedback.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us via eBay messages, we will make sure that your message is responded to promptly, usually within three working days. Messages sent over the weekend will be responded to on the next working day.

If this item is not quite what you were looking for but you would still like to help our cause, please consider providing us with a donation which can be done via our eBay Charity Profile linked below.

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Change of Mind

If when you receive your order you are not completely satisfied, you may return the items to us within 30 days for a refund. Returns will be processed within three working days once the goods have been received by us.

Items must be returned to us in the same condition as they were received by you. This includes, but is not limited to: original packaging, original boxes, packaging materials, manuals, blank warranty cards, accessories and documents. We reserve the right to refuse a return or deduct an amount for lost value where the item is returned in a different condition.

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Arthur Rank Hospice Charity will not be held responsible for returns lost or damaged in transit.

Please be aware that it is the responsibility of the customer to cover any delivery charges for returning an unwanted item.

Incorrect/Damaged Goods

We try very hard to ensure that you receive your order in pristine condition. In the unlikely event that your order arrives damaged or faulty, please contact us via eBay immediately, this will be given special priority and you can expect to receive a response within 48 hours, Monday to Friday. Arthur Rank Hospice Charity will cover the cost of domestic return postage for any incorrect or damaged items, subject to the cost of the chosen return method being reasonable. Please contact us before proceeding if unsure.

About Arthur Rank Hospice Charity

Arthur Rank Hospice Charity supports people in Cambridgeshire living with an advanced serious illness or other life-limiting condition and those who need end-of-life care. Its ‘Outstanding’ services are provided free of charge to patients and their families. The aim is to provide the highest quality care, helping them to make every moment count.

Around 4,000 patients are cared for each year at the Hospice in Cambridge, the Alan Hudson Day Treatment Centre in Wisbech and in patients’ own homes via the Arthur Rank Community Team. This care supports people to improve their quality of life and fulfil their end of their life choices.

Alongside the care provided by the Inpatient Unit, Living Well services and Hospice at Home teams, patients can access: patient and family support; lymphoedema care; complementary therapy; medical and pain outpatient clinics; and advice from the clinical nurse specialists within the Specialist Palliative Care Home Team. Programmes are practical, holistic and tailored to the individual patient, family member or carer and may also include rehabilitative support, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and psychological support.

It will cost £10.5 million in 2021/2022 to run services, which are provided free of charge to patients and their loved ones. Contracted services from the NHS are budgeted at £6.98 million, meaning that £3.52 million needs to be raised through donations, fundraising activities and trading. The Charity is extremely grateful to the local community for the continual dedication, commitment and generosity they show in supporting towards meeting this target.