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View Finder made by Camera Supply Co Washington DC for Leica and other cameras


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I'm trying to find out more about this view finder. I found the US patent information from 1943 that credits the patent to Edward Kaprelian. It has a setting for Leica 35mm. Has anyone ever seen or heard of one of these? I can't find any information about a Magnefield Universal Finder or the Camera Supply Company.

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How is it in operation ? I mean, what is the field of view it covers ? Apparently, is not a multifocal , but I suppose it is for long focals , given the length and the presence of a parallax corrector.  I think that can have anyway some sort of field setting... by logic, the 3 writings do refer to film frame size (16 mm, 35mm cine and 35mm photo, to say "Leica format")

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19 minutes ago, jc_braconi said:

May be for movie than photography

Given the 16mm and two 35mm settings one of which is marked Leica, it would make sense that it is primarily for a smaller format movie camera and that the '35mm Leica' setting is an opportunistic piece of marketing.

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I expect the 'Leica' setting will be what they call '35 mm double frame' in the patent, as opposed to the standard 35mm cine setting.

I assume the patent author, Edward K Kaprelian, is this guy, an optical expert and quite the camera collector:

https://myauctionfinds.com/2011/11/21/a-historical-display-of-cameras/

'Kaprelian was considered an expert on photography and its accoutrements. He was born in 1913 and received a master’s degree in engineering in 1934. After working in Washington, he joined the U.S. Army Signal Corps Engineering Labs in Fort Monmouth, NJ, where he served as chief. The Army in 1945 turned over to him a collection of Carl Zeiss lens that it had retrieved from the Germans. Kaprelian became an expert in Zeiss lens. His collection at auction included a number of them. He later was hired as chief engineer at the Kalart Co., which manufactured cameras and photography equipment. In the 1960s, he was the deputy in an Army lab called Limited War Laboratory. A 1965 Popular Science magazine article described it as an elite club of scientists who basically spent their time thinking up and developing weaponry and other devices to help fight the Vietnam War. Kaprelian holds 50 U.S. and foreign patents, ranging from optical and photography to smoke detectors to wound-treatment apparatus for surgery.'

http://www.zeisshistorica.org/kaprelian.html

https://web.archive.org/web/20160620095014/http://www.zeisshistorica.org/kaprelian.html

'He was also a collector of photographic apparatus and materials for most of his life. When most camera collectors began to think of collecting, Ed already had samples of the most innovative items in his lab. Most of the photographic collecting societies became active beneficiaries of his knowledge and experience. He was gracious and forthcoming to all. He acted as a consultant to the Photographic industries well beyond normal retirement age and was listed in Who's Who in America, Who's Who in Engineering, and American Men of Science. He was familiar with Zeiss Ikon and Carl Zeiss products which were a significant portion of his collection and was familiar to the Zeiss firm in his professional capacities. While he was with the Signal Corps, many Carl Zeiss optical designers accepted contracts to work here in the United States under his direction. The famous Zeiss lens collection was appropriated as war reparations by the US Army in May 1945 and sent to the US where it came under his control. None of these nearly 2000 historically and technically significant lenses had been clearly documented as part of the appropriation. At that time, he had on his staff Dr. Willy Merte. Merte had been the head of optical computation at Carl Zeiss Jena and was languishing in a refugee camp in Heidenheim before Carl Zeiss could begin operation in Western Germany. Merte was familiar with the collection and cataloged all of the 2000 lenses for US military and civilian use.'

Edited by Anbaric
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Wow.  Who would have thought this little viewfinder would lead into one of the more significant events in the history of photographic equipment?

The Barringer & Small book "Zeiss Compendium East and West - 1940-1972" goes into detail in Chapters 1 and 2 on the events leading to the lenses getting into Kaprelian's control.  Patton's Third Army took Jena on April 13, 1945 even though Jena was supposed to be left for the Soviets.  Jena was handed over to the Soviets in July of 1945.  I have seen magazines in the US Library of Congress that are marked as belonging to the Carl Zeiss Jena library.  Some of the lenses were sold off to Burke and James in Chicago and resold to the public with the Carl Meyer brand.  I'm sure the brand was selected to confuse the public.

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23 hours ago, dg4mgr said:

Indeed it is a "zoom" device, if made accordingly to the patent description :

 

"The range of angles of view for the above example is such that a finder so constructed will accommodate the following lenses and negative sizes:
35 mm. Cin x 1") from 25 mm. to 16" 35 mm double frame (1" x 1 from45 mm.to30" 16 mm. Cin from 12 mm. to 6" 8 mm. Cin from 6 mm. to 3" A corresponding range of angles could be covered for other negative sizes. By altering the balance of power between the elements of the front component, the range of angles may be shifted. Thus by weakening element l and increasing the power of element 2, the horizontal angle of view may be increased to over 70, thus including the extreme wide angle lenses such as 28 mm. f. l. for the 1 x 1 /2" negative size."
Edited by luigi bertolotti
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Luigi's quote from the viewfinder patent got me thinking further about events in the US camera industry.  We read in Anbaric's posting that Edward Kaprelian was the chief of the US Army Signal Corps lab not far from New York City.  Dr Frank G. Back also worked for the US Army Signal Corp during World War II and lived in the New York City area.  It is almost certain that Dr Back worked for Kaprelian and that they both shared ideas.  Dr Back is credited with the invention of the optically compensated zoom lens, applying for a US Patent in 1946 and awarded Patent Number 2454686 in 1948.  The description of the operation of the viewfinder, quoted by Luigi, matches the operation of an optically compensated zoom lens.  Previously zoom lenses had complex mechanical linkages to perform the compensation.  The original name for Dr Back's company started in 1944 was Research and Development Laboratory; the company's name was changed to Zoomar in 1953.

Dr Back's Zoomar company produced the first zoom lens widely used by the TV industry, the first zoom lens for 35mm cameras, the first zoom lens for medium format cameras and the first zoom lens with macro capability.  I suspect he designed the Kilfitt Multi-Kilar variable teleconverter, but I cannot find the patent application for this device.

 

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53 minutes ago, zeitz said:

Luigi's quote from the viewfinder patent got me thinking further about events in the US camera industry.  We read in Anbaric's posting that Edward Kaprelian was the chief of the US Army Signal Corps lab not far from New York City.  Dr Frank G. Back also worked for the US Army Signal Corp during World War II and lived in the New York City area.  It is almost certain that Dr Back worked for Kaprelian and that they both shared ideas.  Dr Back is credited with the invention of the optically compensated zoom lens, applying for a US Patent in 1946 and awarded Patent Number 2454686 in 1948.  The description of the operation of the viewfinder, quoted by Luigi, matches the operation of an optically compensated zoom lens.  Previously zoom lenses had complex mechanical linkages to perform the compensation.  The original name for Dr Back's company started in 1944 was Research and Development Laboratory; the company's name was changed to Zoomar in 1953.

Dr Back's Zoomar company produced the first zoom lens widely used by the TV industry, the first zoom lens for 35mm cameras, the first zoom lens for medium format cameras and the first zoom lens with macro capability.  I suspect he designed the Kilfitt Multi-Kilar variable teleconverter, but I cannot find the patent application for this device.

The list of patents that cite the Kaprelian patent in dg4mgr's link above includes a couple of Frank Back's varifocal lens patents.

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Here are a couple of additional photos. Honestly, I'm not sure how it works. To the left of the 16mm, 35mm, and Leica 35mm is a window that displays a number. I'm not sure how the window shifts between the 3 types. There is a dial as well below the eyepiece. All in all, I think it adjusts in three ways, but I'm not sure.

Thank you everyone for the great information.

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I have read with care the excellent PDF of the patent (thanks  dg4mgr 👌 !)  and I would be very curios to test the depicted device... the specs are impressive : Kaprelian declares that his design, with a proper lenses' set,  can provide a zoom ratio of 15x/20x !  (and he quotes a US patent of 1939, granted to a certain "Wood" for a variable finder with a zoom ratio of 5x/6x) 

And infact with a set of lenses detailed in the description, the field of view, operating the adjusting ring  (the front one, apparently), is declared to go, for the 35 mm "Leica" format, from 45 to 760 mm !  (curiosly, described as 45mm to 30"... a mix  used also for the other frame sizes)  And the design allows, with other combinations of lenses, to reach an angle of view up to 70° (FOV of a 28mm for Leica format) 

The "window" well visible in post #12 with a number (105 ?) is also described, with the fucnction of providing the focal length corresponding to a certain setting (and a certain film size... not so clear how this is accomplished... maybe a "shift + rotate" mechanism)

to tgarnold :  you are new to this forum (welcome) !) .. but if you surf our forum in the "tech" sections , you can easily see that we have many people who really like to "go in depth"  on tech matters☺️ .If you try to use your finder and report to us how really it works, any news is welcome. (and of course, some of us would also like the idea to buy it from you,... in case we have a  personal messages area in case some private negotiation does start...)

 

 

Edited by luigi bertolotti
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In my very limited testing, the adjusting ring closest to the eyepiece changes the focal depth and at some point also changes the focal area in the end you noted with the rectangle. I opened it from the eyepiece end at one point to see if it was possible to clean it. It is a very complicated set of gear teeth and lenses inside the housing. I can't figure out how to move the window between 16mm, 35mm Leica and 35mm. I assume it has to do with the adjusting ring closest to the end, but that doesn't move freely, so I don't want to push it.

I hope any of that made sense.

I appreciate the advice. I don't have a real use for this other than its curiosity. I have a fascination with technology and love to research oddball items I have accumulated through the years. With that said, I have no idea what it is worth. I don't ever want to go against any forum rules, as I value the wealth of knowledge available from them. This has been enlightening. I would be willing to negotiate something through private messages.

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31 minutes ago, luigi bertolotti said:

to tgarnold :  you are new to this forum (welcome) !

You may also notice that the discussions tend to drift off-topic.  One line of thought often triggers another line of thought.  It is fine to bring us back to your original interest.

I think I may remember Camera Supply Company.  I looked through the period camera magazines that I have, but I can't find an advertisement from them.  The next time I get to a major library, I will search more broadly in 1950's magazines.

Forum rules only prohibit members from giving estimates of equipment value.  The Forum is not involved in pricing.

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Thanks, I struggled to find anything about the Camera Supply Company. It is a very generic name with difficult search terms. I guess back in the 40s they weren't as concern with how well they come up in Google searches.😁

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38 minutes ago, tgarnold said:

Thanks, I struggled to find anything about the Camera Supply Company. It is a very generic name with difficult search terms. I guess back in the 40s they weren't as concern with how well they come up in Google searches.😁

I suspect it's the company listed here as having a war supply contract for viewfinders in 1944.

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Edited by Anbaric
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At one time Back's company must also have been called The Viewfinder Corporation.  Maybe the sequence was "Research and Development Laboratory" to "The Viewfinder Corporation" to "Zoomar Inc".

https://collection.sciencemuseumgroup.org.uk/objects/co8206396/zoomar-variofocal-lens-lens

I also clipped the attached text from an article by Back in March 1947 issue of the American Cinematographer magazine.  At that time the zoom lens was already labeled Zoomar, but the company name Back used for his byline on the article was Research and Development Laboratory.

So we know the principals involved in the development of the OP's viewfinder, but we haven't found anything giving details of the Camera Supply Co.  Anbaric's post shows the company existed at least by 1944.

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Edward Kaprelian also seems to have taken the concept of the Magnafield finder a stage further, patenting an intriguing combined zooming viewfinder and rangefinder.

I wonder if the Camera Supply Company even sold their products to consumers? That $66k military contract from 1944 would be something like a $1M contract today.

 

Edited by Anbaric
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Zeitz, you were spot on about Dr. Back and Kaprelian. Below is a thesis paper for a PhD in English.

Microsoft Word - Thesis - Corrected - Images Redacted .docx (exeter.ac.uk)

This is from the footnotes in the above paper.

"29 The viewfinder Back describes was used on Bell & Howell Eyemo cameras used by military cameramen working for the United States Signal Corps (Mackenzie AR23). This innovation was patented under the name of Back’s supervisor, Edward Kaprelian."

 

 

 

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