Review: The Compass Camera - an English Swiss Gem from the 1930's


ed9119

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#1
Simon had pointed out the dingy looking repair store a few weeks ago with cobwebs draping its display cases of old cameras and watches ..... mostly russian and old japanese gear. The place was cluttered and messy and an old gentleman by the name of Mr Guan Kee sat by his workspace repairing an antique pocket watch.

His shop is located across from Eastgear at

MERIT SUNDRIES
Block 808 French Road
#01-177


(read my CS blog later for more info )

I chatted with him for a bit and he was fascinated by the compact Panasonic GF-3 I was field testing .... and as fate would have it, we started chatting about cameras and his store. Mr Guan is 73 years old and on the brink of retiring despite his spritely and lively personality.

I spoke to him about Clubsnap and the trend of a growing number of photographers going back to using film and doing their own prints. This caught him by surprise as he was under the impression that it was ALL digital nowadays and nobody really gave half a hoot about traditional film cameras.

He then spoke of his great love for photography and that he too had gone digital a couple of years back given the lack of accessibility to film nowadays. He spoke lovingly of his 'humble' collection of cameras gathering dust at home and rattled off names and models that I have not heard of before (and I do pride myself in having a fair knowledge of cameras from the 70's till present day) .............. he was speaking of cameras from a MUCH EARLIER era .........

Fascinated, I asked if he could bring a few of these cameras to the shop the next day (today 19 Jul 2011) and that i promised that I would show up

I did...... and he did.....

This thread is dedicated to Mr Guan Kee and the Compass Camera ..... other threads will follow in the coming weeks on his other cameras that he'd brought today and if he gets all excited by interested generated with these few cameras, he'll bring along more to share with me.

This and the accompanying threads later serve to record and honor camera historia and in a way honor the craftsmen before the digital era who produced these mechanical pieces of engineering marvels.

Mr Guan had the complete set in a beautiful leather case which I hear is extremely rare .... there are others in the world who might have the CAMERA but he is one the rare few who has the FULL COMPLETE set

I did a little research online and found that :

- Compass Cameras Limited of London England had commissioned the Compass 35 to be manufactured by none other than fine watch-maker Jaeger LeCoultre & Cie., Sentier, Switzerland in March 1937.

* It is crafted out of aluminium (hefty yet TINY in my hands)
* an f/3.5 35mm fully focusing lens
* shutterspeeds from 4.5 sec. to 1/500 sec., in 22 speed increments
* its range finder
* it has an ADDITIONAL right angle finder
* it has a THIRD viewfinder
* it boasts both panoramic and stereo heads
* it has a built in spirit level
* it has an extinction meter
* it has BUILT IN color filters
* there is ground glass focusing
* lit has a DoF scale
* it came with a beautiful all-metal sling strap

Noel Pemberton-Billing an aircraft builder, designed the Compass starting in 1930 .... the camera was finally patented on 16th May 1936.

The Compass uses 24x36mm negatives on a glass plate. It also uses roll film with an optional roll back for special Compass 6 exposure roll film.

Ilford sold 3types of film and a special adapter was made by a certain Mr Wallace Heaton so that Compass film could be enlarged in a Leitz Valoy enlarger

An ebay check shows this camera last being sold AS A SET wayyyyy back in 2003 for about US$14,000+

The GEMS we find right here in Singapore.......... :)
 

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ed9119

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#2
It was unreal...... I was staring at something that looked like it just came out of a craftman's workshop .... shutter was firing fine.... viewfinders were all clear and ..... I was frightened even holding this little gem in my hands




Mr Guan Kee with the Compass attached with its provided metal sling
 

ed9119

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#5
the lens element looks like its as clear as swimming pool water
There are JUST TOO MANY THINGS to mention looking at this little beauty .....


the collapsible table-top tripod that came with the box (I dont think even Leica came out with a tabletop tripod THAT early)
 

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ed9119

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#6
most all cameras come with 1 viewfinder..... the Compass Camera comes with THREE (3)

2 here .....


and a THIRD here ..... a switch allows you to look through the SIDE of the camera when composing and shooting at subjects from a 90degree right-angle


Dont ask me what a Stereoscopic Head is...... :)
 

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ed9119

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#9
thanks gommy !! I wont pretend that I know anything about these fascinating cameras :)

Mr Guan in his younger days....




Even though he is 73, he is SO LIVELY and chatty..... I really enjoyed my time with him
He does camera repair of old mechanical cameras too

I got 2 other cameras from him to share later this week and next week.... stay tuned
 

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Apr 9, 2008
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#10
Awesome thread you have there! Mind telling us where his shop is located at? Thanks!
 

ed9119

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#13
He keeps ALL the good stuff at home BTW only brought 3 out of about 120+ cameras from home to show me

Mr Guan Kee also does camera repair and restoration work for old rangefinders and manual cameras including CLA ..... he also specializes in restoring and repairing old timepieces

His shop is located across from Eastgear at

MERIT SUNDRIES
Block 808 French Road
#01-177

read my CS blog later for more info
 

May 8, 2006
1,208
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Sunny island
#14
He keeps ALL the good stuff at home BTW only brought 3 out of about 120+ cameras from home to show me

Mr Guan Kee also does camera repair and restoration work for old rangefinders and manual cameras including CLA ..... he also specializes in restoring and repairing old timepieces

His shop is located across from Eastgear at

MERIT SUNDRIES
Block 808 French Road
#01-177

read my CS blog later for more info
bro... call me if you are going again... ;) will like to take some shot for documentation...

cheers
banana
 

Jul 20, 2008
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#15
Incredible, truly fascinating.

The only part I am disappointed is with the short-write up of these cameras (hehe, greedy me).

Maybe you could ask Mr Guan on his experience to actually preserve these gems throughout the two world wars, he must had a tough time protecting it. This should be something to remember for all camera fanatics.

History, always fascinating.
 

Levee

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Jul 14, 2011
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#16
I met with Mr. Guan a couple of times and can vouch for his flaming passion for cameras.
We first met when he stopped me on the street to talk about the Leica I was holding.
Then I went to his shop and he told stories after stories about his collection.
He even allowed me to take a photo of him tinkering with an antique watch haha.
Can't wait to see what else he has in store! Keep us updated ed9119! :)

 

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newghost

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Sep 17, 2009
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#17
:thumbsup::thumbsup::thumbsup:

Thanks for sharing!
 

Zichar

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Apr 22, 2008
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#18
Incredible find, you always get the good stuff ed!
 

Sep 14, 2009
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#19
great read. looking forward to seeing more relics from the past!
 

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