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Dave Goodwin

Very Vintage Camera

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My local camera store knows me well and often gets things and saves them for me.  This weekend, knowing I'd recently acquired a Bolex H16, they had for me a very old, non-working Cine-Ansco Model A for dirt cheap.  I took it with the intent of trying to fix it, as I like fiddling with old mechanical devices like that.

Some web searching revealed little information about it.  I know how to open it up but that's about it.  Anyone have an old manual for this thing that explains the controls?

Disassembly looks simple, with the mechanism appearing to be held in by only 4 screws.  The camera is actually covered in leather, which is pretty cool and looks awesome.  The lens isn't even bound up and it is also removeable with a screw-mount.  The print was too dark and small to tell what kind of lens it is without my big magnifier so I'll check that later on.

The camera doesn't run and seems to be fully wound, or the winding mechanism is jammed.  Hopefully I'll be able to tell more once it's out of the case.

Anyhow, if anybody has any info on this old girl, I'd love to hear about it.

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Ansco were an American photographic company that started making 16mm cameras in the late 20s. Although the Berlin-based Agfa took them over in 1927, their cameras remained US designs, quite different to the Agfa 16mm cameras from the same era.

Your camera was their first design, from 1929. Any 16mm camera from before the 30s is something of a collector’s piece, as there were relatively few companies making them back then. After the big three -  Kodak, Bell & Howell and Victor - who all released cameras back in 1923 when 16mm film was first introduced, I believe there was only DeVry and Agfa-Ansco in the US at that point.

The form follows the vertical spool arrangement of Bell & Howell’s Filmo design, but retains the boxy look of the Cine-Kodak and other early cine cameras. According to my references, the camera had speeds of 16 and 64 fps, and the lens is likely a Wollensak, if not an Agfa Anastigmat.

Be careful opening it up if the spring is fully wound, whatever is jamming could be freed up as you disassemble, and it might start running. Set the speed to 16.

The spring may or may not be housed in a camera this early. If it is not enclosed in it’s own casing, be very careful seperating the mechanism as a tightly coiled spring (even if run down) holds a tremendous amount of energy and can have sharp edges. You should be able to remove the mechanism from the camera housing safely, but pause and examine before dismantling further.

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I can’t help you, either. Presumably not an open main spring but within barrel. If you post a picture of the mechanism freed from the housing, we will be able to aid with further work. Else I’d gladly service the camera for you.

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I got her open and she has a number of significant issues.  A small leather ring, which looks as though it may be part of a centrifugal clutch or governor or something of that nature, was broken and jammed up into the gear train.  A small pin was broken off as was a nub of metal from somewhere and a piece of a flat spring.  It had definitely been overwound or at least wound until it jammed solidly.

It appears well-used, with heavy wear on the teeth of the gears, particularly the fine gear that drives the shutter worm gear.

After working out how to loosen the top plate, I was able to get it raised a few mm, enough to free the shaft of the gear with the leather jammed into it.  I got that out and, once removed, the mechanism took off and unwound.  It's now in a windable state, but runs immediately as the operating lever appears to do nothing.  I suspect this is where the broken parts are located and/or missing.

At this point, I think I'll put it in storage unless/until I can find a donor camera.

Thanks guys!

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