Dieselpunks

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Today, a camera that looks superficially like a 35mm rangefinder. Don't let the looks deceive you: it takes 127 film. Besides, it comes from the United Kingdom.

Ensign are one of the great British camera companies with a history dating back to 1836 when George Houghton begain selling glass products. It was one of the major British camera makers, responsible for a number of still and cine cameras including the Kinecam, the Pockette and the Multex.

The Multex is often regarded as the first British precision camera. It was introduced in 1936 as a 'miniature' camera but unlike the German 'miniature' cameras, the Multex uses 127 film. It takes 14 pictures (3 x 4 cm, 1 1/4" x 1 5/8") on a 127 roll-film. The Multex has a coupled rangefinder.

The Multex I was fitted with the Ensign Ensar f/3.5 lens in a shutter speeded to 1/500. An optical viewfinder on the top plate is collapsible. The camera is finished in black enamel, nickel plate and grained leather. The Multex II has an enclosed optical finder and the shutter is speeded to 1/1000. The camera is finished in lustre chrome and leather. Lenses for the Multex II include the Ensign Multar f/3.5 and the Sonnar f/2. In 1937 the Multex I with Ensar lens cost £16 16s. The most expensive Multex, the Multex II with Sonnar f/2 lens, cost £40.

Here's some basic data for this particular Multex II:
Lens: Ross Xpres f 2.9 53mm.
Shutter: Ensign Focal Plane, 1/2 second to 1/1000. (Advertised as having 1 second)

The Multex price is a collector's price and is due to its rarity. It sounds expensive even for a Multex though and may well be a try-on by an optimistic seller.

The reason the Multex remains expensive now is because it was a commercial failure. It was expensive compared with the Leicas and Contaxes it was up against. In the 1930's you could buy a Multex with cheap, non-interchangeable, 3-element lens for about 20GBP. For the same price you could buy a Leica with interchangeable Leitz Elmar lens. You could buy the Multex with an f/2 Sonnar but it would set you back 40GBP! So there are not many of them about.



Sources: 127 Cameras, Ensign Camera Page, Classic Camera Forum

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