Mid-week Camera Review … Week 13 / Seneca 5×7

Seneca 5×7 6B circa 1902

How did I acquire this camera?
About 2-3 years ago I was contacted by an elderly friend, he brought me 2 boxes of camera’s in a sizes. He told some stories about some of the cameras. As he left, he said I could do anything I wanted with all the cameras but asked that I keep the Seneca 5×7. He told me how it was his fathers and how it had been a special camera to him.

I could give you all the information (in layman’s terms) but this is the best description from Historic Camera I found on the web (they know a lot about these cameras) :

“The Seneca Camera Number 6 was manufactured in circa 1902. This camera was made in two styles. Style A is fitted with the Uno Shutter and Seneca rapid rectilinear lens and style B is fitted with the Duo Double Valve (dust proof) shutter for a wider range of work. Constructed with dovetail corners and covered with walrus grain leather. a solid Mahogany bed with ebony finish. Nickel plated brass and highly polished metal parts. Black Russian leather bellows lined with gossamer cloth. Rising and falling front with rack and pinion focusing, removable lens board and a revolving reversible back with spring actuated ground glass panel for focusing. A brilliant view finder, spirit level and one tripod socket. Came with a carry case, plate holder and manual of photography instruction book. Available in 4 x 5, 3 1/4 x 5 1/2 (postcard), 4 1/4 x 6 1/2, or 5 x 7 inch sizes. Priced from $15.00 to $20.00.”

The info above can be viewed here

I’m fascinated about the photographer that would buy this camera in the early 1900’s. It stated the difference between the A & B was the shutter for a wider range of “WORK”. This camera was not cheap back in the day. I did a quick inflation calculator search on the web and this camera would be about $540 in 2013. One hundred and eleven years later it’s a little beat up around its edges and everything is not working to it’s finest abilities but it still works. The Black Russian leather bellows is in great condition.
The rack & pinion focusing gear works great.

The lens, shutter & aperture is Seneca Rapid Rectilinear 5×7 (f8-f256) in Seneca Duo Dustproof shutter (T, B, 1-1/100), made by Wollensack, Rochester, NY

In the several times I shot with the camera so far this week, I’ve had to learn my way around this camera. The aperture does not work the best on the higher end of the shutter scale and actually lags open even in the slower scale, so I have to shoot it on Bulb, which is not a problem when you shoot at an aperture of f/256. That’s right … the aperture range is f8, f/16, f/32, f/64, f128, f/256 > they are in two stop increments.

The revolving revolving back & ground glass will not lock properly in all four corners, so in order for me to be able to use the camera and take pictures, I used some gaffers tape on the edges to hold the back to the camera body. Could it hinder the quality of the camera? Yes, I suppose but I’d much rather be able to use the camera and get beautiful results from the 5×7 negatives than having it sit on my shelf collecting dust.

It was a good week with great results. I was pleased to find that the bellows is light tight with no stray light. I had a great time shooting with the 5×7 camera. It was not the easiest to shoot with, I had to take my time in the process of photographing.
Sadly, the scanner was not big enough to scan the entire 5×7 negative BUT I plan on making 5×7 contact prints of all the negs I shot.

5x7 stoney creek

5x7 cassie creek

I’m amazed with the f/128 depth of field of inside Stoney Creek! AMAZING!


2 responses to “Mid-week Camera Review … Week 13 / Seneca 5×7

  1. Nice, i once had a chance to work on a Rochester Optic Company 4×5 from about the same year. Sadly I never had a film holder to shoot it with. Your result looks amazing!

  2. About 40 years ago, I decided I wanted to shoot some 5×7 negatives. I was a subscriber to Shutterbug, which then was merely a newspaper monthly for buying and selling photo equipment. Well, I found an old camera for sale. It was the Seneca 6-B. I bought it for $50.00. It came complete with its original leather case which held the camera and six wooden filmholders. Everything was in very good condition. I played around with it for a few months and then put it away. In the years which followed I would get it out every once in awhile. I worked beautifully. The negatives produced were even and very sharp. The good news is that I still have the camera. It still rests in the leather case with the holders. Thanks for your post.

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