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Art Deco Cameras

Detrola GW


Detrola GW
Detrola GW
Manufacturer: Detrola Corporation
Produced: 1939
Body Type:Extending Body
Film Type:127
Film Width:46mm
ImageSize:1⅝ x 1¼ in
No. of Images:16
Lens Type:Wollensak
Focal Length:2" - 51mm
Focus Type:Helical
Focal Range:3ft - inf.
Aperture Type:Iris
Aperture:f/4.5 - f/22
Shutter Type :Leaf
Shutter Speeds:T,B, I(1/25 - 1/200s)
Size Closed (w x h x d):135 x 80 x 55 mm
Size Open (w x h x d):135 x 80 x 68 mm

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GW Back

The Detrola Model GW is one of Detrola's Bakelite cameras producing 16 3x4 cm exposures on 127 film. It was manufactured by the Detrola Corporation in Detroit, Michigan from 1939. The "W" in the model name stood for Wollensak which is the type of lens used. The Wollensak Velostigmat f4.5 lens is corrected for colour photography. The Model G was the same as the Model GW but without the Wollensak lens. It is a fairly substantial camera but suffers from a flimsy molded-plastic viewfinder which is often found warped, distorted, disintegrated or missing entirely. All of the exposed metal parts were finished with chromium plate.

The shutter provides instantaneous speeds from 1/25 to 1/200th of a second with the addition of (T)time and (B)bulb. It has a cable release socket. The lens is mounted on lens tube which springs out of the body when released by the focus control lever. An iris type aperture gives a range of f/4.5 to f/22 and is annotated with f/4.5, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16 and f/22. A lever is used to focus the camera by moving the lens backward and forward on a helical telescoping mount. A circular plate on the rear of the camera can be rotated to expose and cover the two red windows. A tripod socket is provided.

How to Use

See the Manual here:- Detrola GW Manual

This camera takes 127 film which is still available from select outlets - search for 'Rera Pan 100-127' which is a black & white film. For those photographers in the UK, try Nick & Trick photographic services. If you want to use a particular type of film which is not available commercially, then you can cut your own 127 film from any 120 film. See my page on 'How to cut 127 film from 120 film'.

The two red windows are used to get 16 exposures from 127 film. The film is advanced until a number appears in red window 'A' and an image is taken. Then the film is advanced until the same number appears in red window 'B'. Then it's back to the window 'A' for the next number. Don't forget to obscure the red windows by rotating the circular cover, except when advancing the film in low light. Modern film is sensitive to red light.

If you don't want to bother with an exposure meter, follow the guide shown. It is based on the 'Sunny 16' rule. It shows the appropriate aperture settings for shutter speeds of 1/25s, 1/50s, 1/100s and 1/200s. Film is so forgiving and will produce acceptable results even when overexposed by 2 or 3 stops or underexposed by 1 stop.

Remember that the exposure guide in the camera user manual may not be helpful as it is based on the use of old film with a low ISO value.

The tables assume that the sun is at least 30 degrees above the horizon - that's 10am - 5pm on a summer's day in the UK.

If you are not sure about the light level, err on the side of overexposure - i.e. assume the smaller f number.

Where there is a choice, a larger f number will give a larger depth of field.

For the slower speeds, you may need a tripod to stop blur through shake.

Using ISO 100/125 film

Weather ConditionsShadow DetailShutter Speed (s)
with sharp edges
Slight OvercastSoft around edges-f/16f/11f/8
OvercastBarely visiblef/16f/11f/8f/5.6
Heavy OvercastNonef/11f/8f/5.6f/4.5
Open Shade