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Art Deco Cameras

Box Ensign 2 1/2 - Brown


Box Ensign 2½ - Brown
Box Ensign 2½ - Brown
Manufacturer: Houghton-Butcher
Produced: 1923
Classification:Medium Format
Body Type:Box
Film Type:Ensign 2½ (116)
Film Width:70mm
Image Size:4¼x2½" (10.8x6.3 cm)
No. of Images:8
Lens Type:Meniscus
Focal Length:130mm
Focus Type:Fixed
Focus Range:10ft to inf.
Aperture Type :Waterhouse stops
Aperture :f/16, f/22, f/32
Shutter Type:Rotary
Shutter Speeds:T,I*(1/30 sec)
Size (w x h x d):90 x 150 x 170 mm
* Measured on this camera

Art Deco Credentials

Limited: Minor and insubstantial


The Box Ensign 2½ camera uses Ensign rollfilm size 2½ which is the same size as kodak 116. It produces 4¼x2½" (10.8x6.3 cm) images. It is finished in black or decorative brown leatherette with it's name embossed on the front panel.

It is a wooden bodied box camera with access to the film compartment via a door to the rear. The shutter is a simple T & I shutter with a tab just above the shutter release to actuate the Time(T) function. The instantaneous(I) function is activated when the shutter release is pressed down, and again when the shutter release is moved up. The aperture can be changed by sliding a tab with 3 waterhouse stops drilled in it. It has two brilliant viewfinders for portrait and landscape mode. It also has a wire frame viewfinder. A red window is used to advance the film to the next frame using a T-bar winder. There is a tripod socket for both portrait and landscape mode.

The lens is fairly easy to clean by using a cotton bud through the front aperture when the camera is operated in T mode. However, cleaning of the viewfinders requires the front to be removed. The front is secured using 5 tiny screws.

How to Use

This camera takes uses 116 film which is not available anymore except as expired films. This means that the camera needs modification to take 120 film. Modification is fairly straight forward and will easily give 5 'panoramic' exposures producing 2¼ x 4¼ inch negatives. Check out my page on 'Conversion of a 116 camera to take 120 film'. Once the conversion has been done, you can take it out for a spin.

If you don't want to bother with an exposure meter, follow the guide shown. It is based on the 'Sunny 16' rule. Film is so forgiving and will produce acceptable results even when over-exposed by 2 or 3 stops or under-exposed by 1 stop.

The table assumes that the sun is at least 30 degrees above the horizon - that's 10am - 5pm on a summers day (May - August) in the UK.

This camera has three aperture settings - f/16, f/22, f/32. With a shutter speed of only 1/30 sec, make sure you brace the camera against your body or something solid and press the shutter smoothly to avoid camera shake.

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

Using ISO 100/125 Film - Shutter speed 1/30s

Weather ConditionsShadow DetailApertureExposure
with sharp edges
tab out
+1 Stops
tab out
Slight OvercastSoft around edgesf/22
tab middle
OvercastBarely visiblef/16
tab in
Heavy OvercastNonef/16
tab in
-1 Stops
Open Shade
tab in
-2 Stops
Not Acceptable