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Art Deco Cameras

Ensign E29 Box - Blue


Ensign E29 Box - Blue
Ensign E29 Box - Blue
Manufacturer: Houghton-Butcher
Produced: 1930
Classification:Medium Format
Body Type:Box
Film type:E29
Film Width:52mm
Image Size:7.5 x 4.8 cm
No. of Images:6
Lens Type:Meniscus
Focal Length:100mm
Focus Type:Fixed + portrait lens
Focus Range:6ft to inf.
Aperture Type :Fixed
Aperture :f/14
Shutter Type:Rotary
Shutter Speeds:T,I*(1/60 sec)
Size (w x h x d):80 x 135 x 130 mm
* Measured on this camera

Art Deco Credentials

Limited: Minor and insubstantial


The Ensign E29 Box camera uses Ensign rollfilm E29. It produces six 7.5 x 4.8 cm (3" x 2") images. E29 film is wider than 127 and narrower that 120 film. It is finished in black or blue leatherette with it's name embossed on the front panel - 'Ensign E29'. A label inside the rear of camera identifies the makers as "Ensign Limited formerly Houghton Butcher (G.B.) Ltd." This camera was made for distribution through premium schemes with no evidence to suggest that it was was ever sold as a retail item.

It is a wooden bodied box camera with access to the film compartment via a door to the rear. The camera has a portait lens mounted on the front that can be swung into place. 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. It has two brilliant viewfinders for portrait and landscape mode. A red window is used to advance the film to the next frame using a T-bar winder.

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 that the front is removed. Unfortunately the front is secured using 8 tiny panel pins. I suspect the leatherette would be damaged when trying to remove these pins.

How to Use

This camera takes E29 film which is slightly wider than 127 film. 127 film 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. Don't forget to ask for your E29 spool back when you have your film developed.

The use of 127 film in this camera throws up a few challenges.

Adapting spools

I suggest you use an E29 take-up spool and use appropriate plastic or cardboard spacers to centralise the film in the feed slot. However, because the film will not fit tightly on to the take-up spool, the exposed film will not be adequately protected from light leaks when the film is taken out. The solution is to take the film out in the dark and wrap it carefully. You must also inform whoever is going to process the film that they need to handle to film carefully to avoid light leaks.

Supporting film

Cut 75x4mm strips from 0.7mm plastic sheet and attach to the long sides of the film gate using black electrical tape. The plastic must not be above the gate or it will trap the film. This will give a 75mmx40mm image. Alternatively make a 75x48mm mask with a 60mmx40mm oblong hole in the centre and attach with black electrical tape. This will effectively make this a 127 equivalent film camera.

Winding the film.

For the 75x40mm image you will need to wind the film until no. 1 appears in the window for the first exposure and then wind the film 1⅓ frames for each subsequent exposures. Good guess work required. You should get 6 exposures. For the 60mmx40mm image, just use the camera as a normal 127 camera. You will get 8 exposures.


As the shutter speed is only 1/60s, it is advisable to use a tripod to get clear shake free images. However, holding it against a wall or other solid object would work as well. For quick snapshots, hold it firmly against your body.

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 overexposed by 2 or 3 stops or underexposed by 1 stop.

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

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

Using ISO 100/125 film - shutter speed 1/60s

Weather ConditionsShadow DetailApertureExposure
with sharp edges
f/14+2½ Stops
SunnyDistinctf/14+1½ Stops
Slight OvercastSoft around edgesf/14+½ Stop
OvercastBarely visiblef/14-½ Stop
Heavy OvercastNonef/14-1½ Stops
Not Acceptable
Open Shade
Nonef/14-2½ Stops
Not Acceptable