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Art Deco Cameras

Houghton May Fair De Lux


Houghton May Fair De Lux
Houghton May Fair De Lux
Manufacturer: Houghton-Butcher
Produced: 1930
Classification:Medium Format
Body Type:Folding Bed
Bellows Deployment:Sliding Rail
Film Type:120
Film Width:62mm
Image Size:2¼ x 3¼
No. of Images:8
Lens Type:Novo-Ray
Focus Type:Variable
Focal Length:105mm
Focal Range:5ft - inf.
Aperture Type :Iris
Apertures :f/16 & f/22
Shutter Type:leaf
Shutter Speeds:T, B, I(1/25, 1/50, 1/100)
Size Open (w x h x d):80 x 160 x 135 mm
Size Closed (w x h x d):80 x 160 x 32 mm

Art Deco Credentials

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Noteworthy: Worth giving special attention


The May Fair De Lux camera was made by the Houghton-Butcher Manufacturing Co Ltd. for the Ardath company. "May Fair" was a cigarette brand name and this camera was given away as a premium item in return for cigarette coupons. This camera can be seen in several of the Ardath premium gift catalogues in the early 1930s. It is basically an Ensign Carbine No.3 with a different lens/shutter combination.

This folding bed camera is finished in black imitation leather on the sides but has a black 'crackle' paint finish on the inner face of the folding baseboard. The camera has an attractive faceplate design around the lens, based upon a stylised eye.

Focussing is achieved by sliding the lens board along track to various locking positions, covering 5ft to infinity. It is fitted with a Novoray I Lens together with a 5 speed shutter including B and T. There is provision for a cable shutter release. It has an aperture controlled by a iris and has two aperture positions, one labelled 'ORDINARY' (f/16) and the other labelled 'VERY BRIGHT' (f/22).

Framing is achieved by either using the bright viewfinder attached to the lens board or by using a fold out wire frame in conjunction with a metal eyepiece that slides out from the back of the camera. It has two tripod mount bosses catering for both portait and landscape shots.

How to Use

This camera takes 120 film which is readily available.

Shutter speeds available are 1/25s, 1/50s and 1/100s.

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. Number of stops over or under exposure shown in brackets.

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

Green=Good  Amber=Acceptable

Weather ConditionsShadow DetailShutter Speed (s)
with sharp edges
Slight OvercastSoft around edgesf/22f/16f/16
OvercastBarely visiblef/16f/16
Heavy OvercastNonef/16
Open Shade

Photographs taken with this Camera

Kodak Portra 160 film
Developed in Tetenal.

BT Tower, Stoke Park, Bristol, UK
BT Tower, Stoke Park, Bristol, UK
No 1 Royal Crescent, Bath, UK
No 1 Royal Crescent, Bath, UK
Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol, UK
Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol, UK
Stoke House, Bristol, UK
Stoke House, Bristol, UK