Ensign Ful-Vue

A few of my friends have tried this camera and struggled to get a decent image. Someone else said it was crap and I wouldn’t get any great photos. I wanted to at least try, seeing as I have it and have the time. At the end of the day, it is an interesting looking camera from the late 1940s and one of the best selling cameras of all time.

My example was in a bit of a state, I could barely see through the viewfinder at all and the mirror was loose. I wanted to give this simple little camera as much of a chance as possible so I researched how to take it apart and clean it.

I found this website with information and photos then followed its advice.

First sliding off the two locking strips inside. I had to use a dentist tool as they were a little rusted in place. You slide them towards the opening.

The viewfinder should fall off at this point so watch out. Mine fell off, along with the mirror which was no longer glued to the body. I then cleaned the mirror as best as I could and glued it back into position.

After cleaning the viewfinder glasses I put that section aside to allow the glue to set. I have memories of another camera that I fixed and then hurt my eyes by rushing this part. That gave me time to take off the shutter mechanism and lens with the three screws on the front plate.

Again, this section falls apart so be careful not to lose the screws or washer thingies. The actual shutter mechanism is a solid piece so that shouldn’t need touching. Then I cleaned the glass lens and tried to put it back together. What a pain in the butt that was. I had to resort to using blu-tac as it was extremely frustrating trying to keep it all together while screwing it back in place.

But what a difference it made to the viewfinder. So bright and clear.

I loaded it with some Fuji Acros and went for a very short walk to the end of the street. It takes 6×6 photos, so you get 12 to a roll. The shutter mechanism is quite jerky so I thought camera shake might be an issue and tried to be as steady as possible. The speed of the shutter is quite slow, a miserable 1/30th at the most and there is no tripod mount. There is only one aperture, that of f11. The fuji acros film I used was far too quick at 100asa and I should have thought about pull processing it.

While writing this post I read Mike Eckman’s extremely detailed review of the same camera. He mentioned the lens pops out which reduces the minimum focal length from 8ft to infinity to 3-10ft. I didn’t know that and didn’t notice it when I took the thing apart. He did the right thing and read the manual first.

Here are my first results.

My dad said his parents had one of these cameras back in the day. But they definitely got better results than I did. They are all slightly blurred due to camera shake or the camera itself, I couldn’t decide. They are all slightly skewed to the side too, which is odd given how bright the viewfinder is. I think that might be me trying to prepare for the shutter judder.

Well, that was a nice waste of a day. But I wanted to give the camera a fair go and tried it again the next day, again..I have nothing to do 🙂

For the next roll I used Mike Eckman’s advice and put the camera against my belly to steady it, and on a wall for one shot. I also pulled out the lens for a couple of shots. Then when developing it I pull processed it from the Fomapan’s 100asa to 32asa. The resulting negatives were much less dense.

Here are the results from the second roll. I got a slightly fat roll on this one which fogged a couple of the shots.

Well, the second set are better in my opinion, but still not great. It is definitely worth pull processing the film as the scanning was much more successful. The photos are slightly sharper, but even on the one where I rested the camera on a wall, the resultant image isn’t fully sharp.

So I would not recommend this camera for detailed shots. It really has past its prime and looks better on a shelf than being used. Even an older box brownie gets better results than this camera.

13 thoughts on “Ensign Ful-Vue

  1. Christopher May says:

    I’ve always thought these were cameras that weren’t sure what they wanted to be when they grow up. They seem like some weird hybrid of a TLR, a box camera and a 1930’s Art Deco camera. The mix makes for a unique looking model.

    I feel like early eras of new styles of cameras always produce some unique looking things. This and the Mercury “parking meter” camera are good examples for this era. There are Exaktas for the early days of the SLR. And then there are all of the crazy designs for early point and shoot digitals. It’s seems like things always get sorted out with time but the early models can alway be a little unique.

    Thanks for the user report!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Peggy says:

      I have tried the Kodak duaflex and that was nice and sharp. It has a similar viewfinder. Also the Ilford envoy. This, though interesting, just fails its basic remit. Maybe too mass produced for the time.


    1. Peggy says:

      Though the easy to clean, bright viewfinder would work well for TTV type photography, those would be sharper than the actual film versions.


  2. Stuart Grout says:

    Thanks for the review. As a result I will strike this camera off my list of “worth a try” cameras despite it’s interesting appearance.


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