APeM Ilex

I got this camera from the 1920s at a camera fair. I was looking for a 120 6×7 or 6×9 camera. I wanted to make a 35mm mask to use it as a panoramic camera. I ended up buying this one for £10. The mechanisms looked clean enough, no damage around the bellows and the shutter worked. Perfect, or not quite so…it was a 116 or 616 camera not 120. The camera had lots of skin patches missing so I decided to be a little Japanese and colour them in with a chrome pen, a bit like kintsugi. Then I got carried away and decided to doodle all over it. Say hello to my doodle camera.

APeM is short for Amalgamated Photographic Equipment Manufacturers and eventually became part of Ilford. This camera has speeds of T, B, 1/100th, 1/50th, and 1/25th with apertures of 8, 11, 16, 22, and 32. There are two arms on the side of the lens plate to steady the camera if you rest it on a table, one for either horizontal or portrait photos.

I spent some time cleaning the lens and viewfinder. I did not remove the lens…this is important information.

As you can see they were a bit dusty and definitely benefitted from the attention. Then I made a mask to keep 120 film straight as it is slightly smaller than 116.

Of course, I cut a hole in the plastic once I had got it all measured up. As you can see, I used some cardboard discs to keep the feed spool lined up on, I bent the receiving arms to see if that would work too. It did.

For my first roll, I loaded some Rollei Retro 400 and took it to Birmingham. It got a fair bit of attention, what with all the doodling.

Using the camera was fairly easy, working like most folding cameras. The only issue was the size of the thing and the stiffness of the retracting “track”. I ended up leaving it out until I finished the film. Oh, and I used a spare roll of 120 paper to work out I needed 4 half turns of the winder between shots, 5 would be better on the first 2 though.

Then it was about the developing and scanning…and the disappointment 😦

They were all out of focus. I was sure I had set the camera to infinity, I am sure the mask I made wouldn’t have made that much of a difference. Maybe I had made a mistake and put it in the wrong slot. So I loaded another roll of film, expired film as I was just checking for focus, and went for a walk in my local area. I took great care to set it to infinity.

Goddamn it!!!

Ok, one last try, I will not give up!!!

In my tool box of bits and pieces, I had some focusing screens. I taped one to the mask and pointed the camera at something far away.

Sure enough, the focus was way off. It looked in focus at the second close-up setting. I put a chrome mark at the right place and tried for the last time. I loaded another roll of expired Rollei Retro 400, this time using some 3D printed adapters and took the camera to Leeds. I got 7 shots from one roll, but one was fogged. Here are the remaining results.

Yeah, finally…fairly sharp 6×10 photos. I am not sure I will use the camera again, but I am glad I have finally figured out how to use it.


7 thoughts on “APeM Ilex

  1. Roger B. says:

    Never thought of making a plastic film plane mask like that … I’ve got a couple 6×9 folders that lost their 6×45 masks somewhere during the last century. Your method, plus re-collimation with a ground glass insert, is well worth a try. Since dismantling the front elements for cleaning necessitates recollimation anyway, this is not even an extra work step.
    Our thanks again to an innovative handy-woman!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Peggy says:

      I used an old file folder for the plastic as it was easy to cut. I still intend to make another at some point for a 35mm panoramic mask.


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