André Ruiter Stereoscopy

Field Camera with Balbreck Lenses

November 26, 2019
Field Camera with Balbreck Lenses - B&W photographer and collector of antique photographica
My latest acquisition is a wooden 6x9 field camera from the 1890s. It's a stereo camera with two lenses from Balbreck ainé.

A field camera is a compact and portable view camera. It's foldable and usually made of wood to keep its weight low. Field cameras support basic tilt and shift adjustments to control perspective.

This model takes photos using 6x9cm glass plate negatives. The panel with the two lenses can easily be replaced. I assume that this camera can also be used for "flat photos" by placing a panel with a single lens.

6x9 field stereo camera with Balbreck lenses


The camera contains a corroded and hard to read Photo-Sport plaque on the front. Photo-Sport was a photography store at 56, Rue Caumartin in Paris. The company was founded in 1898 by Georges de Corbin and was in business until 1932, maybe longer. It was not unusual at that time for distributors to rebrand cameras and sometimes they were produced specifically for a dealer. A catalog from 1902 shows many Photo-Sport branded cameras and lenses.

Photo-Sport catalog from 1902
Photo-Sport catalog from 1902

The Lenses

The camera has two lenses from Balbreck ainé. The lenses have the numbers 728 and 729 and are type Serie A Extra Rapide. They have an angle of view of 50°, a fixed aperture of f/12 and they are free from distortion.

Balbreck Serie A Extra Rapide
Serie A Extra Rapide lens

It remains unclear whether Balbreck is only the maker of the lenses or also the maker of the camera. There are no references from the maker on the camera's body.

About Balbreck

Maximilien Balbreck was born on 10 August 1826 in Remoiville. His company was specialised in producing precision instruments, including cameras and lenses.

The company Balbreck ainé [1] was founded in 1854 and was located at 81, Boulevard du Montparnasse in Paris. It won various national and international awards. Maximilien became Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur in 1883.

His son also got the name Maximilien and after he joined the company it continued under the name Balbreck ainé et fils. Maximilien Balbreck died on 5 October 1902. His son continued the business under the name Max Balbreck. The company had already moved to 137, Rue de Vaugirard. Max probably died in 1913 and his widow continued the business as Vve Balbreck. [2]

Balbreck ainé et fils - advertisement from 1899
Advertisement from 1899

The company's instruments were highly regarded. Their lenses can be found on cameras from manufacturers like Caillon, Carpentier, Jules Richard and others. A catalog mentions they are supplier for various government institutions.

The same catalog shows that they were also a reseller of products from other manufacturers. It contains products from Jules Richard, including the Vérascope, Glyphoscope and Taxiphote. They were importer of the British Cooke lenses and from 1898 licensed to manufacture these lenses.

[1] ainé means "elder" or "senior".
[2] Vve is the French abbreviation for "Veuve", meaning "Widow".
Max Balbreck Catalog
Undated catalog, published somewhere between 1902 and 1913 (author's collection)