The Kodak Empire State No. 2 is an example of an early Kodak field view camera. Kodak bought the Empire State Camera company in 1903, and maintained the camera names for a few years before rebranding. This particular model seems to have all original parts, and a Kodak branded lens.
Overall condition is pretty decent, and other than a missing film holder, appears it would be possible to use today.
I enjoy the amazing controls and flexibility which is unrivaled in any DLSR I’ve used. The bellows and controls essentially make this the ultimate tilt-shift camera lens.
The knobs at the front of the camera move the front lens board forward and backwards, as well as up and down. The lens board itself can be removed quickly with the simple twisting of two brass catches. The lens itself appears to be permanently attached to the lens board.
The controls on the box holding the ground glass appear to be complete. In general, the three knobs on the right adjust, while the matching three knobs on the left lock in whatever the current setting is. Starting at the top, the controls are for forward/backward tilt (pitch), forward/backward travel on the rails (focus), and left/right tilt (yaw). The controls are all geared, which gives wonderful granular control over composition.
This is NOT a fast camera to focus or setup, however I would imagine a well composed image would be stunning.
This is probably a display camera only. I purchased it from a local collector who never acquired a film board, and never attempted to use it. He had it for display only.
What’s So Special?
- Quick lock mechanisms in the sliding rails as well as the rear extension rail (as opposed to screws)
- Hand rubbed Mahogany with dovetail joints; extremely well built. Later models began to be simplified.
- Fine lacquered brass and hand rubbed mahogany; this was a high end camera of its time
- The ground glass carrier is held in by 4 brass pegs which connect to matching clips. The entire board can be removed and reinstalled at 90 degrees to select landscape or portrait composition.
- The ground glass is held in by sprung brass clips and is not removed when installing the film boards. Rather the glass section is shifted open, and becomes the holder for the film board.
- Manufacturer: Kodak
- Country of Origin: USA
- Made in: USA
- Introduced: 1908-1913
- Camera Type: Field View
- Lens Mount: Kodak Board
- Format: 5×7
- Bellows are sagging however appear to be light tight
- Lens operates, however in bulb mode that shutter release needs to be manually reset
- Shutter times all sound the same, only B and T vary
- Very functional brass parts; adjusting focus works extremely well and produces a pleasing image
- Plumb bob on right side is missing (holes remain)
- Adjustable, sliding tripod mount
- No film holders
- Missing knobs on front lens board rise and fall adjustment
- Part of the sliding track is missing on the left side
- The brass strap above the lens board would have originally had a small attachment which would have held the front rail in its folded up position. The base of this strap is still there, however it looks to have been broken or removed at some point.
- Lots of additional information and resources here
- A later model of the No. 2, showing what the film boards would have looked like
- A history of field view cameras