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The Ensign Ful-Vue bullet-hole camera

Bullet hole? Because the lens aperture is bigger than a pinhole but not as big as a ‘proper’ lens. I’ve written about a couple of them before. Last time I shot the Kodak. This time it was the Ensign‘s turn.

The Ful-Vue has a rough attempt at a focussing lens and a fixed set of aperture and shutter at F11 and 1/30. It can also be switched to a B setting for the shutter, and this is what I had in mind. How else was I likely to get any sort of image on Kosmo Foto 100 in February, in the UK? Especially when there turned out to be a huge storm at the time.

The camera has a rather scruffy metal body with a flat bottom, so it’s simple to stand it on the ground or a wall. Just as well, as the shutter release is below the lens and works with a pull-up action. Without being held down, there’s a risk of movement. On the plus side, the bright viewfinder makes it easy to line the camera up in the dark and looking down into it is much easier than trying to get my eye down behind the camera.

Now, 1/30 at F11 on 100 ISO should translate to an EV of 12. My guide says that this is “daylight scene under heavy clouds; no shadows”. This seems a bit overexposed for even a bright February day, but I suppose that consumer films must have been a stop or two slower when the camera was new. So given that I was going to be shooting day and night scenes plus perhaps interiors, I planned to use semi-stand development to rescue my variable negatives.

The nice thing about the Ensign is that it is not a precious object. Replacements are cheap, the lens has probably already got all the scratches it needs and the body is a light metal pressing. The only worry I had was flare through the uncoated lens. I have previously tried shooting an old Balda folder at night, and the lens on that threw huge rings of flare on the negative from an in-frame streetlight. Flare aside, I had no qualms in stuffing the Ensign into a jacket pocket and taking it for a walk.

Less mad flaring than I got with the Balda

The reduced flare compared with the Balda is probably because the Ensign has a single meniscus lens, whereas the Balda is a triplet: the Balda has more lens surfaces to bounce light around. So for shooting at night, simplicity wins. The Balda does win by a mile if you want a sharp picture in daylight though.

The semi-stand development gave me pretty even development across the whole film, despite the wide range of exposures between frames. When I was out in actual daylight, I made a bit of effort to shield the lens from direct sunlight and it seems to have worked. The lens is by no means sharp, but it does give a nice old fashioned look.

A bit of light leakage into the roll of film visible on the left.

It also has a bad habit that I will need to fix, in that it winds-on soft rolls. The take-up spool does not pull the film tight, so the finished roll is fat and at risk of light leaks. Luckily I took the exposed roll out in a dingy indoors room, so while there is some leakage is is minimal.


The scale-focusing lens feels more like guesswork, but there is a visible sharpish plane of focus in the shots where I used it.

You can see the sharpness fall away from the centre

So, given that you can pick one of these cameras up for £5 or less, I reckon they do a surprisingly good job. And they take standard 120 film, so there is less messing around than with something like the Kodak Brownie that takes 620.

The Ensign Ful-Vue II, a camera that works well within its limitations. And sharpness is over-rated, anyway.


Author: fupduckphoto

Still wishing I knew what was going on.

3 thoughts on “The Ensign Ful-Vue bullet-hole camera”

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