Wrayflex I - Antique and Vintage Cameras

Wrayflex I

1951

Wray (Optical Works) Ltd

Bromley

England

Image of Wrayflex I

Lens:
f2, 50 mm Unilite, manual iris diaphragm to f22. Click stops. Screw mount. Serial no. 87070 .

Shutter:
Focal-plane, speeds 1/2 - 1/1000, B. Variable slit width, two separate blinds wound onto single spindle. Flash synchronisation for bulbs.

Construction:
Metal body, leatherette panels.

Format:
45, 24 x 32 mm exposures on 35 mm film held in cassette.

Focusing:
Helical to 3 feet.

Attributes:
Reflex viewing through taking lens. Two mirrors above focusing screen to reflect image into the eye-piece. Ground glass screen with central magnifier.
Sprocket feed to advance film. Sprockets disengage for re-wind. Auto-stop on film advance, coupled to shutter.
The mirror and focusing screen are mounted in a frame, this pivots up into the space occupied by the view-finder mirrors when an exposure is made. Exposure counter.

Serial Number:
1511 .

Notes:
'Patent applied for' details on base.

With:

  • f4, 90 mm Lustrar, pre-set iris to f32. Focus to 7 feet. Lens hood. Leather case. Serial no. 248033.
  • UV filter to fit 5 cm lens and hood of 9 cm lens.
  • Tripod cradle.
  • Extension tubes: 3 of 9.5 mm, 5 of 7 mm, 3 of 6 mm.
  • Instruction book. "Wrayflex A British Eye Level Reflex 35 mm Camera", brochure. Contemporary re-print test report from the AP d. 22/9/54. Pamphlet on the 13.5 cm lens. "A British Made Precision 35 mm Camera", pamphlet c. 1951.
  • Panatomic -X container for film re-fill. Dated 1953.
  • Wallace Heaton camera bag. Inside marked "By Appointment to the Late King George VI". 1952.
  • Ilford photo-electric meter, Model C. Serial no. 7440.

The Wrayflex is unusual in that it was a successful British single-lens reflex; it also has some unusual design features. Two mirrors are used in place of a pentaprism to bend the light into the view-finder. This gives a right-way-up but laterally reversed image. The viewing screen is also quite dark. The reflex mirror and focusing screen are held in a frame that pivots up during exposure into the space occupied by the view-finder mirrors. The frame is hinged at the front of the camera and so curves away from the lens as it rises, this had the advantage of allowing wide-angle lenses to be closer to the image plane. The film advance and shutter tensioning is by a fold-out key on the bottom of the camera directly below the lens. When the camera is mounted on a tripod the key would not be accessible so an adapter was used to fit between the camera and the tripod, a horizontal wheel engages the film advance key.

The July 1951 edition of Photography carries a report of the camera, its only criticism was that the screen was dark when the working aperture was set. It also says that it will be some time before Wray can fulfil all the orders for the camera. The price was 103.4.0 in 1952, this puts it in the upper price band along with the Reid.

Models
The first model of the Wrayflex produced 45, 24 x 32 mm exposures on standard 35 mm film. Early versions of the first model had two flash sockets for bulbs, later (1951) this was changed to three sockets, - bulb, electronic and a common earth socket. The model Ia appeared in 1954 taking conventional 24 x 36 mm exposures. The flash synchronisation was also changed to 3 mm coax (two sockets). In c. 1958 an accessory shoe was added to the mirror housing. The model II appeared in 1959 having a conventional pentaprism rather than mirrors. The model II has a very unbalanced look as the mirror action was retained from the earlier models, so the pentaprism is much higher than if a conventional arrangement had been used.

Patents and Development
The patents for the camera describe the mirror action in detail. Another, slightly earlier, series of patents by Wray describe a very advanced camera with clock-work motor drive, photo-electric cells below the focusing screen for through-the-lens (TTL) metering and the conventional pentaprism mounted at the bottom of the camera. The use of two mirrors to provide through-the-lens reflex viewing was proposed earlier by E.L. Doyen in British patent 18695 of 1897.

A Wrayflex brochure states that Wray took over development of the Wrayflex in 1947 from Commander Studdert of the Royal Navy.

This Camera
Serial number 1511 is the camera depicted in the instruction book and brochure. The 90 mm lens here is a late example where the pre-setting of the iris is by pushing up a bezel containing a stud that rests in a recess for each aperture.

Serial Numbers
These start at 1501, the change from two to three flash sockets occurred after number 1961 and before 1974. The Ia was introduced before number 2395.

Lenses

  • f2 50 mm Unilite, 1951.
  • f3.5 50 mm Lustrar, 1951.
  • f3.5 35 mm Lustrar, c. 1951.
  • f4 90 mm Lustrar 1951.
  • f2.8 50 mm Unilux, 1954.
  • f4 135 mm Lustrar, c. 1957.
  • f18 42" Prismascope, 20 x 60 monocular, 1960.
  • 24" Prismascope Mk II, 12 x 40 monocular, 1962.

Accessories

  • Copying stand with built-in extension tubes, c. 1953.
  • Tripod adapter.
  • Extension tubes.
  • Microscope adapter.
  • Cable release (non-standard thread size).
  • Filters.

References & Notes:
BP 691103/1950. BP 698409/1950. BP 691170/1950. BP 32138/1949 (applied for number). BP 18534/1949 (applied for number). BP 18535/1949 (applied for number). BJA 1951, pp. 44, 207, 230. BJA 1953, pp. 211, 574. BJA 1954, pp. 230, 558. BJA 1955, pp. 203, 590, 198. BJA 1958, pp. 187, 558. BJA 1959, p. 502. BJA 1960, pp. 189, 502. BJA 1961, pp. 195, 502. BJA 1962, p. 486. BJA 1963, p. 462. Blue-Book, 1952. Blue-Book, 1960-61, p. 59. Photography Magazine 7/1951, p. 37.

Further Information:
Wade, Wrayflex. Porritt, Photographica World No. 120, p. 11.


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