Ensign Commando - Antique and Vintage Cameras

Ensign Commando

1945

Early model

Houghton-Butcher Manufacturing Co.

London

England

Image of Ensign Commando

Lens:
f3.5, 76 mm H.B.M. Co. Anastigmat, iris diaphragm. Serial no. 1034 .

Shutter:
Epsilon, three-blade leaf type, speeds 1 - 1/200, B.

Construction:
Metal body.

Format:
12, 6 x 6 cm exposures on 120 roll-film.

Focusing:
Scale to 6 feet. Focusing moves the film plane, movement is 3.5 mm.

Attributes:
Coupled rangefinder, double image. Combined view-finder rangefinder window.
Film advance indicated by red-window. Shutter set separately to film advance. Body-release is locked until film is advanced.
Exposure counter. Accessory shoe.

Identification:
Without covering to front of range-finder. 12 exposures only.

Notes:
This is a war time or early post-war model. It carries no name or identification other than the lens name, there is no serial number, the case has a broad arrow impressed into the leather. The model must have been intended for both 12 and 16-on, the view-finder casting shows where the 16-on mask would have been located and the inside of the back has a second red window, this is covered on the outside by the leather covering and on the inside by the pressure plate.

With:
Leather case.

Ensign Commando

Version 2

1947

Barnet-Ensign Ltd

London

England

Image of Ensign Commando

Lens:
f3.5, 75 mm Ensar Anastigmat, iris diaphragm to f32. Serial no. 1335 .

Shutter:
Epsilon, three-blade leaf type, speeds 1 - 1/200, B.

Construction:
Metal body.

Format:
12, 6 x 6 cm exposures or 16, 6 x 4.5 cm exposures on 120 roll-film.

Focusing:
Scale to 6 feet. Focusing moves the film plane, movement is 3.5 mm.

Attributes:
Coupled rangefinder, double image. Combined view-finder rangefinder window. Frame mask to view-finder for 16 exposures.
Shutter set separately to film advance. Body-release is locked until film is advanced. Two red windows, used for 12 or 16 exposures. Film-plane masks for 16-on fixed inside camera.
Exposure counter. Accessory shoe.

Identification:
Knob on top of film advance wheel

Serial Number:
C1654 .

With:
Case.

Ensign Commando

Version 3

1947

Barnet-Ensign Ltd

London

England

Image of Ensign Commando

Lens:
f3.5, 75 mm Ensar Anastigmat, iris diaphragm to f32. Serial no. 2256 .

Shutter:
Epsilon, three-blade leaf type, speeds 1 - 1/200, B. Flash synchronisation.

Construction:
Metal body.

Format:
11 or 12, 6 x 6 cm exposures or 16, 6 x 4.5 cm exposures on 120 roll-film.

Focusing:
Scale to 6 feet. Focusing moves the film plane, movement is 3.5 mm.

Attributes:
Coupled rangefinder, double image. Combined view-finder rangefinder window. Frame mask to view-finder for 16 exposures.
Auto-stop on film transport for 11 exposures. Shutter set separately to film advance. Body-release is locked until film is advanced. Two red windows, used for 12 or 16 exposures. Film-plane masks for 16-on fixed inside camera.
Exposure counter. Accessory shoe.

Identification:
Flat top to film advance knob.

Serial Number:
C2223 .

Notes:
Dealer's name on guarantee: M. W. Keen Ltd. High Wycombe.

With:
Instructions. Guarantee. Box, carrying serial number and marked Emergency Pack. Ensign cable release in tube. Case.

Ensign Commando

Version 4

c.1949

Barnet Ensign Ross Ltd

London

England

Image of Ensign Commando

Lens:
f3.5, 75 mm Ensar Anastigmat, iris diaphragm to f22. Serial no. 5323 .

Shutter:
Epsilon, three-blade leaf type, speeds 1 - 1/300, B.

Construction:
Metal body.

Format:
11 or 12, 6 x 6 cm exposures or 16, 6 x 4.5 cm exposures on 120 roll-film.

Focusing:
Scale to 6 feet. Focusing moves the film plane, movement is 3.5 mm.

Attributes:
Coupled rangefinder, double image. Combined view-finder rangefinder window. Frame mask to view-finder for 16 exposures.
Auto-stop on film transport for 11 exposures. Shutter set separately to film advance. Body-release is locked until film is advanced. Two red windows, used for 12 or 16 exposures. Film-plane masks for 16-on fixed inside camera.
Exposure counter. Accessory shoe.

Identification:
Flat top to film advance knob. 1/300 shutter speed.

Serial Number:
C6081 .

With:
Case.

Ensign Commando

Version 4

c.1949

Barnet Ensign Ross Ltd

London

England

Image of Ensign Commando

Lens:
f3.5, 75 mm Ensar Anastigmat, iris diaphragm to f22. Serial no. 10162 .

Shutter:
Epsilon, three-blade leaf type, speeds 1 - 1/300, B.

Construction:
Metal body.

Format:
11 or 12, 6 x 6 cm exposures or 16, 6 x 4.5 cm exposures on 120 roll-film.

Focusing:
Scale to 6 feet. Focusing moves the film plane, movement is 3.5 mm.

Attributes:
Coupled rangefinder, double image. Combined view-finder rangefinder window. Frame mask to view-finder for 16 exposures.
Auto-stop on film transport for 11 exposures. Shutter set separately to film advance. Body-release is locked until film is advanced. Two red windows, used for 12 or 16 exposures. Film-plane masks for 16-on fixed inside camera.
Exposure counter. Accessory shoe.

Identification:
Flat top to film advance knob. 1/300 shutter speed.

Serial Number:
C6542 .

With:
Case.

Design of the Commando started before World War II, development continued during the war with production models being used by the armed forces. Directly after the war it was made available commercially. These early versions were for 12 exposures on 120 roll-film only and had no leather covering to the front of the rangefinder housing. They were fitted with f3.5 or f4.5 lenses. Some shutters had delayed action.

An improved model was issued in 1946, the first real commercial version, this was now for 12-on or 16-on. A knob was fitted to the top of the film advance wheel to release the film spool. Later this was removed. Leather covering was added to the front of the rangefinder housing shortly after this model was introduced. Late in its life c.1949 a faster Epsilon shutter with a top speed of 1/300 was fitted.

The most unusual feature of the camera is the means of focusing, where the film plane moves rather than the lens. An automatic frame counter is present but, if used, only gives 11 exposures per roll, there is a catch to engage this feature or use the red window. Accessories include Postar close-up lenses with an attachment for the view-finder giving parallax correction.

It is difficult to understand the rationale for the Commando, the Autorange 220 was in production and offered the same features. Sales ceased around 1950. Possibly the amalgamation of Barnet-Ensign with Ross in 1948 caused a re-assessment of camera models, the Commando was dropped around this time and a few years later Ensign brought out a new series of rangefinder cameras.

The 1938 patent is in the name of Houghton-Butcher Mfg. Co. and B.A. Parr.

Models

  • Early model, 12 exposures on 120 only, without leather to rangefinder housing, 1945.
  • Improved model, 12-on and 16-on, knob on top of film advance wheel, 1946. Leather added to rangefinder housing after introduction.
  • Without spool-release knob on film advance wheel, 1947.
  • 1/300 top speed, c.1949.

An advertisement from June 1951 shows Keen, the retailer of the second example, to be at a different address in High Wycombe but selling a second-hand Commando for 30.

References & Notes:
BP 521606/1938. BP 563875/1944. BJA 1946, pp. 51, 180. BJA 1947, p. 52. BJA 1948, p. 51.

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