Kershaw Eight – 20 Penguin

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290A1710We had plans to go to the zoo on Saturday for an animal photoshoot, but the weather was dull and very cold – so we decided to postpone for later in the year. I was very disappointed as I was itching to try out some techniques practised with the chickens – where I was shooting them through metal fencing with a large aperture to blur the fencing itself.
We chose instead to head out to a local antiques warehouse in search of some old vinyl, and I ended up getting rather too interested in a vintage folding camera -that I believed would look good sitting open on my bookcase next to my increasing collection of photography books…..
It was an english-made Kershaw-Soho Eight-20 Penguin – and appeared to be in excellent condition. Being an impulsive person by nature, I had trouble thinking of reasons not to buy it, but I was encouraged to check out prices on the internet, in case I was paying over the odds. As soon as I read about it on my phone, however, I got more excited, and disregarded any prices that I saw !
I paid £23 for it and it made my day…..Once home, I searched more thoroughly on the net, and discovered that it was one of the earliest of the Penguin models, made circa 1946. It only appeared a few times in images – as most showed a later version with a shutter push rod, and a variable aperture setting of F11 or F16. My version is an extremely simple version of a 120 roll film vertical folding camera. It has a black crackle-finish metal casing and handle, with a bakelite winding knob. The focus can be adjusted between 6ft, 10 ft and infinity – and there is a 3-choice shutter setting of bulb, timer or instant shot. The shutter release is a small red-topped lever on the left ( as you view it ). The red lever on the right releases the shutter on a timed exposure. The camera is in fine condition, with pristine bellows and free-moving parts. The lens is very dusty, however, and would hamper any useful attempts to successfully run a roll of film through it – although I’m sure it could be professionally cleaned.
I began to realise that the prices I had seen quoted were for the later, more adjustable version, as was the manual that I managed to find on a US site. My older model didn’t seem to come up on any sites with prices. In fact, I had struggled to find out as much as I did – and I am wondering whether its age makes it even more valuable than the later models ? In which case, I have found a bargain !
Regardless of value – I have found a piece of english manufacturing history and I LOVE IT ! A quality piece of equipment with a reassuringly solid feel, and chrome that doesn’t go pitted (and leather that doesn’t split). It’s 67 years old and it looks fantastic…….- what do you think ?!

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