Monday, August 28, 2006

Imperial Continental Camera

I found this camera for $3 US at a thrift store called Savers, similar to Goodwill. This is truly a crappy camera. The Imperial Continental Camera was made by Herbert George Co, Chicago, Illinois, USA. There are other Imperial cameras by the same company, the most common being the Imperial Mark XII. I also have an Imperial Snapshot camera, a small, plastic box camera. If you do a search on eBay, you will see various other Imperial cameras. But you may not find this one. I've searched all over the web and have not found a single reference to this particular camera. Is it so bad that even crappy camera collectors don't care about it? I doubt that is possible. Maybe they only made them for a very short period of time, or they are made so poorly that they just couldn't carry on through the years.

Sorry for the nasty shots, I didn't feel like getting out the tripod...
The camera takes 620 film, producing eight 2 1/4" x 3 1/4" shots. It sports a fixed focus 88 mm Stylar lens, whatever that may be worth. I'm pretty sure it is glass. The most striking feature of this camera is its blatently ugly design. It is fairly large for a 620 camera, even one that takes larger photos. The front slides out to make the camera even larger. It's a good thing I took the camera apart to fix the shutter, because I didn't know this at first. I just thought the front was loose. It doesn't really fit together very well. The shutter mechanism is very sloppy, with lots of room for the parts to move up and down, so it sticks a lot. I have to hit the button very quickly or the shutter stay open. This actually seems to more of a design issue, as opposed to a problem of age. Kind of like the Diana clones have really screwy shutters. Also, the knob on top is missing, so advancing the film is painful. Age, of course, not design. The viewfinder is basically good for aiming in the general direction that you want to shoot, and nothing more. It is not shaped like the actual photo being taken. I guess the square front of the viewfinder is ill matched with the round eyehole on the back.
So how does it work? Quite well, I think, if the toy camera look is your thing. It has a nice blur effect around the edges, particularly on one side. It randomly leaks light, apparantly right across the middle. You can see the picture falls off around the edges. Some random vignette. All around, plenty of toy camera effects. Nice vintage quality to the shots. I like it! A great find, and I plan to use it more in the future. Not a display camera by any means, but fun to use.

The shutter stuck, so I had to shake the camera to unstick it...then I just shot again, cuz that's what I do.


  1. Wow great find!

  2. Anonymous5:38 PM

    the results are incredibly beautiful!

  3. Anonymous4:32 PM

    Love the Imperials! Nice. Thanks for sharing out in the blogosphere. :-)

  4. Anonymous8:32 AM

    Cool Camera, it seems to be a re-named Herbert George Stylex, similar tho the one this guy has:

    It's not unheard of for Herbert George to sell the same camera under different names. I've got an old Donald Duck Camera from them, that I've seen marketed under at least two other names: The Happi Time, and the Herco 12.

  5. Sweet! That is does look like the exact same junker! I still can't believe how shoddy this thing is.

  6. Anonymous10:53 PM

    I have one of these, it was my Mom's first camera. I've just recently taken off the "lens box" and installed a pinhole on a flat piece of wood over the hole. Wide ~38mm effective focal length, aperture about f/180. First roll of film is in the camera now, should be interesting. :)

  7. great side point of view ..... classic. Same as the result.