Does anybody collect Sinar?
Or perhaps I should ask, does anybody else collect Sinar? I ask because if I look at that corner of the room there do seem to be several boxes of it, but it is not something that you see very often at camera fairs. Admittedly, large format studio cameras are quite bulky and require more storage space than many of the more commonly-collected cameras that we see all the time. On the other hand, we are looking here at a camera system from the classic period of the 1950s onwards, made to fantastically high standards and designed with a remarkable degree of foresight. A camera of this kind is basically a kit of parts which can be combined any way you like to do any kind of job. Well, perhaps not any kind of job, but more or less anything you would do in a studio plus a certain amount of fieldwork such as large-scale architectural photography.
The Sinar product line began with the Norma in the late 1940s. It was designed and built by the Swiss company E. Koch. Even at that stage it emerged as a very adaptable and sophisticated system; the basic camera consists of a round rail with a locating ridge onto which can be slid a front and a rear standard. Bellows, lens boards, backs, all lock into the frames of the standards in the same way, the rail can be extended in both directions, multiple bellows can be fitted in series for long extensions, backs of different sizes can be fitted. The same camera can be set up for any size film between 5 x 4 and 10 x 8 using standard darkslides, and of course will take various rollfilm holders too.
There are all sorts of adaptations for viewing the ground glass screen, light metering, and a system using a shutter panel which allows you to use lenses without shutters, for economy and consistency of handling. Of course we have all the front and rear movements, although probably the only serious weakness of the Norma is that it uses base tilts rather than centre tilts - something that was corrected in later models.
However, from a collector's point of view and perhaps even from a user's point of view, the Norma is still the most desirable of the Sinar range. The build quality of those 1940s to 1960s parts is probably higher than was achieved later, and most of them still work with total smoothness to this day, despite having had a hard life in professional studios. Norma parts are easily identifiable as any paintwork is typically a dull green or khaki crackle finish, whereas later cameras were finished in black. Sinars were very expensive when new, and perhaps could not be called cheap even today, but are certainly far more affordable now than they were in their heyday. Let's hope that this hint will encourage more of you to look out for Sinar cameras and add them to the collection.
An occasional and irregular blog, mostly of photographic experimentation and photographic history.
Copyright © 2023 by John Marriage