Above: The Ensign Multex, a rare camera today
Below: View from above, showing the camera's top plate controls
1937: Ensign Multex Model ‘0’
By the mid-1930s, 35mm cameras had been around for a decade. Although many photographers still clung to roll film, others accepted that good results could be attained from 35mm, though 36 exposures to one roll of film was too much for some. Into this world was born a series of cameras designed to shoot small, but much fewer, negatives on roll film.
The Multex was one such, made in England at the Ensign works in Walthamstow, claimed by the company to be the largest camera factory in the British Empire. It’s a neat little camera measuring only 12x8.5x5cm and weighing 600 grams. The Model ‘0’ is the second version, with a chrome top plate, which superseded a now rarer all-black version launched the previous year. It takes 127 film (still available if you search the internet) to shoot 14 exposures, each one 30x40mm, only marginally larger than the standard 24x36mm image size on 35mm. The film is loaded in the usual way and wound until the figure ‘1’ appears in the camera’s red window. An automatic film counter on the top plate is then set to ‘0’ and thereafter this is used to count exposures.
The lens pulls out on the end of a short tube into its shooting position. On the review camera it’s a 50mm f/3.5 Multar that stops down to f/16 and rotates to focus from 3ft to infinity, coupled to a rangefinder close to the viewfinder. Shutter speeds are set on the top plate. They fall into two groups: 1/2-1/15sec, set against a red indicator and 1/25-1/1,000sec set against a black indicator. The shutter speed must be set before the film is wound and shutter tensioned.
The price of a Multex these days reflects its rarity, making the cameras more collectable than usable.