On sourcing the stars of Retromania


Advert for the Ensign Midget (1934) - small enough for a lady's purse

A key criteria for this book was to not just show cameras and count the number of rivets on the back (how many books have done that in the past? Yawn.) but to add items of packaging and illustrations from the instruction manuals, and advertisements from the times to place everything in a relevant social and cultural time zone.

Sourcing the items in the Retromania collection was reasonably straight forward, but the hard part was the research, and that’s where the manuals helped. Two excellent sources were OTC in the UK and CameraBooks in the USA – providing last-ditch information right up to the time that the book went to press. Another invaluable aid was a collection of British Journal of Photography Almanacs that were crammed with advertisements and historical data.


The 'space-age curves' of the Purma Special (1937)

An early advert for the Ensign Midget shows just how small it was by placing it in the palm of a hand also highlighting that ‘miniature’ cameras have been around a long time. The Midget’s USP was that it would fit easily into a lady’s purse.


The Brownie 127 (1953)

The Purma Special had ‘space age curves’, a sophisticated ‘gravity’ shutter system and was showcased at the very first British Sci-Fi convention which must have impressed Arthur C. Clarke who was in attendance.

This mint condition Brownie 127 camera, with an excellent booklet, was discovered in a charity shop in a box full of junk. A little treasure.


Electrifying: the Coronet 'Flash Master' (1957)


The Halina 35X (1959)




Manual for the Kiev 4 camera (1961)



Coronet’s “Flash Master” camera came with equally electrifying box art and the Halina 35X booklet proudly exclaimed that the camera was for “Colour AND black and white” photography. There was a distinctly ‘cold war’ attitude to the Kiev 4 manual cover with it’s cheap looking print quality and old camera design (based on stolen German models from the 1930s) contrasting with the revolutionary Canon Dial with its radical modern design and “Mary Quant”hair-styled model.


The Canon Dial (1968) - 'modern'

You’ll never know what you can unearth until you start looking…




Retromania is now available in all good bookshops


Posted by

Lawrence Harvey

A camera aficionado, Lawrence Harvey has spent years trawling auctions, car boot sales, junk shops, and everything in between to amass his unique collection of vintage photo curios. Retromania is his first book.

3 Comments to On sourcing the stars of Retromania

  1. December 7, 2012 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    My book is on order with Amazon, hopefully not to long to wait before it arrives :)

  2. Dr Arthur Percival's Gravatar Dr Arthur Percival
    December 23, 2012 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    I ordered this book through my local bookseller and it arrived very promptly. Very good value for £9.99. Imaginatively and effectively designed, and a brilliant idea to include pix of packaging and extracts from instruction books, brochures etc. Laurence writes wittily, too.

    • Roly Allen's Gravatar Roly Allen
      January 2, 2013 at 9:59 am | Permalink

      Thanks for the compliment, Arthur – much appreciated!

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