Envoy Wide Angle Camera and Developing Tank

The Envoy Wide Angle is not, strictly, an Ilford camera, as it was not badged with the Ilford name. However, since it was manufactured by the same company making the cheap, plastic, Ilford Envoy box camera (Photo Developments Ltd; Leonard Road, Handsworth, Birmingham 19, England), it is usually associated with Ilford Ltd. Also, Ilford marketed the Envoy Wide Angle through their General Catalogue of Photographic Materials. The Envoy Wide Angle is not to be confused in any way with the cheap amateur Ilford Envoy box camera; it was a specialist precision instrument used by professionsals.

As its name suggests, the Envoy Wide Angle was a camera specially designed for wide-angle photography and is believed to have been sold throughout the 1950s. It takes 8 off 2¼" x 3¼" (conventionally referred to as 6 x 9cm) images on 120 or 620 roll film or used 2½" x 3½" plates in single metal holders. The body is of die-cast metal with a leather covering, of overall size 4¾" x 3¾" x 2½" (12cm x 9.5cm x 6.5cm) and weighs 17ounces (480grammes).

The viewfinder is a simple open wire frame 'sports finder' type, with parallax adjustment on the rear sight. The lens is a bloomed f6.5 Taylor, Taylor, Hobson Ltd of 64mm focal length, of 4-element construction. The acceptance angle is 82degrees, the equivalent of a 25mm focal length lens on a 35mm film camera - hence, a quite reasonable wide angle. Although the lens opens up to f6.5, the recommended usage starts at f11 and down to f32. With its fixed focus, the camera can be used "point and shoot", with a resulting high quality large negative. The approximate depth of focus at different stops is as follows:
f11 gives sharp focus from 10ft to 60ft (3m to 18m)
f16 gives sharp focus from 6ft to 400ft (1.8m to 120m)
f22 gives sharp focus from 4feet to infinity (1.2m to infinity)
f32 gives sharp focus from 30ins to infinity (0.76m to infinity)

By 1955 (see Ilford Photographic Materials General Catalogue), the Envoy Wide Angle was available in three models:
4-speed shutter synchronised at 1/25th and 1/50th sec, price £32.12s.4d (£32.62p)
8-speed shutter synchronised at 1/25th and 1/50th sec, price £36.2s.4d (£36.12p)
Compur X-M shutter, fully synchronised, price £43.17s.4d (£43.87p)
Outfits included the camera, 6 plate holders, a roll film holder, a hooded focussing back, a cover sheath for roll films, a flash plug and lead, lens cap, leather case and straps. Supplementary lenses, lens hoods and other accessories were also available.

The following pictures have kindly been made available to me by London based photographer, Gary Alexander, who owned and used the illustrated Envoy Wide Angle. Gary has 'posted' a selection of his Envoy images to his own web site see: http://www.gaspweb.co.uk/cameras/envoy.html. Gary's home page is at http://www.gaspweb.co.uk/.

Envoy Wide Angle No.3319 with TTH lens No.381534
Note that this is the fully synchronised Synchro-Compur model

Viewfinder folded down (front & rear) when not in use

Viewfinders raised, ready for action.

Back hinged open and roll film cradle removed by raising wind-on knob.

Top view showing parallax correction facility on rear viewfinder 'sight' for infinity, 6feet and 3feet . The rear 'sight' slides up and down and locates at 3 positions.

Showing the latch, near the wind-on knob, which releases the back cover and facilitates use of a ground glass back and plate dark slides.

Plate holder dark slides and ground glass screen

Sliding off the roll film 'counter' back to fit a dark slide or the glass screen. This must not be done with the film cradle in place.

Original sturdy leather outfit case, contains the camera with 6 dark slides, the ground glass viewing screen and Envoy developing tank for cut film or plates (see below).



The Envoy Wide Angle came with a 6 page users manual. Click the image below to view all 6 pages as an Adobe Acrobat (*.pdf) file. Please note that this version is not a precise copy of the original as I have applied an OCR program to the original scan and also inserted a higher quality image on the front page.
If you are interested to see the original scan, then email me.

Adobe Reader software is freely distributed and is available from many web sites, e.g. http://www.adobe.com/uk


This advertisement, taken from 'Photography' magazine, November 1951, Vo. 6, No.11, shows the "Envoy" Wide Angle Camera advertised by its manufacturers, Photo Developments Ltd.

A 4-shutter speed outfit is priced at £33.4s.9d (£33.24p), and an 8 speed outfit costs £36.14s.9d (£36.74p). Plate holders were 10s.4d each (52p) and cut film sheaths cost 1s.11d each (10p). (These prices are slightly different from the prices taken from Ilford's catalogue, quoted at the top of this page)

The Envoy flashgun is priced at £6.9s (£6.45p).

Alongside is shown the Envoy Developing Tank for 2½" x 3½" plates, suited to the Envoy Wide Angle camera. The tank took 4 plates at a time and used 5fluid ounces of developer (142cc). It cost 16s.6d in the mid-1950s (83p) and measures 135mm long, by 85mm tall by 50mm wide (maximum dimensions). It was made in England of black Bakelite. This example was donated by Brian Rees.

Envoy (Photo Developments Ltd) made similar tanks to hold larger plates, 3¼"x4¼", costing 18s (90p) and needing 7fluid ounces of developer, and 9cmx12cm, costing £1.3s (£1.15p) and needing 10fluid ounces of developer (285cc).

The construction was very simple, consisting of a push-on light-tight lid with a light baffled filling opening at one end (LHS in picture) and a emptying 'spout' at the other.

Agitation was (presumably) by tilting the tank from end to end and/or from side to side. There is no facility to insert any sort of agitation implement.

The internal construction is just a notched chamber
to hold the four plates.

An accessory was a 'loading jig' which assisted inserting the plates into the tank when working in total darkness. The jig located onto the open tank and this guided the plates into the grooves in the tank body. The jig was turned over to assist a second pair of plates to be inserted. It cost 5s.6d (28p), as did jigs for the other tank sizes.

The orginal instruction sheet can be downloaded here.

The loading jig came in a box covered in the same brown & gold stripes as the developing tank (see above). The instructions read:

This accessory is a particularly simple aid for changing-bag, or within-bed loading. It is therefore a boon to tourists who must necessarily load their material under difficult conditions.
For complete darkroom use, this Envoy jig is indispensible for quick, and easier loading.

Place in readiness, and in their metal holders, four Plates, or Sheet films.

Remove lid of Developing Tank.

In place of lid, insert the loading jig so that the end having the wider feet lies over the tank filler-hole.

Insert two plates, or films, through the two slots in the jig.

Remove, and turn jig upside-down feeling that the end having the wider feet again comes down over the tank filler-hole.

Insert two further plates, or films through the two slots in the jig. Then remove jig from Tank.

Replace lid of Tank ready for development process.

A plate with this image was found within the Envoy tank (see picture above). It was very under-exposed but, using the miracle of digital technology, has been enhanced here to show the profile of an attractive young lady, maybe from the late 1950s or 1960s.

Does anyone recognise her?

This page last updated: 9th December 2008