52Rolls2017 · Roll 48 · Ansco Clipper
- Ansco Clipper
- A Lens …
- HP5 (fresh)
In a moment of both elation and despair from turning up empty handed thrifting one day … I found this Ansco Clipper for dirt cheap, and bought it after a 5 second “oh my god it works, and its dirt cheap” inspection.
In my transgression I forgot that the Ansco Clipper was a 616 camera (616 film is no longer manufactured). It came with a 616 spool inside so I figured … how hard could this be? After a little trawling on ze Internets I found some 3d printed dinguses that will fit on the ends of a 120 spool, and fit in the 616 space. The 120 spool isn’t as wide so the film doesn’t fully clear the edges of the chamber resulting in images overlapping the film rebates. The basic logistical difference between 616 and 120 is that 616 is wider by about ~10mm.
I purchased the 3d printed dinguses from holgamods.com on eBay along with a few other goodies (a holga clip, and a holga ground glass).
History and Features
Ansco made the Clipper between 1930s and 1950s. The camera was also originally co-branded as Agfa Ansco before, and during WWII. Really that’s all I could easily find on this particular camera. A little more digging reveals that my example is probably post WWII as it lacks the Agfa branding on it. Also as we know from prior reviews Agfa bought Ansco pre-war, and then Agfa’s chemical interests were broken up after WWII, and the camera division was affected moving the Ansco brand back to the USA.
The Ansco clipper is a 616 film camera shooting in portrait mode 108 mm × 63.5 mm. My example of the clipper has a fixed lens, a fixed shutter, a lever for a B mode, a crude viewfinder, and a built in leather carrying handle. It’s kinda short on features, I was kinda stretching it with the leather handle. I mean it’s there but … yeah.
The Ansco Clipper is a mostly all black number, my example has a plastic top, a metal body, with black painted edges, a red plastic shutter lever, a silver (maybe stainless steel) bezel around the lens that reads ‘ANSCO’ on top, and ‘CLIPPER’ under the lens, and what appears to be a woven nylon covering. In reality it is a faux woven nylon covering made from some sort of plastic. Embossed on the back is the name of the company, and location of the manufacturing ‘ANSCO BINGHAMTON, NY, MADE IN USA’. This embossing is very easy to miss, and extremely hard to read. The camera body is probably some sort of steel, as usually the examples I’ve found in thrift are covered in rust where the paint peels off.
At first glance it also has a very slim profile for an over glorified box camera. Until you realize that the lens standard on front pulls out (via two metal clips on the sides) to what should reveal an old style bellows, but in this example instead reveals a square stainless steel tube that extends the lens standard out from the body. Extending the lens effectively increases the depth of the body by about two inches, turning this camera basically right back into a box camera. Maybe think of it as a foldable or pocketable box camera.
With the lens extended for me the Clipper immediately becomes less attractive. Boner aversion jokes aside, it looks a little weird. I keep chanting in my head over and over ‘It was cheap’, ‘It will be fun’, etc. Justification is also a weird thing.
Overall there are uglier cameras. This one isn’t exceptionally ugly.
Before I talk about loading and unloading … this is a 616 camera and requires some gymnastics to shoot because 616 film was discontinued in like 1984 when Elffy graduated high school. So yeah you have to do ‘stuff’ to make it work. You can view this as a CON or as a challenged. Just know you ‘stuff’ must be done before you can shoot it.
Now, on to said ‘Stuff’! The ‘stuff’ I did to make this camera mostly operational for me was to purchase 3d printed spacers to allow me to use an unmodified easily purchasable 120 roll of film instead of the extinct 616. I purchased my 3d printed spacers from holgamods.com, on eBay. The holgamods.com dude also sells different things directly on his website through paypal. There are lots of interesting things there … I recommend it highly if you like toy cameras, and extra especially if you have a weird love of Holgas.
So now on to the loading! This camera has a swing out pivot on the bottom of the film supply chamber, and the take up chamber. Swing the pivot out of the film supply side place the spacer on the film spool (with the film), also place another spacer on top of the spool, put the top end of the spool into the camera, and then swing the whole thing back into the camera. It sounds weird, but it’s pretty easy to do. Do the same thing on the take up side only with a empty spool. Feed the film across the chamber to the tak eup side thread it through and take up the slack, et voila the camera is loaded. Close the back and advance the film watching the red window till the 1 appears. Unload this camera like you would unload any 120 or roll film camera.
The operation of this camera is simple. Frame your shot with the crude viewfinder, and push the shutter lever down. Done. That’s it. You can also optionally lift the B mode lever which is located on the top of the lens standard. Pull it straight up to enable B mode. The lever extends at an angle when lifted straight up. On many examples I’ve seen thrifting this lever is often fused or rusted in place making it not move easily. If it doesn’t move easily leave it alone as you’ll fuck the shutter into B mode until you fix it. Also the camera doesn’t have a tripod bush so the B mode is only somewhat functional. Or you can view it as yet another challenge.
Now on to the bad news! Ha, I bet you didn’t expect bad news … I sure didn’t. I thought I was being incredibly clever in using the 3d spacers. Here’s the one downside I found for the spacers. 616 must have a different numbering pattern on the back for lining up frames in the red window. I expected to get 15 or 16 frames on this camera as the film chamber look liked a 4.5 width, and the specs on the format implied 16 frames. The red window worked as expected but only counted to 8, and then abruptly ended. So the 645 film markings for the red window on 120 are different than on 616. So at days end if you use this method (3d spacers) with 120 you’ll only get 8 frames instead of the originally intended 16. Which really isn’t all that bad of news, it could have been a lot worse, and I would have had to do a LOT more to shoot this camera than buy some plastic spacers. I’ll include a picture in the samples of what the camera looks like inside with the spacers inserted.
There are probably a few other methods of shooting 120 in this camera, I won’t go over all those here but I can think of one way to get all 16 frames is to buy a vintage roll of 616, take off the paper, and respool 120 film onto the 616 paper in a dark bag. You could even try to shoot the vintage 616 film if you want just remember to keep the paper after you develop it, or ask the lab you use to save it for you.
The good news is that this camera is still somewhat viable, in an easy to use method that doesn’t involve destroying or modding, film or the camera. The other good news is that this camera takes ok pictures. I didn’t pick any fascinating subjects this time, but all 8 frames camera out decently so I’m including them ALL in the samples.
- Inexpensive classic camera
- Produces decent vintage photos
- Auto Flash
- Uses 616 film
- It’s not the ugliest camera ever