Friday, 1 March 2013

A few words about the Lumière Scout Box

Lumière Scout Box
Simple in construction and use, there isn't much to be written about the Lumière Scout Box, but having used it for the 'Take Your Box Camera To Work Day' yesterday, I felt it deserved a post of its own. There were a number of box camera models that Lumière produced under the Scout Box (sometimes written 'Scoutbox') name. Sylvain Halgand's collection has a comprehensive range of Lumière box camera models (shown under the 'Même Marque' tab), none of which my camera exactly resembles, although it is very close to the inventory number 489, my example lacking flash sync and has a fabric handle rather than plastic.

The camera is a sturdy all metal construction, covered with a coarse-grain leather finish. The metal trim has a black craquelure or craze paint effect, which is also used inside the camera, presumably to reduce internal reflections. It's relatively compact for a medium format box camera taking 6x9 images (the Scout Box's negatives are actually nearer to 6x8): the box itself measures roughly 9x9.5x7cm; a camera such as the Kodak Hawkeye using the same negative format is 11x14.5x7.5cm. The controls are very simple: the shutter lever is on the right hand side of the lens. Above the lens is a pointer that can be switched from 'I' for Instant to 'P' for 'Pneumatique' (bulb - 'B' setting), 'I' or 'P' showing in a small round window. The camera has a single brilliant viewfinder set directly above the lens for portrait orientation; for landscape shots, this rotates on a pivot through 90º. The camera also has tripod mounts for both portrait and landscape.

Viewfinder in landscape mode
To open the camera, there's a catch on the left side, which releases the right side of the camera, which slides out and has the film transport mechanism attached. My camera had a 620-sized spool inside, and is described on some websites as taking 620 film, but 120 spools do fit, if a little tightly; inside the camera it has a label stating the camera uses Lumière 49 film.

Camera opened for loading
The lens has 'Lumière Objectif Rapid' inscribed around it and this appears to be a meniscus lens. As it's a fixed focus lens with a single aperture, there's no need to provide the user with information on its focal length or aperture. I've measured the focal length to be c.95mm. The aperture is a circular hole in a metal plate behind the lens and shutter, which, although hard to measure without dismantling it, I estimate to be around 4.5mm across (looking through the lens with the shutter open and a ruler behind it): this gives an f number of just under f22 (G. Even's site lists the aperture as f16 and the focal length as 85mm). Even given the need for depth of field to compensate for the fixed focus of the lens, this does seem like a small aperture (when this camera was made 100 ISO was a fast film). I decided to check the shutter speed in Instant mode by recording it with Audacity. Measuring the waveform from peak to peak is 0.019 seconds; which translates as very close to 1/50th (I think the third peak in the waveform is the sound of the shutter swinging back to its original position). An exposure of 1/50th at f22 should give a correct exposure on 100 ISO film in bright sunlight, going by the 'Sunny 16' rule; if the aperture is f16, this would allow for a little less than optimal conditions. None of my measurements are rigorously precise of course, so there could easily be a margin of error of a stop or so.

Lumière Scout Box shutter recorded with Audacity
The first film I ran through the camera was HP5 Plus which I pulled to 200 EI, reasoning that the camera was designed for use with slower film. This test film did lack shadow detail, and all the films I have used in the camera since have been 400 ISO, which have given good results on relatively overcast days.

Test roll, HP5 pulled to 200 EI
Test roll, HP5 pulled to 200 EI
Rollei RPX 400
Fomapan 400

Sources/further reading:
Scout Box on Collection Sylvain Halgand (in French, with some English translation)
Lumière Scoutbox on Camera-Wiki
G. Even's Lumière Collection (in French)


  1. I have one where can I sell it?and how much?

    1. Unless it is a known rare model or in really good condition, it probably won't sell for very much - you might want to try eBay.