The Utility Manufacturing Company was founded in New York in 1934, offering several camera lines including folding cameras and box cameras. Falcon was the main brand, of mostly molded bakelite cameras in an eye-level style, which quickly became popular.
In 1941 Utility was bought by Spartus Corporation, and moved to Chicago. It made cameras of its own brand Spartus and under contract for other companies. In 1951 its head of sales, Herold Rubin, bought the company and named it Herold Mfg. Co. The cameras had a distinctive styling, but the same camera would end up with various badges. The branding was mainly Falcon, Utility, Spartus, and Herold.
While not high-end cameras, we find the Spartus line interesting and with enough offerings to make a viable collection. The trick isn’t to find Spartus cameras; the trick is to find them in decent condition.
What in the world is bakelite?
Spartus Folding Camera Model A Circa 1940
The Spartus Folding Camera, Model A was manufactured by the Spartus Camera Corp. of Chicago IL in circa 1940. It was capable of capturing eight 1 5/8 x 2 1/2 inch (4.5 x 6cm) exposures on standard No. 127 roll film, color or black-and-white.
Constructed of plastic with a metal view finder. Designed to be inexpensive and simple to operate, this camera featured a Doublet lens, simple snapshot or time exposure shutter.
Spartaflex Camera Circa 1940
The Spartaflex twin lens camera was manufactured by the Spartus Camera Corp in the early 1940s. It was constructed with a die cast front. The camera has an ebony finish with chrome plated metal parts. It was a dual focusing camera with synchronized flash, which was capable of capturing twelve exposures on standard 120 roll film.
The Spartaflex featured a side sportsman viewfinder for eye level shooting and a large brilliant finder. Camera measures 4 1/2 x 3 x 4 inches. It features a coated achromat f7.7 lens coupled with precision milled focusing rings, with a focusing range from five feet to infinity.
Spartus Press Flash Circa 1941
It was designed by the Utility Manufacturing Company, later bought by Spartus in 1941. It was marketed from 1939 to 1950 under several other names, including Falcon Press Flash, Galter Press Flash, and Regal Flash Master.
As the Falcon Press Flash, this camera was the first camera with built-in flash reflector. It used old-style big Edison base flash bulbs and type 120 film rolls. It had two exposure settings, one for "bright" light and one for "cloudy & flash" situations.
Spartus 35 F Model 400 Circa 1947
The Spartus 35 and Spartus 35 F are a series of 35mm film Viewfinder cameras made by Spartus and then Herold Mfg co. in Chicago, USA., and produced between 1947-1954. The "F" designation indicated a flash-sync connector bolt on the top plate.
Spartus Minature Circa 1947
Spartus Miniature is a Bakelite 35mm beginners camera launched in 1947-54 with Simplest lens and shutter. The manufacturer was Spartus Corp., Chicago Illinois. The lens is Graf Achromat 50mm F7.7 single element and it has only two apertures: F7.7 and F16. The shutter is two speeds ever-ready, which are 1/25sec and Time. The weight is 270g.
Spartus Full Vue Circa 1948
The simple Spartus Full-Vue plastic 120 format pseudo TLR was made from 1948 to 1960 by American manufacturer Spartus. Its finder lens is larger in diameter than its camera lens, giving a bright finder image on the hooded matte screen.
The name "Full-Vue" resembles that of another box camera with big reflecting finder, the British Ful-Vue. There were various designs of face plate and body decoration over the production period. Early examples were made of Bakelite, although later models may have been other plastic.
Spartus No. 4 Folding Circa 1949
A simple folding bellows camera similar to Kodak and Ansco cameras of the 1930s and early 1940s with the "self-erecting" folding arms which pull the lens board and bellows out of the box when the door opens.
Imperial Reflex 620 Circa 1950
The Imperial 620 Snap Shot Camera (grey) was made by the Herbert George Company circa 1950. This was a simple twin-lens reflex style vertical camera constructed of bakelite plastic. It featured a full sized built-in view finder, removable synchronized flash unit, fixed focus lens and simple snap shot shutter. It was capable of capturing twelve exposures, 3 1/2 x 3 1/2 inch in size, on number 620 color or black and white roll film. It was made in various colors including black or grey with a cream front.
On eof these grey Imperial Reflex cameras was once owned by Lee Harvey Oswald; it was used to take the photo of him in his backyard holding the rifle which killed JFK ,and wearing the holstered revolver which he used to kill Officer Tippet. See Photos
Spartus 35 Circa 1951
This is a later model of the Spartus 35 Model 400 above. Later Spartus "35" models from Herold Products switched to a gray & silver body style somewhat reminiscent of the Kodak Pony. The body is Bakelite. There are many different lens & shutter combinations of the Spartus 35 and 35 F.
The most expensive model offering an f/3.5 coated anastigmat lens, four shutter speeds from 1/25 to 1/150 sec. plus T and B. But, commonly the cameras have a simple manual scale focus, one speed shutter (Inst 1/50 / Time) and 50mm f/6.3 (or f/7.7) lens with apertures f/6.3-7.7-11-16. There were many cosmetic variations of the body during its manufacturing period.
Spartus No. 4 Folding Circa 1953
This appears to be adapted from earlier post war folding cameras, but with a plastic top similar to the Kodak Tourist. The viewfinder is molded into the plastic, where earlier versions had a rotating viewfinder on the lens board.