Great British Cameras:

Purma Speed


The Purma Speed was the first camera made by Purma Cameras Ltd, introduced in June 1936, shortly after the company was founded in 1935.

The price was 35s (E2.77 or £1.75) the case being another 10s. The camera takes 127 (also known as VP) film giving 16 exposures each 25mm x 25mm. The price of film at the time the camera was launched was 1s (5p).

The Speed was the first of the three Purma cameras and is of a higher quality construction than the much more common Bakelite Purma Special and metal bodied Purma Plus. The lens is a Beck two element 2 inch fixed aperture f13.

The camera has a black wrinkle finish enamel body, and heavy bright chrome top and bottom plate. The viewfinder flips up and is also chrome finished to match the top plate.

The lens is a Beck 2 element anastigmat of 2 inch focal length, with an aperture of approximately f11. It is a retractable lens held in place when not in use by the substantial and, in my view, a very attractive chromed lens-cap which has the words Purma Speed pressed into it.

The most fascinating feature of this extraordinary camera is the shutter mechanism, designed by the company's co-founder Alfred Croger Mayo. The camera has a metal focal-plane shutter running along the curved film plane. It is a six-speed shutter, and is extremely unusual in that the shutter speed is determined by the way the camera is held. Holding the camera horizontally gives a speed of 50th second. Turning the camera 90 degrees to the right (so it is held vertically and the shutter spring is pulling in opposition to the force of gravity) gives 25th second and 90 degrees to the left gives 75th second (the spring pulling in the same direction as gravity and therefore being assisted by it). Turning a knob on top of the camera selects a second range of speeds (100, 150, 200th second) by narrowing the shutter slit. To help the user, the speeds are marked around the viewfinder to show which way the camera should be held to obtain the desired speed. There is also a small lever to select time exposure.

A camera with real personality and one of my real favourites!