Ensign Multex Model O Rangefinder camera with a 53mm Xpres lens by Ross of London, £23,000 at Chiswick Auctions.

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Staying up into the early hours to research his new acquisitions, at around 4am in the morning he had come across what he believed was a British pre-war precision camera that has sold for thousands of euros.

Farahar was delighted to confirm his hunch and suggested an auction estimate of £20,000-30,000.

The Ensign Multex Model O Rangefinder was made in two models between 1936-38.

It was described in Ensign catalogues as ‘a precision miniature camera of unrivalled merit without any of the disadvantages of extreme long length of film, necessitating a large number of exposures before developing’.

Costing as much as many Leica cameras at the time, it was sold with a range of five lenses rising in price from £19 10s to £40. The Ross Xpres f/.9 lens included with this example was among the most expensive additions and it is highly prized today.

Farahar says that fewer than five similar cameras had been offered at auction in the last 20 years and estimates that fewer than 50 were ever made.

Prices for cameras with this lens have rocketed in the last 20 years. 

The guide for Chiswick’s discovery was spot on: it took £23,000 as part of the March 21 sale titled The Bigger Picture: Fine Photographica & Panoramas. The vendor plans to use some of the proceeds from the sale to fund a photography trip to Ukraine and is considering eye surgery so he can use his camera without the need for glasses.

Channel hopper


London to Paris moving panorama toy, £1000 at Chiswick Auctions.

Another memorable feature of the west London sale was a selection of panorama viewers.

Made in c.1905 was a homemade 13½in (34cm) toy theatre titled London to Paris equipped with two wooden rollers that move a 60ft roll of paper decorated in pen, ink and watercolour.

The title appears on a metal strip fixed above the stage and on the first image of the panorama. The panorama in this toy takes us from London as far as Calais.

Remarkably, a companion toy can be found in the Bill Douglas collection at Exeter University. It continues the journey from Calais to Paris. One hopes, after this example sold at £1000, they may soon be reunited.