As mentioned previously, the camera is built on an early body, but with later lenses. Considering it was an early part, there are any number of reasons it could have been set aside. In our own business we always keep sample castings from the first run. This gives us a reference for future checking. Also, its not uncommon - especially at the start of production - to wind up with incorrectly machined castings.

I have never seen a raw Realist casting. Some of the camera's features are cast in, and others are machined. It is common to cast the basic shape of a product, then machine dimensionally critical features. The FF Realist has had its range finder windows removed. It has had the bump on the front of the camera next to the focus wheel removed, and the area around the focus knob was never machined, although someone has machined away material for the depression in which the leather covering is glued.

Realist Prototype?
Realist Prototype?
Bump on front of camera is removed and top corner is machined out for leather covering. Without stripping paint, it is hard to tell if the shiny arc is a plug, or an un machined surface. It is several thousandths of an inch higher than the surrounding surface The cut on the sample camera on the right is deeper than the plug/un machined cut on the FF camera. This suggests the FF camera never received the machining step used to make space for the focus knob. Could the "plug" have been one of the gates through which molten metal flowed into the mold?

The range finder windows have been carefully removed, and the base flange recontoured to match. I traced the base flange contours and found they are a perfect match side to side. This level of care admitted points a little more to an attempted fake than a bodged together prototype, unless the person who built the camera had pride in his workmmanship regardless of its purpose.

Oddball Parts
One of the intriguing aspects of this camera are all the seemingly non standard parts. If built as a fake, one might expect the external components to match those of other standard cameras. In fact, there are odd bits and least one blatantly defective part, which could not possibly have left the factory on a customer camera. The point here is a guy building a fake from swap meet cameras would be working with standard production parts off cameras which had been sold to the public. An R&D shop camera could have been built using the aforementioned samples and defects.

The Lens Board
Of the sample cameras disassembled to produce this article, there were two basic lens board castings. We'll simply call them early and late. The casting on the FF camera has features of both, but does not match either. It should be noted, I do not have a camera serialed between 1,000-60,000. It is therefore possible the FF camera's lens board is a style used after the very first cameras, but later supplanted by the definitive late style. Of my later samples, I have serials in the 60, 80 and 100 thousand range. Their features are identical with the exception of a mold number (either a "1" or a "2").

This lens board, equipped with Ilex Paragon lenses, comes from camera serial 0324. A part number "ST41-12" is cast into the upper right area. The lug on the upper left is almost, but not quite identical to the mystery camera's. There is a slight concave relief cut taken out of the cable release boss. The relief in the center of the top appears to have been machined into the casting. The bright plating carries over onto the back of the part. Reliefs around the viewfinder hole are circular.
The Mystery camera has an odd lens board. The cable release boss is very similar to, the early style, however, there is no part or mold number cast in. Reliefs around the viewfinder hole match the late style. The finish is either a translucent primer or sealer, and has been sanded off at critical spots. There are rows of "pricks" in the metal, which its hard to say if they are molded in or stamped.
Late lens board has thinner cable release boss. The part number has been replaced by a mold number on the lower right. The reliefs at the top center and around the viewfinder hole match the mystery camera's. Bright plating has been applied to the outside surfaces only. It is interesting to note, as this camera is serial 103xxx, the date on this lens board suggests four fifths of all Realist lens assemblies had been completed by June of 1954.