Beyond the missing viewfinder windows, the other immediately obvious change is the black finish on the lens board and top plate. The known fixed focus prototypes were said to have had a black "pebble grain" finish. Is it possible the sand blasted look of the chromed parts was merely painted over, thus giving the pebble effect? The caps on the mystery camera were either unplated, or the plating was removed before painting. The painted surfaces are glossy. If nothing else, the parts were not treated to whatever process was normally done before plating. The look of the chrome on a standard Realist is the result of the surface finish under the chrome, not the plating itself.
Careful examination of the detail photos reveals the top plate and many of the camera control parts are unique. Starting with the top plate, it is marked only with dimples and does not match any other Realist model I have ever seen. As for the film advance knob, it is knurled in a pattern which does not match any other Realist I have ever seen either, including the oversize knobs on the Realist Custom. The relief cut at the top for the mounting screw is not quite deep enough, so the screw protrudes slightly. Could this be a rejected sample part? The advance/rewind selector is the most obvious. This part was clearly machined incorrectly. It is machined off center, and the dimple with the black paint spot is much deeper than is normally seen. In fact its drilled down too far and has unevenly broken through the sides of the bridge.
Although its more subtle, the film advance counter also appears to be less well made than what one normally sees. The circle in its center is quite lumpy in appearance. The accessory shoe has been peened at four spots, perhaps to gain additional purchase on a flash. This is another minor point, but no other Realist I have seen has had this done. Even the shutter release is different, but there's no point in trying to describe the differences here.
What About Those
A knowledgeable gentleman with whom I corresponded after buying the camera repeatedly pointed out the standard ƒ3.5 David White Anastigmat lenses as incorrect, and evidence something is wrong. Such an early camera should have Ilex Paragons, and the known fixed focus prototypes had ƒ4.5 lenses. I can't argue this point. He is correct. But what if this body had never been assembled into a camera. Owing to the lack of machining for a focus knob. I contend this body was never assembled when new. By the time somebody got to experimenting, the only lenses floating around would have been the inexpensive DW Anastigmats. Even this set of lenses has one odd feature. The aperture rings are slightly different from any of my other Realists. Could they too have been rejected for production and thus were available from a parts bin?
|Notice the slight bevel at the front and back of each grasping bump on the aperture ring. Its hard enough to grip the rings as is. This could only have made it worse. On none of the Realists I have seen were the rings shaped this way. There are rough machine or sanding marks running front to back on the tops of the high spots. Although the early Ilex aperture rings were a little more crudely finished, they still looked better than this.|
I would dearly love to sit down with this camera and somebody who has seen a lot of Realist cameras. My comparative sample is dangerously small. It is quite possible some of the "exceptional" parts I have described were in fact standard kit - the only problem being I never happen to have run across them. It may also take a certain sensitivity to the manufacturing processes involved to understand the importance of some fairly subtle differences.
It is likely I will never be able to prove a connection between this camera and anyone from David White. I'm not trying to trump up its value in advance of offering it for sale. The camera is intriguing and its not of sufficient value in any circumstance to be worth lying about. Unless someone appears who can shed light on its creation, it shall remain the Space Oddity Realist