Sutton panoramic camera
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Sutton panoramic camera

Sutton panoramic camera
Ross, London; 6 x 12 inches (approx), mahogany body, lacquered-brass fittings, the top with inset double spirit level, removable curved focusing back, screw focusing, the lens shade with label ROSS, LONDON, with a Thomas Ross lacquered-brass water-filled Sutton patent panoramic lens no. 7
Salvaged from a Melbourne, Australia, photographic studio under demolition at a date unknown; acquired by the present vendors in 1986.
British Journal of Photography 8, 417 (1861)
Photographic Journal 6, 184 (1860)
Photographic Notes 3, 250 (1858) and 7, 3 (1862)
Rudolph Kingslake (1989), A History of the Photographic Lens, pp. 50-52.
Brian Coe (1978), Cameras, pp. 174-175.
Special notice
VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price plus buyer's premium.
Further details
End of Sale

The next sales take place on:

4 July.
Leica Cameras. The John Patrick Duigenan Collection
5 September and 25 November 2006

Christie's will also be announcing a special sale of rare
spy and disguised cameras, the property of a collector shortly

For further information contact:
Michael Pritchard on +44 (0)20 7752 3279 or

Lot Essay

Thomas Sutton described his 'improvements in the construction of apparatus for taking photographic pictures' and 'an improved panoramic lens for taking photographic pictures' in British patent no. 2193 of 28 September 1859.

The camera

Sutton commissioned the London photographic and scientific instrument maker Frederick Cox to manufacture the camera that would carry the distinctive globe lens. The first model was produced taking 6 x 15 inch plates and in April 1860 a second model was produced made in two sizes for 3 x 7 inch and 10 x 25 inch negatives. By November it was being advertised in four sizes: 1¾ 3½ inches, 3 x 7½ inches, 4 x 10½ inches and 6 x 15 inches. Sutton noted that only five or six examples had been manufactured by Cox who was encountering difficulties in finding suitable glass for the lenses.

In January 1861 Sutton announced that Thomas Ross, the London optician and instrument maker, would take over the manufacture of the camera and lens. Ross purchased the rights to Sutton's patent in August 1861 and by November was advertising cameras in three sizes: 5 x 9 inches, 6 x 12 inches, and 8 x 16 inches. His first customer was the London society and studio photographer Camile Silvy who was to patent a roll holder for the camera in 1867.

The camera does not seem to have been advertised after 1862.

The lens

The first panoramic lenses based on Sutton's 1859 patent were built by Frederick Cox but by the beginning of May 1861 Thomas Ross had made his first panoramic lens which was a considerable improvement compared to the Cox version. The panoramic lens was the first significantly wide-angle lens to be offered for sale. Kingslake (p. 51) describes the technical properties of the lens: 'this was a monocentric design in which all the lens surfaces and the image surface were concentric about a single point in the middle of the lens. Such a system has no definite axis, and the axial and oblique images are identical and indistinguishable. No coma or astigmatism can possibly exist in such a lens'

Previously recorded lenses sold in these rooms, engraved T. Ross include numbers: 4 and 31

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