The five lots on these facing pages represent the principal manufacturers of mass-produced British cameras throughout the twentieth century: Houghton-Butcher/Ensign, the Amalgamated Photographic Manufacturers Ltd., the Coronet Camera Company and Kodak Ltd.
In the pre-1914 period Houghtons, Butchers and their associated companies were the principal manufacturers and importers of cameras. Houghtons claimed that they were the largest photographic manufacturers in the United Kingdom and their products ranged from cheap box and folding cameras to better quality professional apparatus. Houghton's Walthamstow manufacturing premises were fully fitted to produce all types of camera and their acquisition of smaller companies had given them access to more specialist manufacturing including, through Austin Edwards, rollfilms and sensitised goods. The firm was well placed to meet the rise of cheaper imports, mainly from Germany, but as early as circa 1905 Houghtons and Butchers were combining forces to produce goods. Butchers, especially, was already importing cameras from Germany which they re-badged under their own trade names.
The first world war exacerbated the situation and in 1915 Houghtons and Butchers combined their manufacturing more formally when they established British Photographic Industries Ltd. The company went public in 1920 and were fully combined in 1926. In 1921 the merging of several of Britain's other major photographic manufacturers, both equipment and sensitised goods, took place under the A.P.M. name, and included Marion & Co. who used the Soho tradename and A. Kershaw and Sons of Leeds who produced cameras, notably reflex cameras, for Marion (as the Soho Reflex), Ross and others. These attempts to meet foreign competition failed to tackle the root cause of the problem: innovative products at a reasonable cost. Most British companies had continued with their pre-war range of cameras with some updating but had failed to develop, for example, 35mm. cameras and with a few notable exceptions a range of precision, quality, cameras to meet the competition from the German Zeiss Ikon combine. Other British companies such as the Coronet Camera Company which was established circa 1926 produced a large range of mass-produced cheap amateur cameras.
Kodak, meanwhile, had entered camera production in Britain in 1927 producing amateur box and folding cameras principally as a means of encouraging the sales of their film. It also had the advantage of being able to take advantage of designs produced in Rochester and Toronto.
The British industry enjoyed a short renaissance after the second world war when import and price controls allowed new firms to flourish. The removal of these controls in the 1950s finally allowed foreign competitors to enter the British camera market on equal terms and effectively spelt the death knell of the Britis camera industry. Further consolidation of companies and a move down market via mass-production failed to meet this challenge, or, even more importantly, customers expectations.