Photorevolver - (Aleksander Karoli)

After introduction of hand-held Konrad Brandel's camera, Aleksander Karoli’s constructed his own design of reporter camera. At the time it was called “Photorevolver”.

Fotorewolwer used glass plates 9 x 12 cm, and it was equipped with magazine cassette able to hold a couple of these. In comparison to Konrad Brandl’s camera it has been installed with shutter and focusing screen, that allowed to adjust different light exposure times.


KA  /10 - earlier model

KA / 20 -  later model - (1891) with new version of shutter

Model name
 Photorevolver (fotorewolwer)
Type Hand held, magazine camera
Film Glass plates 9 x 12 cm
Years of production Approx.  1888 - (1891)
Body ?
Obiektyw ?
Shutter Able to set two different exposure times
R - RETARD – exposure time "long"
A - AVANCE – exposure time "short"
Sights Frame
Focus On focusing screen, with magnifying glass used for precise focusing, distance setting scale
Price (1890) 85 silver ruble

Aleksander Karoli’s cameras could be bought in Warsaw in 1888, after five years after introduction of Konrad Brandl’s design in 1883.

Back then, it was advertised as photorevolver (magazine camera) with shutter inside lens of very simple and practical design, that could be held in hand while taking photographs, but most importantly it was capable of competing with the best foreign cameras - when taking fast, yet accurate photographs.

A detailed description and image of the Alexander Karoli’s camera was featured in the guide by Engr. J. Bohdanowicz - Poradnik fotografii dla amatorów - published in Warsaw in 1891.


 Bohdanowicz’s guide includes detailed description "borrowed from the inventors printed manual".

"The picture shows camera from the side perspective, as well as, back view with open magazine and removed cartridge "PP" containing plates (format 9 x 12 cm). In Picture marked with "A" there are two sights (first one is tilted downwards, the other slides back into camera) "CC" – they both are used to take precise aim. "O" – lens, "M" handle for pulling shutter, "m" crank regulating speed of shutter, "S" scale with numbers attached to cartridge "PP," "S" number adjustable latch. "GG" end of the scope, which moves inner mechanism holding ground glass, and is designed to enter the film (before exposure) where the ground glass was, at the same time securing other film ready to develop.
 "D" sliding hatch, through which we point magnifier to observe ground glass and image of the object on which the camera is pointing. Focusing of focal length is done by shifting the lens, and at the same time observing ground glass through magnifier pointed through "D" sliding hatch. In order to set focal length with greater accuracy there are already prepared shaped holes marked with according numbers, which stand for 5, 10, 25 and 50 m. (…) "m" crank should be set to option "R" (retard) when taking photos of slow moving objects, in dim light or when using less sensitive photographic film. "A" (avance) is used for: fast moving objects, when in fair light, or when using highly sensitive film. Shutter setting is done by turning "M" handle towards arrow symbol. Half of turn is enough to make shutter ready to take picture, to open it wide quarter of a turn is required.
Developing of a sharp photography depends on many factors like:  quality of film, reagents, skill of a person in photography developing, use of diaphragm, right setting of shutter drop speed and what is most important the camera mustn’t shake when taking a photo. This condition applies to all hand-held cameras. Even breath or slight shake of a hand is enough to develop blurred image, which becomes highly probable when shutter is set to slow drop speed."

 At the end of the description Aleksander Karoli mentions his camera advantages:
1. No cassettes or separate plate containers
2. Ample supply of plates,
3. Easiness at which plates are inserted ,
4. Speed and easiness, at which comes removing of exposed film, without the danger of overexposure
5. Exceptional lens,
6. Original shutter construction - despite fast drop speed it doesn’t shake
7. Easy to hold,
8. Simple design ensures durability and prevents deterioration.


  In 1890 A. Karoli’s photorevolver cost 85 silver rubles

Advertisement included in the weekly Wędrowiec on 17 August 1890.

Aleksander Karoli manual describes advantages of photorevolver cameras as follows:
"Hand-held fotorewolwer cameras are widely used by amateur photographers, but only artists can appreciate most of the benefits that come from using it. It can “stop” time for certain moments and essentially be a convenient sketchbook.
Commonly used plate size for this camera is 9 x 12 cm (sometimes smaller). Use of 13 x 18 cm plates would be impossible, because it would increase size and weight of camera. Cameras of this type contain double cassettes, but most efficient are those with cartridges; they already have greater amount of emulsion plates available, either on glass, paper or photographic film.
Camera uses mechanism to move plates, first they are taken out of the cartridge and exposed, and then taken back into cartridge replaced with another clear plate.
Lens should be the adjusted to pass most of the light, since plate size is small and lenses are of relatively short focus. Camera doesn’t require to set bellows, it has permanent box construction. Setting of the variable distances is done by pulling out lens, which have a scale for images at 10, 25, 50, 100 meters.
Setting of focus is done by assessing the distance with trial and error method, or using a suitable ground glass, prism instrument, or finally, with a mirror and a lens that should show reduced reflection (...).
Shutter is installed inside camera, it has a very fast drop speed that doesn’t cause any shake, and it can be regulated to adjust the amount of light it passes etc. (...)
There are many well-thought-out, hand-held cameras, but only few that have a practical design.
While using a hand-held camera following conditions should be restricted:
1.Negative (glass, film or paper) should be highly sensitive. Later, film developing is going to take much less time.
2. Taking of photographs should be done in nice weather. Taking good photos of close, fast moving objects is done by setting shutter to fastest drop speed, and in bright light.
3. The further, the easier it is to take photograph of fast moving objects, even if objects are moving slantwise to the camera position.
4. When taking a picture the photographer should stay still, same rules apply when using firearms.

Aleksander Karoli "Podręcznik dla fotografów i amatorów fotografii"  Kraków 1893

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