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The Bear Photo Service Box Camera and Developing Ilford Pan F Plus 50

Bear Photo Service
Bear Service Box Camera

The Bear Photo Service Camera is a box camera made by Ansco Company in the 1940’s. There isn’t much info out there about this camera, so I have not found a definitive date for this camera. It is based on the Ansco B2 Cadet model, but this version was specially made for the Bear Photo Service Company in San Francisco. Other specialty versions were made such as the Texas Centennial.

Front plate of the Bear Photo Service camera

A Little History

Ansco Started out in 1842 as the E. Anthony Company until it merged with Scovill Manufacturing to become Ansco. Then after almost going bankrupt, Ansco merged with the German company Agfa in 1928 to become Agfa-Ansco.

During World War II, the company’s U. S. location was taken over by the United States government for its ties with Germany. Their film Anscochrome was a great competitor to Kodachrome at the time for its greater speed and its ability to be developed in home dark rooms.

The Specs

The Bear Photo Service, like the Agfa-Ansco Cadet B2 model, has one shutter speed and a time setting when you pull out the bar above the shutter button. The lens is fixed focus, and the subject must be at least 4 feet away to be in focus.

It has two ground glass viewfinders, one for portrait mode and one for landscape.

Side of the camera
Top of the camera

The camera takes eight 6 x 9 pictures on a roll of 120 film. The shutter is said to be 1/60th of a second and there are no options to change the aperture. The aperture is around f/11.

My Experience

I bought this camera back when I started collecting vintage cameras purely for decoration. I remember it being hard to find one of these in good condition.

Just as I did with the Kodak Brownie Target Six-16, I tested this camera out with some Lomography redscale film from my fridge at first to see if it had any issues. I took it to my local cemetery to take some test shots.

The ground glass viewfinders were a little bit dim, but that was the only issue I had. The advance lever was smooth unlike a lot of other box cameras I have tried.

The shutter button was a little bit clunky. I had to push it down and then pull it back up to close. I don’t know if mine is a little stiff, or if that is the way it was made to work. I know some of the older box cameras worked this way. Either way, it did not affect my pictures.

Since the Covid-19 stay at home order, it has been difficult to get my film developed. So I decided to take this opportunity to finally learn how to develop my own black and white film from home. I used the Film Photography Project kit that I received for Christmas, which I will be reviewing in a later article.

I shot my second roll in this camera with Ilford Pan F Plus 50 film. I chose a slow speed film to match the slow shutter on the camera.

The kit comes with FPP76 developer, which is Film Photography Projects smaller version of Kodak D76 developer. It also comes with an FPP Fixer. I bought some Ilford Washaid, Ilford Stop Bath, and some Kodak Photo Flo to add to the kit.

Ilford Pan F Plus 50

I bought an app called Massive Development Chart for $8.99 to make things easier. It lets you choose the film and developer you are using, and then populates a timed recipe for you to follow. It even tells you when to stop and start agitating. This really helped me stay organized so that I could mix chemicals in between agitations.

Ilford Pan F Plus 50
Ilford Pan F Plus 50

I really enjoy the developing process. I have been in a lot of pain lately and have had numbness down the left side of my body, so it has been difficult shooting pictures and difficult sitting through the developing process. It has been very frustrating, but learning this new skill has been such a motivation for me to keep going.

Ilford Pan F Plus 50
Ilford Pan F Plus 50

I scanned the negatives on my Epson V800. I am still getting used to using this scanner. It doesn’t really come with instructions, so I still don’t know how to set the negative holder to focus correctly. There are sliders on the holder to adjust how far your negatives will sit from the scanner glass in order to focus it correctly. I played around with different settings but still can’t seem to see a difference. If you have any advice for me in this area, please feel free to leave them in the comments.

Final Thoughts

I have shot with a few box cameras so far, and this one was the most enjoyable to operate. While they all are uncomplicated and simple, I have run into different issues, such as the advance lever being too hard to turn, or the film reel falling off of the lever as I turned to the next frame. I didn’t have that issue with this camera.

For more info, and to see how to load film into this camera, please watch my video below, and until next time, stay motivated and keep shooting.

9 thoughts on “The Bear Photo Service Box Camera and Developing Ilford Pan F Plus 50

  1. I’ve developed many rolls of BnW and so far had two (2) disasters. The first one – OK it was not so much to do with developing. It was a roll of Svema (Soviet film) expired in the late 1980s. I had overexposed it as everyone recommends for expired film, but even so the negatives turned out completely fogged. I guess it was simply too far past expiry, or had been stored badly or something. But later I learned there are ways to minimise this risk, such as using benzotriazole as an anti-fogging agent, or doing clip tests before developing (and potentially ruining) the whole roll. Luckily there were no valuable photos in the roll, because I knew about the risk beforehand.

    The second one – my friend and I were trying to develop BnW slide film in the kitchen while there was a party going on in my living room (both of us have developed lots of negatives but this was our first time with slides). We got distracted and poured in chemicals in the wrong order which ruined the entire roll. There were some good photos there 🙁

      1. Nice results! If you’re careful, you can avoid calamity. I must have developed well over 100 rolls of film, and never had a disaster (yet!!) If you keep a close eye on timings, volumes and temperatures, there’s nothing much to it :o)

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