July 29, 2013 by darl0153
This Gnome Pixie camera is a small, almost cube like box camera (w.8cm x h.9cm x d.9cm) it has a metal body with a black enameled finish with chrome trim. It features a flip up sports finder on the top, with a simple film advancement knob on one side and a knob to lock the front and back halves together on the other. It has a fixed aperture with a single meniscus lens. A small lever on the front of the body allows you to select 2 shutter speeds, B (for Bulb – long exposures) and I (I’m assuming stands for Instant, giving a fast shutter speed). It takes 620 films producing twelve 6cm x 6cm images.
The Gnome Pixie was made in 1949. Gnome only made a few cameras, with the Gnome Pixie being one of the first ones they made There was also a couple of variations on the Pixie, a leatherette covering was added to o ne, and a more ‘luxurious’ Model II was also produced, featuring chrome edges around the front. Another variation was the Gnome Baby Pixie, a smaller version of the Pixie which produced 4.5x6cm negatives, and a final version made in 1951, the Gnome Pixie Flex, which saw the introduction of a reflex viewfinder and the repositioning of the shutter to the top of the body (I don’t have any of these in my collection yet, but when I do I’ll update this post). Gnome later released re-badged Adox Polo cameras.
Gnome was a photographic equipment manufacturers with it’s manufacturing roots set up before the war in Stuttgart, Germany by Heinrich Loebstein (b.1894 d.1977). His company made high quality equipment, mostly enlargers, slides viewers and projectors, and exported all over the world.
Loebstein, being Jewish, found himself under the threat of being placed in a concentration camp by the Nazis, so in 1938 he fled with his family to the UK, and settled in the Welsh town of Pontypridd where he re-set up his company at Treforest Industrial Estate (one of the first Industrial Estates in Britain). In 1940, just after the outbreak of WWII, a lot of the buildings on the estate were requisitioned by the Government and their occupants re-housed in makeshift buildings away from the estate. The Ministry of Aircraft Production took over the Gnome factory. Gnome relocated to Cardiff and after the war, moved to a new premisses on Caerphilly Road, Cardiff, where they stayed for many years and helped to popularize photography in the UK. By the 1960’s 80% of the enlargers sold in the UK were made by Gnome, also in the 60’s the company became a public company, selling 400,000 shares. By now, Loebstein had been able to re-purchase his old factory in Stuttgart, but only used it as storage for products exported to Germany. The company closed in 1994.
I liked the look of this camera, it was cute and boxey, and very simple and sleek in design, Ok it’s a little bit rusty here and there, but that adds to the character of the camera, well to me anyway. It was a bit of a pain to use though, the viewfinder proved pretty useless, so I didn’t bother with it, and the shutter lever was quite stiff (although this could be down to age) and I had to rest the camera on a wall or something to avoid camera shake when triggering the shutter (it also hurt the finger a bit as it’s just a small thin shard of metal)
I was putting up an exhibition of some of my work in a museum in Loughborough, so thought I’d run some film through it. The photos below are of the park, just outside the museum. I’ve only put the one roll trhough, I’m not too happy with the results, the focusing is very soft, and it was a bit fidly to use, so I’m not sure if I’ll use it again – although it is a nice looking camera, and being a camera produced in Wales is quite unusual (insert own Tom Jones Joke)