Lot 133 (Photographica, 28th October 2020)
An Ilford Witness Rangefinder Camera
Serial No: 5125
Body: F - one section of leatherette missing, otherwise G
Shutter: shutter sticking below 1/50th
Lens: Dallmeyer 50mm 2" f/1.9 Super-Six Anastigmat (388512) in Witness interrupted L39 screwmount
Optics: very light fungus and cleaning marks, otherwise VG
Notes: 1952, a very rare british camera, with the latest recorded Dallmeyer super-six 2" f/1.9 lens in this mount.
The Ilford Witness was initially a design exercise in 1945/47 by two German-Jewish refugees; ex-Leitz employee Robert Sternberg and ex-Zeiss employee Werner Julius Rothschild (often incorrectly stated as D.A.Rothschild). Thus, it incorporated attributes of both the Leica and Zeiss Ikon Contax rangefinder cameras. At this time, the Leica IIIC and Contax IIa cameras were just resuming production after WW2 and all new cameras were very scarce and expensive. In the late 1940's, SLR cameras were still under development and not in general use, so Leica and Contax 35mm rangefinders, Rolleiflex/Rolleicord roll film TLRs, and 5"x4" Speed Graphics were the photographic 'tools' of wealthy amateurs and serious photo-journalists. Sternberg and Rothschild approached Ilford in 1947 with their advanced 35mm rangefinder design. Ilford wanted to develop a range of cameras and thus agreed to manufacture the Witness.
Initial examples were manufactured by designer Rothschild's company, Northern Scientific Equipment Ltd (NSE) at Bark Street, Bolton, Lancashire. But NSE were unable to handle bulk production. Early examples were offered with a f2.9 Daron lens, also made by Rothschild's company. However, production delays set in when the camera went into mass manufacture and by the time the camera was truly available (1953), manufacture was being handled by Peto Scott Electrical Instruments. The standard lens was then the f1.9 Dallmeyer Super-Six. Its price in April 1953 was £121.16s.8d (£121.83p).