New ground glass focusing screen for my Burke & James 4×5 Press Camera

I’ve recently acquired a rather large collection of cameras and various bits of gear from well-known New Mexico writer and photographer Ken Cobean’s estate. His son, Sam Cobean was kind enough to let me appraise his dad’s collection and we’ve since struck a deal for me to purchase it.

One of the cameras in the collection is this very nice Burke & James Press camera (pictured below) from the late 1940s to early 1950s (I haven’t nailed down the exact date of this particular camera as of this post). It may turn out to be a mid-fifties camera and lens set after a tad more research.


4×5 inch large format press camera. Equipped with a Wollensak Rapax Syncromatic shutter with speeds from 1 to 1/200th of a second plus ‘B’ and ‘T’.

The lens is a Wollensak 162mm f/4.5 coated Raptar Series II (Tessar type) made about 1950 or 1951. In 4×5 large format photography, a 162mm focal length lens is considered to be equivalent to a ‘normal’ 55mm lens in 35mm photography.


The ‘C’ with the ‘W’ inside it (in red) indicates that the lens is ‘Wocoted’ or simply has a Wocote coating on all lens surfaces. This lens was produced between 1947 to 1972.

After installing a new custom made ground glass focusing screen I decided to give it a test run in the studio. My Yashica LM proved to be an appropriate subject.


The revolving back on the B&J Press was rotated to take advantage of the verticle nature of the shot. I’m quite pleased with the results.


My ‘studio’ set up. The press camera is in the dark on the lower right.


The original ground glass in the press camera has seen better days.

Thanks for stopping by and have a great day! – Chris

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