Ensign Selfix 16-20 medium format camera

This Ensign Selfix 16-20 camera is one which I managed to get quite cheaply because it was mis-advertised. The seller on eBay had listed it as ‘Epsilon Ensar Anastigmat Camera’ and there were just two pictures, but by looking carefully at the pictures I could see that the camera was a Selfix 16-20 which I knew would be worth more than the £8.71 I eventually paid for it.

Ensign Selfix 16-20 Images

My Ensign Selfix 16-20 Camera

When I received the camera I found that it is mostly in nice workable condition. The bellows, which are always likely to be the weak point with vintage folding cameras, are light tight and don’t have any cracks or damaged folds. All the functions on the shutter work nicely and the linkage to the shutter release button on the camera is also aligned and intact.

When I first pressed the lens cover release there was a bit of hesitation as the lens popped out and I needed to help it, but after a few more releases, and a touch of grease on the mechanism, it now pops out with some force and the struts lock into place.

The bodywork also seems to be in good condition with the black covering still stuck down in most places, just a little peeling on the top plate.

The only area of damage is on the viewfinder front where the metal has some rubbing on the surface. There is also a touch of rust on the rings at the bottom of the camera where the reel holders push out, but I think this will polish away with a bit of work.

The one issue I found was that the window in the back cover, which is used to see the frame number as the film is advanced, has a problem with the red filter. As the small metal window is opened the red filter also moves slightly and allows light it to the camera. Since 120 film has backing paper that probably doesn’t matter, but I took the pressure plate off the camera and had a look at fixing it anyway.

It turned out to be a relatively simple fix, the red window just needed to be re-glued into the back of the cover. As it was all apart I added a touch of grease to the sliding door, and it now moves easily.

Ensign Selfix 16-20 description

There were several models of the selfix 16-20 made – this is the first model and was made about 1950.

As the name suggests, this camera uses 120 film and will take 16 pictures of 6cm x 4.5cm. This makes the camera a portrait orientation camera when held in the normal way with the viewfinder at the top, although there is a fold out foot on the lens cover so the camera can be easily stood in landscape mode.

The shutter fitted is an Epsilon 4 speed shutter with speeds from 1/300 down to 1/25 and also features a B and T setting. Although the shutter release is triggered from a button on the top panel, the shutter has to be cocked using the small lever on the top of the shutter.

Quite often with these type shutters there is a requirement to cock the shutter before setting the speed, or not to cock the shutter. I can’t find any instruction either way with this camera but I use the rule that you don’t force anything and you will be ok. I haven’t found that this shutter requires force to set the speed either way so I assume it isn’t important with this design.

The lens fitted is a 75mm Ensar with an aperture range from f/4.5 to f/22 and focus scale from infinity to 4 1/2 feet. I did a quick search on flickr for some sample pictures and found a few which looked pretty well defined and with nice contrast. I’m hoping my example is as good as those and I’ve loaded a roll of FP4+ to take some sample pictures.

Something which does strike  you when handling this camera is just how small it is considering it’s a medium format camera. It can easily fit into a coat pocket and isn’t really very heavy either.

Ensign Selfix 16-20 specs

  • Ensign selfix 16-20 120 film folding camera
  • 4 speed Epsilon shutter
  • 75mm Ensar lens
  • f/4.5 to f/22
  • Flash sync socket
  • Cable release socket
  • Tripod bush on bottom of camera and on lens cover
  • Stand on lens cover
  • Quick release button for lens release
  • Portrait mode viewfinder
  • 16 pictures 6cm x 4.5cm
  • Small and Light when folded
  • Ser No 3883
  • Manual for version II of the Selfix 16-20 (very similar)

7 Replies to “Ensign Selfix 16-20 medium format camera”

  1. All of these 40s and 50s Ensign cameras, in 4.5×6, 6×6, and 6×9, are worth trying. They all feel as though they were carved out of a block of steel; heavy and rugged.
    And all are good picture-takers, even with the less expensive lenses. Just a guess, but I think they do a better job at keeping the film flat than other cameras.
    In my experience the earlier Ensigns, from the 20s and 30s, are spidery and flexible, like all of their competition, and less rewarding to use.

  2. I loved using my 16-20 and I like to use it again however, I have found that modern Ilford 120 film the numbering on the backing paper does not register with the red window. Is that common with all modern 120 film

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