The Fellsphoto Vintage 6x9 Gallery

    the beautiful French Pontiac Bloc-Metal 45

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     Pontiac Bloc Metal 45 camera


1952 Modele 45A taking 620 film

lens:  Som Berthiot "Flor" 1:4,5/105 mm

shutter:  Gitzo "Zotic I"  1/25-1/200th + B

Modèle 2 - last model in the Bloc 45 series

aluminium body - coated lens - Galileo optical viewfinder

 depth of field disc - flash shoe - shutter release button retracts on closure

Pontiac logo


 on this example the 1/25th & 1/50th are very lethargic and the 1/100th, 150th & 1/250th are all the same: roughly 1/100th second


The following is taken from the description on shutterbug.
I cannot possibly better it, so include it here:

It is important to remember all this when considering the very French Pontiac Bloc-Métal 45, introduced in 1945 as a replacement for the Bloc-Métal 41 (of ’41), itself a vast improvement on the original Bakelite Pontiac of ’38. The “Bloc-Métal” name referred to the solid metal construction. Despite the name and the date of introduction, actual production for sale seems not to have started until ’46.

The entire life span of the Pontiac’s manufacturer MFAP, the Manufacture Française d’Appareils Photo, seems to have been well under 20 years, from its foundation by M. Laroche in ’38 to its closure some time in the ’50s; possibly as early as ’52.

Not without reason, the Bloc-Métal 45 is often regarded as the most beautiful of all folding cameras, not least by the French themselves—who, incidentally, use the term “un-folding” for what we call a folder. Constructed from cast aluminium alloy, it really does look gorgeous, especially if you polish it up with Solvol Autosol to remove the dull gray oxidation of at least half a century: the last 6x9 Pontiacs seem to have been made in ’52, though 35mm cameras from the same company may have survived a little longer.

The elegantly sculpted top plate is its most striking feature, with its integral accessory shoe and rotating depth of field scale. If you don’t believe that an accessory shoe can be a thing of beauty, all I can say is, look at the Pontiac. But the 45 is a harmonious whole, from the curved folding leg on the front panel or bed (which doubles as the lock) to the shutter bezel, the black-and-aluminium detailing on the exterior, the red-filled engraving on the spring-loaded carrying handle, and of course the chrome self-erecting struts.

A particularly elegant detail that I do not recall seeing on any other camera is a retracting body release on the top plate. When the camera is folded, it is flush with the top plate. Open the door, and the button rises to the operating position; close it, and it disappears again. Another delightful detail is what appears to be a storage clip for a cable release, complete with swivelling cap, inside the base plate.

The whole thing is a series of nicely finished die castings: the body, the top plate, the back door, the bellows bed, even the handle, the sliding catch for the back door, and the flip catch for the bellows bed. The bellows are mitre-corner black leather and the red window for the film advance is guarded by an internal, spring-loaded shutter, so you have to push a button on the back to see the numbers when you are winding on. This is of course a safeguard against light strike through the backing paper with the increasingly super-speed panchromatic emulsions of the day, some as fast as ISO 200 equivalent. Intriguingly, the winding knob is engraved “Made in France” (in English), which shows the importance attached to the export market.

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Mention of history, of course, demands the question, why Pontiac? Well, Pontiac or Obwandiyag (c. 1720-1769) was an Ottawa chief who allied himself with the French against the English, but it seems more likely that M. Laroche just liked Pontiac cars and regarded them as the epitome of modern styling and affordable excellence.

The history of the company itself is also interesting. MFAP was one of the few French beneficiaries of the German occupation, which forbade the founding of new optical companies in occupied France. This allowed M. Laroche to bring out his new all-metal camera model in ’41, and essentially gave him a free run for the next few years. He even advertised himself as the leading French manufacturer of cameras: this was probably true during World War II.

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Sylvain Halgand shows us the instruction manual in French

a Pontiac collection can be seen here
(although note that he incorrectly lists them as using 120 film)

Pontiac Lynx advert

another here

to read the full shutterbug illustrated text click here



although the writer is using the earlier '41' model, I like this, and his thoughts seem so appropriate and worthy of being included here:

Pontiac Bloc Metal 41: The Irrestible Charm Of A Folding Camera

written by vicuna on February 5th, 2009

"I finally went out shooting with this beauty and it’s really another photographic sensation! I chose a Lucky SDH 100 film (wanted a cool b&w vintage mood… ;) and it’s very easy to use, but I had the impression to reproduce the gesture of ancient times, and thought about the people who used this camera before me. I thought that this was what I like with old cameras, it’s the spirit of the past, and all former users of this camera, had left something in it, and now it’s my turn to use it and put my emotions in the pictures I take. How many people could have own this camera since the 2nd world war and what kind of pictures the lens had seen and taken before? That’s the sense of history, and the cameras are the witnesses changing hands and times, but the memory of the past is there!
And the people are really wondering when they see such a camera. I heard a mother telling her young son who was playing with a little digital camera: “Look, that’s a very old camera, that’s how the people took pictures a long time ago…”

thumbnail: Pontiac Bloc-Metal 41

the full article with slideshow can be read here




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this page launched 8th March 2010  :   last modified 1st Oct 2011