Camera glossary

Camera hardware glossary

The world first ever complete illustrated terminology table for technical camera terms, edited to help the budding camera collector. 

110 Cartridge 110 film cartridgeFilm format developed by Kodak for pocket cameras. same concept as the 126 cartridges, but smaller format – 13x17mm. 
126 Cartridge See Instamatic below. A drop-in film cartridge by Kodak, image size 26.5×26.5mm
35mm film casetteAlso Kodak 135 – perforated 35mm film in a cassette, accepting images 24mm x 36mm. Most popular format before the untimely death of film. See other film formats. The format was based on movie 35mm format and gone mainstream in mid 20’s with the Leicas. A further push came after WWII, with the surplus of raw films and manufacturing capacity.
Immortalized by Kodak with the 135 cassettes.  
44 or 4×4 or Forty Four or baby,  describes camera using film format 127, to capture 4cm x 4cm image sizes.   
67 or 6×7, describes a camera using film format 120 or 220 or 620, to capture 6cm x 7cm image sizes. 
66 or 6×6 or Sixty Six, as above but 6cm x 6 cm images.
828 35mm paper backed film rolls, non-perforated. 
Accessory shoe Accessory shoeReceptacle commonly on top of the camera, to accept eternal accessories.
Advanced Photo System APS film cartridgeAPS – a prepacked, easy load film cassette introduced mid 90’s for faster load in compact cameras. Slightly smaller format than the 135. Nicknamed ‘Amateur Photo System’. Image size 30.2×16.7mm.
AE Automatic exposure cameraAutomatic exposure. Where the camera’s processor calculates the best combination of aperture opening and shutter speed.
Aperture camera apartureThe opening in the lens, size of which is controlled by the photographer.
Aperture Priority Aperture priority camera settingExposure mode where aperture unchanged and shutter speed varies.
Autographic Kodak autographic camera Kodak early invention allowing the photographer to add handwritten data to film using a stylus. Just like a tablet, just a century earlier. 
Baby Common name for a camera using 4×4 format on 127 rolls. 
Bantam Also 828. A small format introduced by Kodak in mid 30’s. A 28x40mm, primarily for the amateur photographer market. was overshadowed by the more successful 35mm. 
Baseboard camera Baseboard cameraIn early large full format camera – where front and back parts mounted on a baseboard.
Bed folder bed folder camera - folding bedLarger folding cameras, where front board folds open for the lens assembly to slide on.
Bellows Camera bellowesPleated leather (sometimes other material) accordion-like, used as a spacer between lens and camera body. Meant to allow for large focal length for shooting and fold back for carrying.
Between the lens shutter Camera shutter mounted between the lens elementsShutter mounted within the elements of the lens barrel. Used in compact cameras, limits the maximum opening.
Bolta Paper backed, non-perforated 35mm film, introduced by Bolta camera makers. Similar to 828.    
Box camera box cameraSimple, at the time popular, no-frills box-like camera.
Brassing Brassing on a camera bodyExposure of the underlying body metal under the coating or paint. Found in much-used cameras or poor quality ones.
Bulb mode, ‘B’ Bulb mode on a cameraB setting – where shutter remains open as long as pressed. Reminisce of days that shutters were operated by a rubber bulb.
Bulk back bulk film backCamera back containing more film than regular configuration.
Bumps Camera body bumps - Leitz bumpsWhere leather cover streaches and evantually show underneath screws position.
Cable release shutter cable releaseAccessory for remote shutter operation. A metal mesh tube containing a cable. Used to eliminate shaking with long exposures or normal shooting in large handheld cameras.
Cartridge, drop in cartridge Film drop-in cartridgePre-sealed film container for fast, safe, and easy loading. 
Cassette film casetteSee cartridge. A term commonly used with 35mm film.
Cds cds light meterCadmium Sulfide light sensitive (Cell). Used in early light meters or on camera bodies. Require power source.
Changing bag film changing bagA lightproof bag allowing to fiddle within the camera – change film or so. 
Cleaning Marks lens cleaning marksLens imperfections caused by improper cleaning.
Cloudy Lens claudy lensDamaged lens due to fungi or elements separation.
CLA sledgehammerClean, lubricate, adjust. Short for camera service.
Coated lens coated camera lensSame as on eyeglasses – coating to avoid glare.
Compact camera Kleinbildkamera, compact cameraDefinition introduced with the early 35mm cameras. Anything smaller than medium size camera.
Compound lens lens element, compound lenseLens assembled of several elements.
Converter camera lense converterExtra lens mounted between the body and the regular lens, to extend the focal length.
Coupled Rangefinder coupled rangefinderA rangefinder that works in concert with lens, where lens focuses per distance set by the viewer.
Crazing lens crazingWhen lens elements disintegrates. Shows like a web of tiny crack marks.
CRF crf - coupled rangefinderSee Coupled Rangefinder
CS, BV CVTranslating from Russian – V is B and S is C, which is confusing in specifying names.
Cut Film cut filmEarly term where film replaced glass plates, using cut to size film sheets.
Daguerreotype DaguerreotypeThe very first camera system introduced mid 1800’s. Images were taken on coated copper sheets. Named after creator – Louis Daguerre. Read more about Daguerreotype.
Dark mask Image00001Also dark slide. Used with replaceable camera backs to protect the unprocessed film from exposure.  
Daylight Daylight film replacing cameraEarly term – camera that allows loading film in daylight.
DBGM DBP DBGM DBP1Found on vintage Rollies. Not a model. DBGM means ‘registered patent’, and DBP stands for ‘German State’. In pre-WWII there is DRP instead of DBP.
Dents and dings camera dents and dingsVisible damage marks on the camera body.
Detective Camera Detective camera1. Early boxy portable cameras. 2. early cameras disguised as being not cameras. This refers to an era where a portable camera was as big as a modern microwave oven, so disguise was a tad iffy.
Diaphragm diaphragm-aperturesLike a human pupil, accessory that opens and closes to control light getting to film.
Disk film Disk film formatA short-lived film format introduced by Kodak shich made little sense. A flat camera the size  of a square deck of cards, using a ‘daisy wheel’ disk. Images were too small for quality prints and needed specialized processing.  Image size 13x17mm. 
Drop Bed Camera Drop Bed CameraSee baseboard camera – wood contraption where the front wall drops to expose the lens.
Drop in loading drop in film loadingModern film loading where cartridge or cassette is dropped into the body and an available mechanism does the actual loading.
Duplex triplex cameraWhere camera bellows expand to double the standard focal length.
DX DX index filmDigital Index. Similar to bar-code, markings on the film cartridge so sensors reads the film speed and adjust camera settings accordingly.
EE electric eye cameraElectric Eye. Term used with early integral light meters.
Element A single element lens or part of a compounded lens.
Etui Etuie cameraLiterally trinkets case. Small ornamental camera. Term used by different manufacturers.
Exposure meter light meterLight meter.
Extension bellows Extension bellowsA set of bellows inserted between the camera and the lens, to enable close up images.
Extension tubes Extension tubeSee Extension bellows.
Eye line view eyeline view cameraA simple camera with a viewfinder. Similar to box camera but with a straight view instead of the prism viewers.
f/ Stop f Stop simulationFactor describing the ratio of the aperture opening and the lens’ focal length. Written as either f 1:4.5 or f 4.5
Falling plate See folding bed.
Field camera Field cameraUsed to define a luggable camera, lighter than the large and heavy wood structures. Could be taken out by one person rather than a pair of mules.
Film back Film backRemovable back section of the camera, mainly medium format, to enable mid-roll film change.
Film holder Cut film holder.dark slide
Film speed film speed Marked on film and on auto camera bodies. In early time each film
manufacturer had own scale. Later all were dropped in favour of the DIN and AS
A. DIN –  
Deutsche Industrienorm – German Industrial Standard was common in Europe. ASA – American Standard Association was common in the Americas. For practical purposes, all films and cameras carried both markings. Film speed – in DIN an increment of three represented double the speed, while in ASA double the value is double the film speed.  DIN 21 = ASA 100, DIN 24 = ASA 200 and so on.   
Filter camera lens filterA polished glass disc mounted to the front end of the lenses. Either via matching thread or through an adaptor accessory.
Fixed focus fix focus cameraCamera or lens that is not adjustable to different distances. From say 3′ to infinity.
Flash sync Synchronization between shutter and flash. X sync was used for small and fast flashbulbs and later for electronic flash guns. M sync was used for large and slower flashbulbs.
Focal length Measurement between films location and the optical middle of the lens when set to infinity. Term specified on the lens such as 50mm.
Focal plane Camera lens focal PlaneThe film surface location in the camera. Marked on camera body if needs exact measuring. 
Focal plane shutter focal plane shutterShutter mounted in front of the focal plane, where a two-part cloth or metal screen passes by the focal plane, so the opening between the two yeilds the exposure.
Focusing cloth focusing clothIn old, large cameras, a body bag size cloth cover where the photographer disappears in.
Folder Folder cameraWhere lens assembly folds back into the camera body for ease of carrying. Most cases a bellows camera.
Fungus Fungus lensOrganic mould growing within the camera. Can be cleaned off the body, but could permanently damage the lens. Can be seen with shining light through the lens, as a thin layer of a spider web.
Glass camera lensLens
Ground glass back Ground Glass BackGG back – a glass back replacing the film / plate back, used for image composition.
Half-frame Half-frame formatA camera which format is 18×24 on 35mm film. This is the original format of 35mm film as movie stock. When the 24×36 format was promoted by the Leica, it was originally known as double-frame, and half-frame was known as single-frame.
Hammertone Hammertone finish on a cameraPaint finish used on some camera models.
Hand camera Hand cameraEarly cameras were large and heavy and were mounted on a matching stand. Hand cameras could be carried around. Don’t think of an iPhone, think more of a briefcase.
Hit Hit cameraA miniature camera class, was popular in Japan after WWII. Not much of a camera, but a must in any collection.  
Hot shoe Hot shoeSame as the accessory shoe, but with electrical contacts used to fire a synchronized flash gun.
Hummel number Hummel numberCataloguing system by Richard Hummel. The image is Hunmel figurine, an all different Hummel.
Instamatic Camera class introduced in the 60’s by Kodak, later licensed or copied by others. Simplicity was the key, from loading, operating and using a flash. The film was stored in a sealed, ready to use, foolproof Kodapak cartridges; a name that had never caught up, better known as  the 126 format. The East German manufacturers came out with a short-lived version of same. 
Instant return mirror Instant return mirrorIn modern SLR cameras, the system that lifts the viewing mirror for picture taking, and drops it back thereafter. Source of the typical ‘clack’.
Interchangeable lens Interchangeable lensIn mid-range to high-end cameras lens can be replaced with another per required use. Different mounts available, some popular, some less so. 
Jumelle Literally “twin’. Used to describe camera with a protruding lens enclosure, similar to binoculars. 
Kadlubek number Kadlubek NumberA camera catalogue by Gunther Kadlubek et al. Out of print, used copies outrageously priced.
Klapp Klapp cameraGerman for folding, pliant in French. Folding camera. Here used in slightly different connotation. 
Kleinbildkamera Kleinbild kameraLiterally ‘small pictures camera’. A term used when 35 mm format was introduced, compared to the common larger images and equipment at the time.
Large format large format cameraEarly cameras format, a fluid term. Today anything larger than a medium format, which in turn is anything larger than 35mm.
Leaf shutter Leaf ShutterCommonly mounted between the lens elements. Spring-loaded metal leaves open and close.
Leica copy Leica CopyThe Leica camera was a major breakthrough in both size, design and technology. It was promptly copied by other manufacturers in Europe, Japan and the US. See a list of Leica clones.
Lens mount Lens mountThe adapter plate connecting an interchangeable lens barrel to the camera body. There are some that became a common standard, while other remain proprietary.
Macro lens Macro lensLens that enables taking close up images.
Magazine Magazine back1. Film back. 2. A cartridge holding ready to use film, to be inserted into the camera.
Magicube MagicubeLittle blue plastic cube, about 1″ square,  fires four flashes. Was developed for the Kodak Instamatic line. Not the one used for cooking. 
Medium format Medium film FormatCamera using film format smaller than large format and larger than 35mm. Last popular sizes were 127 and later 120, and their respective cousins.
In early photography days, prints were made via contact, so 4.5×6 cm, 6×6 cm or 6×9 cm formats were convenient, easy on the eye. These were derived from 120 or 620 rolls, 6 cm wide. The obvious benefit was having more images on a given roll.
4×4 cm format on #127 film was introduced later but lost popularity when the 35mm took over.  
Mid-roll change kettleMRC. Removing film half way and inserting again later. Was available in some older cameras and later with APS cartridges. Do not have a suitable image. 
Miniature camera Miniature CameraIn the 20’s, with the introduction of the 35mm class cameras, anything this size was classified as a miniature. When the compact cameras became mainstream, anything smaller than a compact is miniature. There is no clear line where a compact becomes miniature and where it becomes subminiature. See a list of mini cameras
Mirror lens Mirror lensA long distance shooting lens, where a concave mirror is built into the barrel, just like large telescopes. Used to get long focus in a small barrel.
MOJ MOJ marking on a cameraMade in Occupied Japan. Marking on cameras made just after WWII.
Monorail camera Monorail cameraStudio large format cameras, mounted on a bear for ease of use.
Motor drive camera motor driveExternal motor accessory mounted on the camera body to wind the film after each exposure or to fire several shots in a row.
Mount register value The distance between the lens mount to the focal plane. Not the same as the focal length. 
Multi-coating coated lensCoating on the different lens elements, different coating per element.
Non coupled rangefinder Uncoupled Rangefinder1. An integral rangefinder that does not change the lens’ focus. 2. A separate accessory mounted on the shoe to measure distance.
Ø – Diameter symbol Dia sign, filter sizeDiameter of the filter thread size.
Omega Omega class cameraClass of press cameras designed in the US and made by Konica and Mamiya.
Ordinary Pinhole CameraAnother term for daylight camera, where media loading could be done in daylight.
Panoramic camera Panoramic cameraCamera taking wide pictures, via extra wide angle lens or by lens movement panning the view.
Parallax error  In camera terms the difference between what the eye sees in the viewer and what the lens captures. A non-issue with reflex cameras.
PB20 Agfa branded 620 roll film packages. 
PC socket PC socket cameraIn the pre hot shoe era, flash firing commands were sent via a wire connected to dedicated port on the camera body. PC stands for standard Prontor / Compur shutter connection. Today used for smart lighting accessories. 
PD16 Agfa branded 616 roll film packages. 
Pinhole camera Pinhole CameraPlain camera obscura where the image is reflected on the camber’s back through a pinhole.
Pliant Pliant cameraSee folder camera
Point and shoot Point and Shoot camera‘Idioten-kamera’ in German. Where the user aims the viewer to the object, and the camera measures the distance, sets aperture and speed, decides if to fire a flash, eliminates red-eye and says cheese.
Polaroid back Polaroid backIn pro medium size camera using a removable back, a back with instant – Polaroid media is used for composition. Made redundant by digital equipment.
Premo Premo filmCut sheet film cartridges used by Kodak early 1900’s. Widely used thereafter as generic term film pack.  
Press Camera Press CameraDepends on the era. Early large format or later medium format cameras used by reporters to shoot on-scene photos.
Prizm, Prism, Prisma PentaprismPentaprism. Glass element directing the image to the viewer in SLR cameras.
Program exposure program exposureWhere the camera decides on the best combination between shutter speed and aperture opening. Program means that different modes can be selected according to what is taken – sport, night, nature or others.
QD Quartz Date backQuartz Date / Data back
Rangefinder Either an attachment or an integral in accessory that measured the distance to the photographed object.
Rapid Rapid film 35mm film cartridge developed by Agfa as against the Kodak 135.
RB Revolving backRevolving back or Rotating Back, in view cameras the back holding the film or plate can be in either portrait or landscape orientation.
Rise and fall raise and fallSee tilt.
Roll film Roll film1. Any film in roll form. 2. Film in roll form not in cartridges, but with paper backing.
Roll film back or rollback Roll film Back or RollbackBack using roll film on a camera made for cut sheets.
Selenium Selenium light meterElement used in light meters. Does not require a power source.
Semi semi format cameraOld term, used mainly by Japanese makers, taking 4.5cm x6cm images on 120 roll.
Separation lens separationWhere two glass elements in the lens separate. See cloudy Lens.
Shoe accessory shoeSee accessory shoe
Shutter camera shutterThe mechanism that allows image exposure on film.
Simplex Single extension bellows
Six camera six formatMedium format, denotes Image size on film, 6cm x 6cm.
Six-16 Kodak branded 616 roll film packages. 
Six-20 Kodak branded 620 roll film packages
Slow speed dial Slow Speed DialSome older equipment featured a dial for normal exposure speeds, while a second dedicated to slower exposures.
Slow speeds stuck Slow Speeds StuckWhere the camera is not used for long periods, dirt builds up on shutter mechanism, or just aging, slow exposures speed fail. In most cases it can be repaired.
SLR SLR cameraSingle lens reflex. A hand-held camera, compact or larger, where the image is viewed through the same lens used for shooting. The image is projected through a mirror and prism or just a mirror. Mirror may snap up for shooting or stay in place.
Stereo Stereo cameraIn early days the magic of three-dimensional viewing fascinated the public. Cameras using two lenses shot double images, to be viewed through matching viewers.
Subminiature Subminiature cameraor submini. Different definition at a different generation. Latest were cameras using media smaller than 35mm. Also nicknamed spy cameras, although save for the perceived use there is little ground to that.
Sync cords Cable connecting the synch socket on the camera body to the socket on the flashgun.
Sync socket PC socket cameraSee PC socket.
Tailboard camera Tailboard cameraEarly camera type, with a fixed lens assembly, where focusing done via adjusting the rear board carrying the viewing glass and the media.
Taschen vest pocket cameraLiterally ‘pocket. Vest pocket camera become popular in early last century, where they were made small enough to be carried in a large enough coat pocket.
Technical camera Technical cameraLarge camera used in studio either for pre-press or other in-situ pictures.
Telephoto Telephoto lensLens used for taking pictures at large distance. Modern optics allow for barrels shorter than focal length.
Tilt Rise and FallStudio camera where lens can be manipulated to different angles to achieve creative effects.
TLR TLR cameraTwin lens reflex. Commonly medium format camera using two lenses, one for viewing and composing and other for shooting. In modern variations, both lenses work in sync.
Triplex A triple extension bellows camera.
Troppen Troppen cameraLiterally ‘Tropical’. Variation of early wood cameras insulated for use in countries where only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.
TTL TTL measuringThrough the lens. A camera where light is measured through the very lens the image is taken. Better accuracy, at a price,
Uncoupled rangefinder Non coupled rangefinderRangefinder accessory, either integral part of the camera or attached, to measure the distance to object. Same value than set onto the lens.
Vest format Or vesuto, 127 format name in Japan.
Vest pocket Vest pocketSee taschen.
View View cameraLarge format camera, where image projects on back glass plane.
Viewfinder Camera viewfinder cameraCamera with integral viewer used just to compose the image. No other information presented in the viewer.
Westentaschen Vest pocket camera. See taschen
Wet plate Camera Very early equipment, using glass or metal plate coated with emulsion. Coating needed done just before shooting, hence the term ‘wet’.
X sync Mode of flash synchronization used with PC sockets.
Yen camera Small box like camera type, popular in Japan in the 30`s. Single film sheet was developed with attached chemical kit. 
Zweiformat Literally ‘two formats’. Double format camera. Older term for cameras accepting two media formats. Used a standard roll, having a mask to create the smaller image size. In early camera was easy to spot by having two red windows at the back. 
Zweiverscluss Literally ‘Two shutters’. An older term for cameras having two shutters, before more advanced shutters were able to operate in a wider range.