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  • Writer's pictureDwight Anderson

Grandma's Tower 34 Box Camera by Sears

Hey Grandma, how come you always cut the top off people's heads?

The flashbulb won't poke your eye out, but it will blind you for awhile

Grandma bought this shiny new Tower box camera from Sears around 1950 and documented her family with it for the next 30 years. All of my siblings and cousins remember lining up for holiday pictures, the bigger the group the better. If it was summertime, we all had to look into the sun and squint. If it was Christmas, we'd wander around like zombies after the flash went off, blue spots competing with the Christmas lights.

My oldest cousin would yell, Grandma, don't cut off my head! He was the tallest and never seemed to get the top of his head in the picture.

See that red button there, push that

Operation is pretty simple, make sure your subject is in direct sunlight and press the red button. There are two apertures but given the slow speed of film in those days, the smaller one could only be useful for nuclear tests. The single element lens proudly sits out front, combining with the chrome front to make a real statement.

Grandma, what big negatives you have!
All these years blaming Grandma and it wasn't her fault!

Grandma left us in 1979, and the shiny Tower camera sat on mom's shelf for many years. She finally gave it to me, and I was able to figure out the cut-off heads mystery. I put a sheet of ground glass across the film plane and compared it to the tiny viewfinder image. It turns out the viewfinder wasn't pointing at the same place as the lens.

Bright sun makes for a nice exposure

I sent my wife out to shoot a roll of Ilford PanF + but neglected to mention that the camera is only in focus from 8 to 10 feet away. Still, she came back with some good images, and the camera did pretty well too. Center sharpness at the optimal distance is reasonable for a single element lens but close up shots didn't turn out as well. Oh, and there's a blue jay somewhere in the last shot in the gallery below.

I really like this one, the question is what is the focal point
The camera did pretty well with the ISO 50 film, but I think 100 would be more flexible.

I did have to do some backlight adjusting on the scans to lighten the darker areas. I would guess the camera has a shutter speed of about 1/30th and the larger aperture is f16.

A nice shot showing depth of field

All in all, a nice outing for Grandma's camera. It took some nice shots that would look good at the typical 3.5"x 5" size they printed back then. Now I just need to load up another roll of 120 film, round up my grandkids and make them look into the sun.

A full roll of film is in the gallery below, click for full size:


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