The Coronet Midget was made in Birmingham, England from 1934 until 1943. It was a premium given away with breakfast cereal. The body is made of bakelite.
The Coronet Camera Co. was established around 1921 by Frederick John Pettifer and its first product was a simple card-board camera supplied complete with processing chemicals, printing frame and printing paper. Around 1925-1926 a 127 roll film camera was produced and by1928 the company had begun producing better quality box and folding roll film cameras. In1933 the company had audited net sales figures of 510,000 cameras and it advertised "We believe that this figure is greater than the combined total sales of all British owned and controlled camera companies". With the success of its earlier products, and a move to the production of a popular cine camera and projector, the company introduced the Midget camera in 1934 for 5 shillings and 6 pence (0.275GBP)
Taking advantage of the new techniques with bakelite to mix in colour, to the basic black, seven distinct colours where used in the production. As each batch resulted in slightly different colours every camera is unique in colour or pattern. The agreed colours are plain black, blue (introduced later in 1937, so fewer numbers and rarer), brown (walnut), lime green, olive green and rose (with orange), red (with black). One version of the red is mixed with orange, the other with black. The blue is two tone of blue and the brown and both green colours are mixed with black. Age and possibly sunlight or smoke has affected the colour on some cameras. This can be easily seen when the inside colour is very much brighter and richer than the dullness of the outside of the camera. Very dark brown contrast with a brighter walnut or hazel brown and the dark green, almost brown, against a rich forest green.
The company's advertisement in the BJ Almanac for 1936 described the Midget camera as being "In every way a real camera and not just a novelty or toy". This optimistic statement belied the fact that the camera was made from Bakelite, had a Taylor Hobson meniscus f10 lens focusing from 5 feet to infinity,1/30 second single speed shutter and used tiny 16mm roll film of six exposures. The negative is 13x18mm. It weighed 71g (2 1/2 oz). The results from the camera were never going to be outstanding. A company advertising brochure called the camera "The world's smallest camera" The camera's design was registered and the subject of a patent.
Two additional variations in features are the film winder - a knob or D shaped key and when opening up the camera the presents or absence of a film pressure place. The back has sometimes one, two or no lugs, the front plate may be brass or nickel coloured. the wording on the name plate also varies. Other variations in shape of viewer and hinge have been reported.
The case is morocco leatherette lined with silk with colours to match the cameras. As this was sold separately is is common to find green cases with red cameras and red cases with green cameras and so on.
The Coronet Midget was still being made in 1939 when it was listed in Amateur Photographer but production probably ceased with the commencement of the second world war. The Coronet Cameo was a post-war attempt to recreate the success of the Midget. If had a fixed focus f11 lens and a single shutter of 1/25th and an image size of 13x18mm and sold for 17 shillings and 10 pence (just over 0.89GBP). Produced from 1948 until about July 1952.
Accessories included a viewer.
The set of 5 or 6 cameras are sometimes offered at 1100GBP. Set of 5 have sold for 660USD (2004/06/07) but 2002/07/21 910USD (reserve not met), set of 5 (including blue) asking 1100GBP - bids to £500, 2006/10/30 1000GBP
The name plate is nickel on brass or brass and can be polished. As the plate can not easily be removed care has to be taken in avoiding any abrasive on the bakelite or chemical contamination.
Many cameras, particularly the olive green, are tarnished by either handling or having been kept in rooms where there is smoke from open fires or from tobacco. It is unlikely that this can be removed as it seems to penetrate the surface of the bakelite.
Last updated 16th March 2007