By: Ntebaleng Tlailane: Junior Curator, Technological Collection, DITSONG: National Museum of Cultural History


Donation of two cameras to the DITSONG: National Museum of Cultural History

On 19 August 2022, Mr. J. W. Scholtz visited the DITSONG: National Museum of Cultural History (DNMCH) with the intention to donate two cameras (a Soho reflex and an Agfa Compur) that belonged to his late grandfather, Mr. Stephanus Frans Scholtz. Mr. Scholtz was received by a curator, Ms. A. Carelsen, Ms. M. Zdara a conservator, Mr. Makwela, a junior curator, and myself as junior curator overseeing the Technological Collection of the Museum.


During the meeting, Mr. Scholtz was made aware of the Heritage Assets Management Policy that governs donations of the organization. He was informed that

  • The organization doesn’t accept donations that have conditions attached to them.
  • Donations without provenance are not accepted.
  • Donations are accepted if they are to become the permanent collection of DITSONG: Museums of South Africa (DMSA).
  • The decision to accept the donation lies with the DNMCH’s Acquisition Committee.


Donor information

The two cameras to be donated belonged to Mr. Stephanus Frans Scholtz, who was a professional photographer during the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902), which has since been renamed the South African War. Stephanus Scholtz was born in February 1889 in Graaff-Reinet and also lived in Aberdeen (both in the Eastern Cape Province). He relocated to Lichtenburg in the Northwest Province where he also established a photographic studio.


He was assisted by his daughter-in-law, the mother of Mr. J. W. Scholtz in his photography business. The cameras were donated by Mr. J. W. Scholtz who is his grandson. Mr J. W. Scholtz was born in 1945. He resides in Faerie Glen, Pretoria.


Soho reflex camera  

The Soho reflex camera was manufactured by Abram Kershaw and Sons LTD Company, founded by Abram Kershaw in Leeds, UK in the late 19th century. In addition to the cameras, the company made military equipment during the First World War (1914-18). The company also made aerial bombsights (a device used by military aircraft to drop bombs accurately) during the Second World War (1939-45).


The Soho reflex camera is a large format single-lens reflex camera made from 1905 to the 1940s. The standard reflex model was made in a large range of sizes 3 and a half X 2 and a half inches, 4 quarter X 3 quarter inches. A special front allowing tilt and swing movements was only available at an additional cost.


The structure of the camera can simply be described as a simple wooden box covered in leather. The front of the box together with the lens panel is attached to the body by leather bellows and can be racked forward and back by a knob on the left-hand side to focus the image. The lens panel can be slid vertically to offset the lens above its normal position (the rising front). A mirror is mounted inside the box, which reflects the image-forming light from the lens up to the focusing screen.


A focal-plane shutter with cloth blinds is in the back of the box. The shutter is tensioned manually by winding a knob on the right-hand side. The same knob is used to set the speed. The mirror action includes a backward movement as well as a simple swing up, in order to allow shorter-than-standard lenses (which would project into the camera body) to be used without fouling the mirror. The plate holder is mounted on the back of the camera, which could be loaded with a glass plate, or a sheet of flexible film.


Agfa Compur Camera

The Agfa Compur camera was manufactured by a Belgian-German multinational corporation known as Agfa-Gevaert N. V. In 1926 it introduced the first real Agfa camera, the Standard, followed by the Agfa Compur.


The Agfa Billy Compur is a folding 120 film 6×9 format camera by Agfa. It was produced from 1934 to 1942. It was beautifully lacquered on the sides. It is self-erecting. To close it, it is necessary to pinch the two circular plates located under the lens to unlock it and then close the door. It had an Apotar lens and a viewfinder on the top plate. The viewfinder and shutter release are on the bottom plate and it was equipped with double exposure prevention. The camera was stopped being produced during the 2nd World War because of the need for the German industry to concentrate on the manufacture equipment for the war.


Reasons why the cameras add value to the Technological Collection of the Museum

Although there are similar cameras in the collection, the brand names vary. The other camera brands in the collection are:

  • Rolleiflex
  • Mamiya Sekor
  • Kodak
  • Pentax Espio
  • Rikenon
  • Polaris
  • Yashica
  • Brownnie


The two cameras are relatively in good condition as compared to the ones we currently have in the collection, therefore they will be better used in exhibitions and for research purposes. There is enough space to house the cameras. There is a historic significance in that the owner was a renowned photographer, who took photographs during the South African War. The cameras will therefor add value to the Technological Collection of the Museum.



Heritage Assets Management Policy, DITSONG: Museums of South Africa.

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