The palm-sized Duca has an unusual upright design that looks more like a cine camera
The Italian company Durst was probably best known for its enlargers and other darkroom equipment, though the company did make a handful of cameras. The palm-sized Duca was launched in 1947, and was in production for around five years. It uses standard 35mm film, but this is loaded into the Agfa ‘Rapid’ spool-free cartridges, which have the advantage of being smaller than a standard cassette, but this is at the expense of only being able to handle short lengths of film, in this case 12 exposures.
The upright design of the Duca makes it look more like an 8mm cine camera than a stills camera, and when it’s in its tight- fitting leather case, I think most people would assume that’s what it was. I bought mine on eBay a few years ago, and can’t remember what I paid for it, but it wouldn’t have been a huge sum. At the time I was actively seeking out quirky and unusual cameras for my collection, but now I’m concentrating on using them all. I’m currently halfway through the ninth year of my ‘52 cameras in 52 weeks’ project, and I’m confident that I can stretch to a full decade – that’s 520 cameras – without having to buy any more. That won’t necessarily stop me giving in to temptation if an interesting model turns up in a charity shop!
A look at the Duca
Most of the camera body is actually narrower than the rapid cartridges, with bulges on each of the side panels to accommodate them. As with cine cameras of this era, the side of the camera is removed to load and unload the film. The outside is finished with a crinkle-textured black paint, something you might recognise from the Durst enlargers if you’ve ever used one.
A lever on the side of the camera advances the film and cocks the shutter, and also incorporates a frame counter. The shutter release is on the front, below the lens, and ergonomically this layout would allow for taking photos in quick succession, something unlikely to be taken advantage of given the limited number of exposures in the cartridge.
The specifications are pretty basic: there is a 50mm Ducar meniscus lens with a single aperture f/11 lens and two focus positions, while the simple guillotine shutter offers the choice of 1/30th sec and ‘B’, putting the Duca firmly in the fair-weather photography bracket.
Right from the start of my ‘52 cameras in 52 weeks’ project I have made a point of taking a mirror self-portrait, to show the camera in use. I rarely inflict these on AP readers, but am doing so on this occasion in order to show just how small this camera really is. With simple daylight cameras, unable to shoot indoors, I sometimes have to improvise to find a reflective surface. Luckily I know of a mirrored window in a local college that fits the bill, and only use it at weekends for fear of arousing suspicion.
‘It looks more like an 8mm cine camera than a stills camera’
Tony Kemplen’s love of photography began as a teenager and ever since he has been collecting cameras with a view to testing as many as he can. You can follow his progress on his 52 Cameras blog at 52cameras.blogspot.co.uk. More photos from the Durst Duca: www.flickr.com/ tony_kemplen/sets/72157627987262159/
The tiny Duca is a stills camera and has an upright design
In this self-portrait, we can see how small the Duca camera really is