Murer & Duroni's Newness Express SL c1900

Tomei Collection

I should begin by commenting on the fact that this camera was actually built by the Duroni factory based on the design of Theodoro Murer around 1900, Duroni's name having yet to appear on these particular models.  Duroni was a pioneer in photographic equipment in Italy and founded his company in Milan in 1886.  In 1892, Theodoro Murer joined Duroni's firm and is credited with the design of the many camera models including the simple detective cameras which were soon to be successfully marketed throughout Europe and the USA.  In Europe, Murer's cameras were also sold under the name Salex in England, whereas in Sweden they were sold by Hasselblad, and in France as the Gaumont.  Before the firm ceased operations in 1927, Murer's designs appeared in more than 150 models and variants.  Today, it is unfortunate that little is remembered about the pioneering accomplishments of Duroni and Murer.  However, their cameras frequently appear on eBay as a testament to their enduring contribution to the history of photography.


If you are interested in these cameras and the photographers who used them around the turn of the 19th Century, I would suggest that you begin with the work of Giovanni Verga, one of the best known photographers of the era.


The camera shown here arrived in pieces having suffered from nearly a century of neglect.  The original canvas bag was unfortunately in sad condition and was not recoverable.  However, the leather cover was present though badly dried and separated from the wooden body.  The shutter worked and it was reassembled and stabilized from further degeneration. The old dry leather was reattached leaving a few places of bare wood where the fragments had been lost. 


In order to help preserve the camera from further degeneration, the leather was treated with pure bees wax dissolved in pure natural turpentine with 2-3% boiled Linseed oil. I would never use shoe polish on any camera because it supports mold growth and easily rubs off.  The Murer's Express Newness SL is an historically important fragment of late 19th century photography.  Before roll film became widely used, plate cameras were the only means to obtain quality "spontaneous" images. It may be difficult for us to understand how this large box could be considered a "detective" camera.  However, it did not require bellows and focusing, and could be carried without drawing the attention of the Victorian public who were accustomed to tripod mounted bellows cameras, or even the small Kodak box cameras, though it still seems to stretch credibility.

"Newness" may sound a bit odd for a camera's name but it is a translation from the Italian word "Novità" which means innovation.  These cameras were intended for export and Duroni felt that having an English name was important to the cameras success.  The meaning of the "S-L", however, remains a mystery to me yet.

 This magazine box camera, often called a detective camera, was built about 1900 in Milano by the Murer and Duroni company. This model used 9x12cm plates which were loaded in the back . Exposed plates were released to fall bringing up the next fresh plate in the stack.  This operation was controlled by the brass lever located at the top rear corner.

Exposure was controlled by selection of guillotine shutter speeds and one of six Waterhouse stops, all selectable with the brass levers located on the front panel.

This camera is virtually identical to the French Gaumont, British Salex, and was also sold by Hasselblad in Sweden.