The Compass Camera was manufactured by the Swiss watch-makers Le Coultre et Cie for the Compass Cameras Ltd., based in London. It was conceived and designed by Noel Pemberton Billing, an airman and Member of Parliament. The camera was launched in March 1937, and it was at least available in London until 1941.


It is a rectangular aluminium-bodied rangefinder camera, made for 24×36mm exposures on plates. The body is machined from a solid block of aluminium, measuring a mere 30 ×53 ×70mm (1¼;×21/8×2¾in) in size with the lens closed, weighing 220g (7¾oz). Special 8-exposure films were available, and later also an 828 roll film back, made by T. A. Cubitt.

In 1939 an improved model, the Compass II, was introduced. It was offered as a free upgrade to original Compass owners[1]. About 5000 cameras in total were made before production was prevented by war.[2]

The Compass is extraordinarily well-equipped for such a small package; it has two optical viewfinders, one at a right-angle, a ground glass focusing screen with a folding loupe, a built-in lens cap, three filters, an extinction meter and a spirit level. There is also a rotating fitting for the tripod bush in the base with five click stops allowing for panoramic and stereo pictures. The shutter ran from 4½s-1/500s.

The retractable lens is a 35mm f3.5 Kern anastigmat with a shutter speeded from 4.5s. to 1/500s.

The Compass was available in a kit, which could include a small, elegant tripod, fitted with a pocket clip, a cable-release, a small leather case or a larger fitted box taking the accessories.


  1. Auer, Michel, The Illustrated History of the Camera, from 1839 to the present, Fountain Press, 1975
  2. Coe, Brian, "Cameras, from Daguerreotypes to Instant Pictures", p.128, Marshall-Cavendish/Nordbok 1978; Coe's drawing shows an example labelled in German; from casual observation, this seems to be unusual, and most are in English, but shows German and French, as well as the majority English models.