The Kershaw Eight-20 Penguin is one of the simpler cameras by Kershaw-Soho for 120 roll film. It is a vertical folding camera. When the bellows is unfolded its front plate is in a fixed position - no moves possible. But despite the camera's simplicity it offers a distance selector with a range from 6 feet to infinity. The distance lever moves the lens/shutter-unit forward or backward, and also moves a pointer on the opposite side of the lens tube. A marker is printed on the lower front side, as well as the direction: "Set pointer here before closing camera". The pointer is "here" when the distance lever is moved to infinity, and thus when the lens/shutter-unit is closest to the front plate and is at its most compact. The plastic ring around the lens front plate is for the shutter, allowing the choice between the single shutter speed termed 'instant' (I, 1/50 sec) and bulb (B).[1] The aperture choice is between f11 and f16 - and on some examples, the aperture is fixed with no choice at all and the right-hand lever is associated with a T (timer) setting rather than aperture control. When provided, the aperture lever with the red point moves a second, smaller aperture into or out of the optics. There are two variants in terms of shutter release on the left hand side, one with a lever like that on the right and one with a plunger (this is found on the variable aperture version); the shutter has a long travel on which the shutter is cocked before its release. The small brilliant viewfinder can be rotated by about 90 degrees for vertical and horizontal exposures and is present on all but the very latest variants, when it was replaced with two popup metal frames (a 'sportsfinder') as found on the King Penguin variant. Further features are the easily removable camera back, the bakelite film winding knob, a stilt foldable from the camera door, and of course a red exposure counting window in the camera back.

The robust metal body with metal door may explain the preservation of many of these cameras, which succeeded the Soho Myna,[2] said to have been introduced in around 1929. The Kershaw-Soho Eight-20 Penguin, especially in the variant without an aperture control, was essentially a slightly updated version of the late 1920s/1930s Soho Myna and retained much of its styling and features, including the viewfinder. While the Eight-20 Penguin is often said to have been introduced in 1951 or 1950,[3] the camera in at least some of its variants seems to have been released rather earlier than this. John Vaughan's 2013 The Kershaw Camera Story suggests that the Penguin was first offered for sale in 1947,[4] although The Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail carried an advert from Barry's of Stockton-on-Tees on 13 December 1946 that referred to the 'Kershaw "Penguin"' 120 film camera being available to buy new for £2/19/11 in that store, which may well indicate that it was initially released towards the end of 1946.[5] From 1947 onwards, there were an increasing number of references to this camera in newspapers through until a peak in 1950, with a subsequent decline across the early 1950s; however, the Kershaw Penguin was still occasionally being advertised as available new as late as 1955, for example in an advert from Manchester & Salford Co-op in the Manchester Evening News (24 March 1955), when it was priced £5/19/0.[6]

The Eight-20 Penguin is said to be the most successful camera produced by the Kershaw company in terms of total sales volumes; Vaughan believes that there were more than 20 variants produced over the lifetime of this camera, for both the home and export markets — for example, cameras with Portuguese text were sold to Brazil, whilst other Penguins with Spanish, Dutch and Swedish labelling and boxes are also recorded.[7] In addition to the Penguin itself, a version of the variant with the plunger shutter release was also offered for sale as the Ilford Prentice from around 1950, although the camera was still manufactured by Kershaw-Soho,[8] and a simpler variant — that lacked both the zone focussing control and the brilliant viewfinder, but which was covered in leatherette, had a tripod bush, and was provided with two popup metal frames on the side for framing shots — was sold as the Kershaw Eight-20 King Penguin from 1951 to 1954.[9]

  1. Shutter speed as measured by Art Deco Cameras.
  2. McKeown, p. 456.
  3. For example, the National Trust/Fox Talbot Museum offers a date for the Kershaw Eight-20 Penguin of 1951-55; Sylvian Halgand opts for 1950; and Art Deco Cameras likewise lists the Penguin as being produced in 1950. Other suggested dates include Living Image Vintage Camera Museum, which goes with 'c. 1953', and Maurice Fisher's Photomemorabilia, which suggests 1949.
  4. John Vaughan, The Kershaw Camera Story - A 'Great' British Company (Photrack, 2013), ISBN 9780952219026.
  5. Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail, 13 December 1946, p. 5; c. 1946 is also the date ascribed to the Kershaw Eight-20 Penguin by Alamy.
  6. Manchester Evening News, 24 March 1955, p. 3.
  7. Vaughan, Kershaw Camera Story, pp. 75-6.
  8. Ilford Prentice on Maurice Fisher's Photomemorabilia.
  9. Vaughan, Kershaw Camera Story, p. 77.