Made by Ansco for Sears in the 1930s (?), the Marvel S-20 is somewhat of a rarity. It was made in two versions - this one, that we call the "Deco" and a later (and somewhat better) "Mod" version. The rarity is due to the fact that Sears quickly switched from Ansco to Bilora to manufacture their box cameras and introduced the Tower line that carried them into the 60s.
Although it was a real beauty in its day, finding one in good condition today makes an already rare camera even more hard to find. It seems that the faceplates were perhaps silkscreened or painted in a way that they are often very deteriorated today.
But one person's fading and scratching is another person's patina... And the good news is that this camera has "The Agfa Ansco Advantage!".
In terms of functionality, the "Deco" Marvel S-20 is little more than a dressed up Agfa B2 Cadet, with the same tab that slides out to activate the Time mode, holding the shutter open for long exposures, and the removable all-metal film holder, that is far more sturdy than the cardboard version in most Ansco cameras.
Also, just like the Agfa B2 Cadet, this camera utilizes the very simple "Always On" shutter. While we find this type of shutter a bit more awkward to use in the beginning, you get used to it quickly and it's just as capable as its more complicated cousin.
In use, this camera is equally as quiet as it's "B2" predecessors, but it's hardly inconspicuous with its very unique faceplate. In fact, as with most Agfa Ansco-made cameras, your choice as a user really comes down to your taste in faceplates...
APERTURE: f/11 (?)
SHUTTER SPEED: 1/50
MIN. FOCUS: 2.5m/8ft
BEST FILM: 50-100 ASA
BUILD: Cardboard body, metal parts, plastic parts, vinyl covering
MFBOXCO RATING: 9.25
Loses to its cousin only in the shutter department.
Do you have experience this camera? Any helpful tips? Have you seen one at your local flea market? Do you know some trivia about the history the company or other knowledge you'd like to pass on? Add your stories below. We will periodically select the best tips and other bits to include above.