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Expansion

Although Sir Kenneth, his wife Betty, and John devoted all of their spare time to assembling the Lumimeters, they could still not keep up with the demand. Orders were pouring in from many photographic dealers and it soon became obvious that something had to be done to improve the situation. John decided to leave his job at Villiers, to work full time in what was rapidly becoming the family business. 


The site of Merridale works

More and more orders kept on coming, and even with John working full time they still could not satisfy the demand. Sir Kenneth now decided that it was time for him to show more commitment, and leave his job to work full time on the project. They also decided to look for proper premises, and found a small workshop which was available in the old Merridale Works in Merridale Street.
A very stylized drawing of Merridale Works that was taken from an old trade directory.

Although the floor space was only about 27ft x 15ft, the rent was quite cheap and so they decided to take it. The business was formed into a Limited Company with the two brothers as directors. Sir Kenneth was Managing Director, John was Technical Director, and Betty was Company Secretary. They soon started their first two employees who were Mrs Florence Abbiss and Mr Reg Simmons. K.G. Corfield Ltd was an immediate success. During 1949 they sold 5,000 Lumimeters.


With the success of the Lumimeter thoughts naturally turned to other products. Sir Kenneth had the inspiration, and many of the ideas for the products that were to follow, and John had the necessary design skills to make the products a reality. The first was a hand-held split image precision rangefinder called the Corfield Telemeter Rangefinder. It was substantially built around a die-cast, cream stove enamelled, aluminium case with black leathercloth panels. The meter was held in place on the user's hand by a strong elastic strap into which the fingers were inserted. The two images were aligned by a lever on the right-hand side which moved a red pointer across a distance scale. When the two images were aligned the focus setting could be read from the scale. A very bright image was produced due to the large size of the rangefinder. Two versions were available, one with an imperial scale of 3 to 300ft and another with a metric scale of 1 to 100m.
A Telemeter advert from 1950.

The second new product was the Corfield Optical Exposure Meter. It used a pattern of black circular dots, divided into two halves of unequal brightness to measure the light level. In use the film speed was set and the meter was held to the eye. The knob was rotated until the dots in the darker half of the image disappeared, and the exposure time was read from a scale. This technique allowed accurate readings to be taken in extremely low light levels. The instrument was well built in a die-cast aluminium case with a black crackle finish. 

A 1951 advert for the new Corfield products

The Lumimeter was still selling extremely well, but it required a lot of time and labour in  its construction, and so it was now time for a complete redesign. The new version, the Lumimeter MK2 was not only easier to manufacture, but was simpler and quicker to use and looked very professional. It was easier to construct because it was housed in a one-piece sheet metal body with plastic sides. All that had to be done to assemble the case was to insert and tighten a tie rod which held the sides in position. 

In use the paper speed was set by rotating the pointer on the front of the instrument, and the Lumimeter was moved on the enlarger baseboard until the darkest part of the negative could be viewed on a photometric spot in the centre of its screen. The knob was then rotated until the spot disappeared and the exposure was read from a scale. The exposure scale was from 1 to 240 seconds, and the case was finished in a smooth black wrinkle finish. 

It was launched in early 1951 and was an instant success, appealing to both amateurs and professionals alike. Within the next few years sales reached an incredible 200,000 units.

A 1951 advert for the new Lumimeter

More darkroom products appeared with the introduction of the Corfield Masking Frame and the Corfield 5 x 4in Contact Printer. The masking frame was made of steel and sold for 12s.6d. 

The extremely compact 5x4 printer had a solid die-cast aluminium case, and was indirectly lit by two 25 or 40 watt lamps for even illumination. Accurate timing of short exposures was ensured by arranging the lamps to glow dull red when not printing. A novel feature was that it was possible to insert shading devices beneath the negative.

The contact printer was extremely robust and sold for 4.10s.

The next product, one which had nothing to do with the darkroom, appeared in 1952. It was the Corfield 2 x 2 Slide Projector. The slim die-cast body was finished in grey crinkled enamel, and illumination was provided by a 250 or 300 watt lamp. Ventilation slots were incorporated in the top and a Chance O.N.20 heat filter was positioned behind the slide. The f3.7 four element lens had a focal length of three and three quarter inches and was of excellent quality. 

The selling price was 14.18s.6d for the 250 watt version and 15.3s.6d for  the 300 watt version. Sadly it got rather hot after about half an hour, and didn't sell very well. After a little while it was discontinued.

Corfields also became distributors for a range of European photographic equipment including Stag timers, Omnica carrying cases, Exakta cameras and Leidox cameras. Their wide product range can be seen from the following entry in the Wolverhampton Classified Industrial Directory of 1952:

K. G. Corfield Ltd
Merridale Works
Merridale Street
Wolverhampton

Telephone:    Wolverhampton  25815

Products:    Telemeter precision rangefinders, enlarging exposure meters, all-metal masking frames for enlargers, optical exposure meter for the camera, contact printing equipment, photographic accessories, low-level illumination photometers for light measurements in interiors, apparatus for applied photometry, industrial applications of photocells (magic eye) to colour tests and counting etc. 

This product range was certainly impressive, but more was yet to come!

 

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