The first flexible photographic roll film wasn’t marketed until 1885, by George Eastman the founder of Kodak but this original "film" was actually a coating on a paper base, which required complicated and expensive processes for development. Eastman made up the name “Kodak” as a catchy and unique name using his favorite letter “K”.
The first transparent plastic roll film followed in 1889. It was made from highly flammable nitrocellulose ("celluloid"), now usually called "nitrate film". Modern "safety film" was introduced by Kodak in 1908, but it was expensive and fragile; nitrate film was not fully phased-out until the 1950s. Nonetheless, the availability of film allowed cameras to be smaller and more portable.
With the development of a practical film and truly portable cameras in the early 20th century, consumer photography became a popular pastime. As a pioneer in the industry and firmly in control of the film market, George Eastman’s Kodak Company became the dominant purveyor and innovator in consumer cameras. In the first three decades of the 20th Century, Kodak dominated the consumer camera market from the most basic box cameras up to high end top quality products.
I dedicate this Kodak page to two men who gave me wonderful old cameras early in my life: Mike Zapponi, former Mayor of Lakeport California and a former San Francisco police officer. Mike gave me an early 3A Special when I was in my early teens and inspired me in many ways. Along with Professor Francis Moffit of Cal Berkeley's civil engineering department and a pioneer in the field of photogrammetry, who gave me the Premo Model 2C featured below when I was at Cal in the 1980s.
Kodak No.4 Circa 1897
The Kodak cartridge cameras were among the first to use roll film rather than glass plate; however, this model could use both film and glass. This produced a 5” by 4” negative when using Kodak 104 roll film, or could be used with glass photographic plates, which were conventional for the time. This is an early model with a mohagany lens board and door panel. In the early 1900s the door and lens board would be made of metal allowing more adjustments.
This camera has an f8, Bausch and Lomb Rapid Rectilinear with iris diaphragm 4 – 128 and a Eastman Triple Action shutter with pneumatic regulation, of speeds - slow, medium, fast, B, T. There were two fixed view finders, one for landscape and one for portrait, this would be a continuing feature on the famous brownie box cameras into the 1950s, though most higher-end cameras would soon switch to rotating viewfinders attached to the lens rather than the body.
Construction is of a leather covered body, with red the leather bellows which were fashionable until the late nineteen-teens.
There are three sizes of this vintage of Cartridge Kodaks, the No. 3, 4 and 5, the last one being the largest with a picture size of 5 x 7 inches, but the No. 4 was the first one to be manufactured and the most popular. Going forward there would be Kodak offerings of sizes: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 in various forms of folding cameras.
Kodak No. 3 Model C Folding Brownie Circa 1905
The Kodak No.3 cameras used 122 roll film, producing a large negative 3.25 x 5.25 inches, often referred to as postcard format. 122 roll film is extinct. This is an early version of the No. 3 with a wooden lens board, which holds then lens and shutter in place and to which the bellows is connected. Later cameras would use steel lens boards. Being a lower priced "Brownie" camera, this offers fewer features than the No. 4 above, but the numbers 3 and 4 do not indicate anything other than the films sizes used in the cameras. This was true in the early cameras, but later the numbering between the Brownie series and other Kodak lines was inconsistent.
Kodak No.3A Folding Pocket Kodak, Model B-3 Circa 1908
The 3A Folding Pocket Kodak, Eastman Kodak's first postcard format camera, was introduced in 1903. Kodak produced seven models of the 3A The models were known as B, B-2, B-3, B-4, B-5, C and G. This is a folding bed camera for making exposures in 3¼×5½ inch postcard format on type No. 122 roll film.
Early variants were expensive and had a combination of Kodak Automatic shutter and Rapid Rectilinear lens from Bausch & Lomb. Later moderately priced variants got the Ball Bearing Shutter. Both shutters could be used with pneumatic remote operation or release by lever. A glass plate adapter was available for the camera.
Kodak No. 3A Model A Folding Brownie Circa 1909
The Kodak No.3A used 122 roll film, and was similar to the No. 3 Model C above, but with a metal lens board and provision for a pneumatic shutter remote shutter release. This was produced in quite large numbers, reportedly 114,000, thus these are still fairly common. Most have been red bellows and it appears that black was used on later cameras. Up until 1914 they were supplied with a brass cased Kodak FPK shutter, which was a Bausch and Lombe badged product. Kodak was seemingly motivated to keep everything in house, switching to the better Kodak Ball Bearing shutter until production ceased around 1915.
The No.3 Folding Brownie came with Meniscus Achromatic lenses or the more expensive Rapid Rectilinear, again from Bausch and Lombe. Build quality is pretty good and typically minimalist, the parts count being quite low for a camera of this size. Construction is predominantly wood, with nickel plated bright parts. The leather bellows are nicely pleated for the time, but the covering is a simulated leather. Despite its size, it wast a simple camera, with no lens movements and focus was set by adjusting the position of the lens board against a scale.
WHAT IS A BROWNIE?
You will see throughout our collection various "Brownie" cameras in the Kodak line. What does that mean?
The Brownie line of cameras was named after a set of popular cartoon characters of the day. The first Brownie camera, introduced in February 1900, was a very basic cardboard box camera with a simple meniscus lens that took 2¼-inch square pictures on 117 roll film. Our 1920 Brownie 2A Model B shown below is very similar to the original Brownie, with the addition of primitive viewfinders.
With its simple controls and initial price of $1, it was intended to be a camera that anyone could afford and use, hence the slogan, "You push the button, we do the rest." The camera was named after the popular cartoons created by Palmer Cox. While not technically significant, the concept of a camera for the masses was monumental and while the cameras were cheap, Kodak made a fortune selling film.
Kodak also began to use the Brownie name on other budget products such as the folding camera shown above. In later years the original brownie box evolved with new materials and styles, but essentially with the same dimensions and features into the 1950s. Along with these, many other entry-level cameras bore the brownie name. We have a good selection in the collection.
After initial success, the name Brownie was used by Kodak on a wide range of entry level cameras. The term Brownie was more of a brand than a type, but it clearly denoted a base model consumer camera.
No.1 Folding Pocket - Bed Type Circa 1909
This is a rugged little camera, significantly smaller than those above. It was produced from 1905 to 1915 in the "Bed Type" format. It is what is called self-erecting, so that when the door is opened the lens board and bellows are automatically pulled out to the ready position. It requires more significant struts than most Kodak cameras, and has a "dome door" to accommodate the lens when folded. This camera would have come with red bellows until 1912 when they switched to black. With the latest patent date being 1909, it is likely that this originally had red bellows, but they wore out long ago.
Kodak No.3A Folding Pocket Kodak, Model B-3 Circa 1912
This camera is similar to the No. 3A above, but with the black bellows and a different lens and shutter combination. This was a bargain find for $5, but the black coating on the cardboard bellows was badly worn and falling off. However, the case is nearly perfect for 102 years old. I stripped off the old coating with tweezers and a dental pick, then recoated the bellows with a black liquid rubber designed for coating electrical wires. Since the coating was not completely opaque, I first stained the tan cardboard with a black ink. The resilience of the rubber allows the bellows to remain supple and funtional.
Kodak Premo Model 2C Circa 1916
The Folding Cartridge Premo cameras are a series of folding cameras for roll film, made by Eastman Kodak from about 1916 until the mid-20s. They might be seen as an extension of the Film Premo film pack cameras (cartridge refers to roll film). They have rather simple meniscus achromat or Rapid Rectilinear lenses, and the Kodak Ball Bearing Shutter, giving speeds 1/25 and 1/50 second, plus 'B' and 'T'. The 2C uses size 130 film.
I acquired this as a gift from a friend when I was in college.
WHAT DOES PREMO MEAN?
In 1883 the Rochester Optical Company was founded by W. F. Carlton when he took over the assets of camera maker William H. Walker. It invented and produced the famous "Premo" view camera line. In 1899 it became a participant of an unsuccessful merger of camera companies. The resulting company made losses and was taken over by Kodak in 1903. Kodak let the factory continue the Premo camera line, but eventually began to use the name in branding low level offerings similar to the brownie line. For several years Kodak would use the Premo name on some of their cameras. Project Guttenberg has an interesting document on the Premo cameras.
3A Autographic Kodak Special Camera Circa 1916
An historically significant model, this is thought to be the first coupled rangefinder camera model ever sold, beginning circa 1916. Its 1916 price of $109 would be equivalent to over $2,000 today. This camera has the upgraded Tessar Lens and Optimo Shutter. This also differs from my other Model 3A cameras by having a flip-up eye-level viewfinder on the body for use in landscape orientation.
The 3A was designed to make 3-1/4" x 5-1/2" exposures on Kodak's A122 film.
Kodak No 2 C Folding Autographic Brownie Circa 1916
The Kodak No. 2 C Folding Autographic Brownie was a folding camera for the type 130 autographic film. More than half a million models were made between 1915 and 1926, with various design tweaks made along the way. The sharp edged boxes (above) were changed to curved in 1917, and the foot shape changed from an S-shape to a C-curve in 1919.
Kodak No 2 Folding Autographic Brownie Circa 1917
Similar to the Brownie 2C above but with the curved-end case, and about 3/5s in size. This uses the smaller and currently available 120 film.
Kodak No 1A Autographic Special Circa 1917
The No 1A Autographic Special of 1914 was the autographic variant of the 116 roll-film camera. The coupled rangefinder option (shown above) was added in 1917.
Kodak No 2 Folding Autographic Brownie Circa 1918
The Kodak No. 2 Folding Autographic Brownie similar to the one above in all ways but the EK logo has shifted to the right side of the lens.
Kodak Brownie 2A Model B Circa 1920
This camera is a heavy duty cardboard box with a synthetic "leatherette" covering. This is the most basic of Kodak cameras, but was a huge commercial success. Note the dual viewfinder which allows the user to aim the camera in both portrait and landscape orientations.
The Model B was a little-changed replacement for the 2A which was first offered in 1907, following the Model 2 of 1901. The Model B was replaced in 1924 by the similar Model C with a lightweight metal body still covered by the "leatherette". Variations were produced until 1935.
3A Autographic Kodak Camera Circa 1921
Similar to the other Model 3A cameras above, but without the range finder. A nice camera but fewer features than the one above or below.
Kodak Vest Pocket Camera Circa 1922
Manufactured from 1915 to 1926 by the Eastman Kodak Co. This is a truly small “pocketable” camera of about 2 1/2" x 4 1/2", the Vest Pocket Autographic Kodak was based on the earlier Vest Pocket Kodak but with the added autographic feature. It used trellis struts to extend the lens from the body. This one features a Rapid Rectilinear f/7.7 fixed-focus lens and a Kodak Ball Bearing shutter.
These vest pocket cameras were popular with soldiers serving in WWI. Mountain climber George Mallory was carrying one of these cameras when he was lost on Mt Everest in 1924.
This camera has what is called the Japanese crinkle finish; this is subtle and ,most visible on the top of the camera in this photo. We have others of this model in different finished including smooth and covered in leather.
Kodak No. 1 Circa 1924
Kodak Vest Pocket B Camera Circa 1925
Manufactured from 1925 to 1934 by the Eastman Kodak Co. This was a complete redesign of the earlier models, basically a miniaturized version of the regular Kodaks. It is only about 5" tall. Note the lens and shutter structure, with the round window to the right of the lens displaying the aperture (1 to 4); this will be used significantly on subsequent models, with only the sheet metal badge changing (four screws). This is one of the few later model vest pocket cameras with the autographic feature.
Kodak Vest Pocket Series III Camera Circa 1926
Manufactured from 1926 to 1933 by the Eastman Kodak Co. This was a upscale redesign of the Model B with a superior shutter, lens, adjustments, and covering. It also has the sturdier flip-out stand on the door face rather than the less elegant chrome turn-down piece.
3A Autographic Kodak Special Camera Circa 1927
Similar to the other Model 3A cameras above, but with more refinements. It includes the range finder feature and a time-delay shutter release to the left of the lens.
A friend of our family gave me one of these when I was in middle school and taking my first photography class. I loved playing with this, but somehow we parted company over the years. I was able to find a virtual match on eBay.
Kodak Vest Pocket Rainbow Hawkeye Circa 1928
This was the smallest of the Rainbow Hawkeye series. This reflects minor modifications to the Vest Pocket Model B shown above. The retainer lever that keeps the lens board in place is on the left side (right on the vest pocket above) and there is no hole and grommet for a tripod. Originally the camera would have had blue bellows.
Kodak Boy Scout Camera Circa 1928
This is essentially the Kodak folding Vest Pocket Rainbow Hawkeye above with Boy Scout colors and logo. It is a rare camera and this one is in very fine shape. See photo of the exterior below.
Kodak Girl Scout Camera Circa 1928
This is essentially the Kodak folding Vest Pocket Rainbow Hawkeye above with Girl Scout colors and logo. This is even more rare than the Boy Scout camera above, but otherwise nearly identical. The case has a different pattern on the covering fabric and the paint is more green than the olive of the Boy Scout camera.
Kodak Vanity Camera Circa 1928
This is essentially the Kodak Vest Pocket Series III, with the highest quality lens and shutter offered on the vest pocket size. It is a rare camera in average condition for its age, and higher valued with the felt-lined case. The bellows have been replaced, making it a bit less valuable.
Kodak Vest Pocket Hawkeye Camera Circa 1929
This is similar to the Boy Scout camera above, but with Hawkeye branding and a grommet for a tripod. Note the aperture window to the right of the lens (showing setting 2). Hawkeye was considered a premium branding within each camera type, where Brownie was typically a base model.
Kodak Petite Camera (Rose) Circa 1929
This is a colorful variant of the Vest Pocket B design, similar to the Boy Scout camera above, and without the grommet for a tripod. however, this is one of the few vest pocket models with the autographic feature (see stylus to the left of the lens).
This camera was a salvage missing both door struts and with a damages trolley assembly. We had to disassemble the trolley to get it open, and for now it is propped open as a display. I've bought several Vest Pocket models for parts, but they are always in too good of condition to dismantle.
Kodak Pocket Junior No.1A (Green) Circa 1929
1929-1932. A size 116 film camera with single meniscus achromatic lens. These cameras were available in black, green, brown, and blue. While these were not expensive cameras in their day, the colors make these popular with collectors today. This one is in rough shape with broken struts, but retains the original green bellows. A colored camera with the original matching bellows is quite valuable; however, few are pristine.
Junior in the model name denotes a simpler lens and shutter than the No. 1 A. Note the older style gothic lettering on the flip-out stand under the door and the aperture window under the placard below the lens (shows setting 3 in photo), rather than the round window to the right on the Vest Pocket and No. 1 models.
Kodak Pocket Junior No.1A (Blue) Circa 1930
This example is of the rare blue version with matching colored bellows, but not otherwise in as fine shape as the green one above. The case is a very dark but rich blue which is hard to bring out in a photo. Note the newer style Art Deco lettering on the flip-out stand under the door.
Kodak Pocket Junior No.1A (Brown) Circa 1930
This example is of the rare brown version with colored bellows. Note the newer style Art Deco lettering on the flip-out stand under the door.
Kodak Pocket Junior No.1 (Blue) Circa 1931
This is another rare blue version with matching colored bellows. this is in excellent mechanical shape, but has wear on the soft components. The case is a very dark but rich blue which is hard to bring out in a photo.
This is the Junior No1, rather than the 1A model shown in the three prior examples. This camera is significantly smaller, about 3/4 the size of the 1A, but about 25% larger than the vest pocket models shown above, including the Boy Scout camera. Note the later more "modern" font on the folding stand and the Vest Pocket style aperture window (showing setting 4 very small). It uses size 120 film, which is still available.
Kodak Pocket Junior No.1 (Green) Circa 1931
Same as above in green.