In camera collecting Kodak is king.


Traveling in the western states is an experience ready-made for taking pictures. And when you whip out your own camera to capture a spectacular scene, you’re usually not the only one there.

Other tourists with every imaginable type, size and value of camera will be photographing the same spot at the same time.

Seeing such an array, I can’t help thinking of those older folding Kodak cameras.

I have a few in my collection, and some of the ads pertaining to them.

Photography is the art of the masses. Thousands of novices and experienced photographers have engaged in picture composing.

The photographic moment became a part of everyday life in the late 19th century when Kodak began producing their cameras for the public. But George Eastman wasn’t entirely responsible. There were other folks who were responsible for the development of cameras and photo making.

First in 1839.

Alphonse Giroux manufactured the first effective camera in 1839. Public acceptance for the new invention was not complete, however, until Eastman introduced the first small, light camera in 1888.

He took advantage of the advances in the developing and printing processes and the new roll film photography.

The slogan for Eastman-Kodak was, “You press the button, we do the rest”. The rest is history. The name “Kodak” became synonymous to cameras of any kind or in any circumstance.

By 1900 cameras were available and processes quite simplified so that photographs could be made under diversified conditions and lighting.

Folding cameras similar to Kodaks were produced from around 1900 till the late 1930’s. A variety of sizes and brands were available, a few merely folding box cameras, others, like current cameras, quite intricate in construction and operation.

Sophisticated folding cameras for professional photographers were produced up to the early 1950’s. At that time cameras with interchangeable lens were introduced.

Popular with collectors.

Collectors of all levels are often attracted by the folding camera, perhaps due to the classic qualities of shape. A few had brass fittings, and their finish is quite attractive.

Old advertisements are often highly informative on many articles that collectors seek. The Camera, a monthly magazine devoted to the advancement of photography” circa 1920, is a great resource for camera collectors. I am fortunate to have a dozen or so copies in my files.

The May 1920 issue has an ad for “The Pocket Premoll, price $13.85 (a price many could not afford at the time).

“Draw back the bed, and the lens snaps rigidly into focus. The shutter is set ready for use,” explains the ad.

The camera was 21/4 by 31/4 inches in size.

Folding bellows. Many cameras had folding bellows in front. These, I imagine, are also considered folding cameras. Such a camera illustrated in the December 1920 issue was the “Auto Reflex”, this camera was used for indoor and outdoor photography.

A plate or film holder was used, giving 1/10 or 1/1000 of a second exposures. The operator viewed the subjects by looking downward into the camera.

A small hand held camera quite similar in appearance made pictures the same size as the Kodak Primo.

Seneca Camera Company, of Rochester, N.Y. (the same city where Kodak was located), advertised a camera described as a “handsome, compact, reflecting camera”. It was named “The Popular Pressman” and was made by special arrangement with Butchers, Ltd., of England.

The Ice-Contessas.

In the front of the magazine is an ad illustrating 19 models of the “Ica-Contessa Cameras”, issued by Bennett of New York City. Fourteen of the Ica-Contessa models cameras had folding bellows.

Kodak also had a hand held top viewed reflex camera called “Graflex”. This made photos an inch smaller than the Ica-Contessa cameras. The ad related that “Kodak Cut Film costs 46 cents a dozen – Super Speed 52 cents”. This is the film used in the Graflex camera.

The most common Kodak, that I have seen for sale for a couple of dollars, is the No. 1-A Pocket Kodak, original cost $26. The ad says, “If it isn’t an Eastman, it isn’t a Kodak”.

Tourist camera.

Tourists were taking pictures even in those lean years. A 1925 issue illustrates a camera specifically made for travel and rough use.

The “Bergheil Tourist Camera” was light in weight, leather covered, and had double extension bellows. Many cameras of these types were beyond the price range of the average working person — at $90 to $115 this camera was more expensive than many are today. It was made by the Motion Picture Apparatus Co. of New York City.

Cameras and accessories didn’t begin to be collected until around 1970. Since then there have been auctions of such apparatus. Prices vary similar to any and all collectibles – condition and whether they work being the determining factors.

A 1928 Ansco sells for around $30; a 1950 35mm folding Baldinette, around $300; Kodak Automatic Junior, circa 1916 to 1927, $20; a 1950 Leitz, around $400.

The list is extensive and prices vary.

In the future the modern. cameras being pointed and shot at the site of scenic wonders – the throw-aways, types discontinued, disc cameras, etc., all have a possibility of becoming historical or worth collecting.


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