Kodak Pocket Instamatic 100

Note: I started this post in May 2018, hence the date, but I just finished editing it and adding the picture. It is quite long overdue.

Instamatics are possibly among the most commonly found film cameras in charities here in the United Kingdom. If a charity sells cameras, there’s a 90% chance you’ll find an Instamatic somewhere.

Although the name itself might lead to the idea of an instant camera (much like the Polaroid), in reality no Instamatic model worked with self-developing film (these were the Kodamatics). They were designed as a line of inexpensive, easy-to-use compact point and shoot cameras, that accepted 126 and 110 film. Most models had no setting control at all, with a few exceptions.

The first model was the Instamatic 100, a camera which used 126 film cartridges, which costed around 15-16 US$ (in 1963). It accepted AG-6 flash bulbs which were powered by a couple AAA batteries. The only setting available was whether to use the flash or not.

Several models came out, later models replacing the flash bulbs with flashcubes and magicubes (thus, removing the need for batteries).

The model I purchased online is the Pocket Instamatic 100, a 110-film camera that was produced in the early seventies.

The Pocket Instamatic 100

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The Pocket Instamatic 100 in its original package. Missing are the film roll and the instructions manual. The red button is the shutter release, whereas the black slot is for the Magicubes (optional).

It took me a while to find out some specs for this camera, but finally I found the Kodak Classics website, so I managed to get hold of some numbers. This camera offers a fixed 25mm triplet lens, with an aperture of f/11. Shooting time is 1/60s (unchangable) and there is the option of using a Magicube flash, if the lighting is insufficient. Inside the package there is the camera itself, a Magicube extender (an adapter that raises the Magicube a bit so it is not too close to the lens) and a lanyard. The original package also provided a blank roll of 110 Kodak film and the instructions booklet.

It is a plastic beauty, quite small and compact (the dimensions are …). The lens is protected by a sliding panel, that also unlocks the camera when opened. There is also a lever to operate the film advance on the bottom, which also rotate the Magicube slot by one quarter of a turn (a Magicube has four bulbs).

It’s a very simple and compact design, but it’s quite fun to use. 110 Film is still produced by few companies, including Lomography who also process and scan it through their LOMO Lab service.

There are some pictures I snapped in Krakow, Poland with the Pocket Instamatic:

Kodak Brownie n° 2

Now, we need a moment of attention for one of the most important cameras in history.

The Brownie has been the first inexpensive camera to introduce photography to the masses (well, sort of). It has been from the beginning a very simple box camera, initially using 117 film, then switching to the more popular 120 film (the very same that we still load in our Dianas, Holgas and Mamiyas). It was introduced in 1900 and has been produced, in one form or another, until 1986 (again, sort of – the Brownie introduced in 1986 was produced only in Brasil and was using 110 film, it looked more like an Instamatic).

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The Brownie n. 2

The model I have in my hands, the Brownie n° 2, was introduced in 1901 and was the first camera ever to use 120 mm format film. Lots of people still use the brownies, because of their dependability and their simplicity that allows one to focus on the photography rather than on the bell and whistles of the camera.

It is a very simple camera. A meniscus lens, projecting light into the box, hits the film mounted on the internal holding structure. Shutter is operated by a lever. There are three apertures available.

Here are some details:

  • approx. 100 mm lens
  • apertures f/11, f/16 and f/22
  • shutter speed: instant (1/50) and bulb

This camera gives its best in black and white photography, although any 120mm film can be used.

The structure of the camera itself is quite simple: there is an internal metallic film holder that slides out of the camera, in which you can put the film roll and the take up spool. A couple of metallic rotating pieces to make the film move without scratching it and that’s it. The rear panel is held in place by the leatherette itself, there are no hinges at all. Exposure counting is done via the classic red window on the back.

All in all, it’s a fun piece of equipment to play with and there’s plenty of good photography to be done. It is very similar to a toy camera, but for several reasons people  tend take this more seriously than a Diana or a Holga. Like these two plastic wonders, though, the Brownie allows to focus most of your attention into composition and proper technique rather than a thousand gizmos.

Verdict: everyone should play with a Brownie at least once.

Some pictures I took with the Brownie: no controls at all mean that most of my pictures came out totally white or totally black, here’s a couple that survived.

 

Book review: Basic Techniques of Photography – Book 1

An Ansel Adams Guide – Basic Techniques of Photography – Book 1
JP Schaefer
1998, Little, Brown and Company
ISBN 978-08212-188-22
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Bonne chance finding this book. As far as I can tell it is not published anymore, although Little, Brown and Co. still has in catalog several other books by Ansel Adams and another one by Schaefer. This one comes as the first volume of a series of two, but if the first one needs digging online (or in used books stores), the second one requires a bigger wallet because it is harder to find and more expensive (we’re still under £50, though). And if it does not seem a lot for a book, it is still a lot for a used book.

This masterpiece is like a Bible for the photographer. It contains everything from the basics (like the process of capturing a picture on film, different kinds of cameras and their workings, concepts like parallax, aperture, exposure…) to more advanced one (including film development). It is really well written, with lots of beautiful photos by the great Ansel Adams and excerpts from his notes and books.

All the concepts are very well expressed and clear, with loads of schemes and pictures to clarify the examples (besides, in a book about photography, you can’t really express concepts without having photographies in it, can you?).

Scan eBay or World of Books for a copy of this gem, it is really worth it, especially if you are a beginner like me. Prices vary but you should be able to grab your copy for something in between a fiver and £20 (that is, if you live in the UK).

 

Adventures in Pinhole-land (1)

This morning I decided to attempt and play a bit with one of the modes of the Diana F+ I have used the least, the pinhole aperture.

On the Diana, the pinhole setting is approx. f/150, and clearly my light meter (I use the LightMeter app) does not go beyond f/1.4. I used this website to calculate the approx. shutter times I needed to use. Lomography also offers a handy guide for Diana shooting, including pinholes.

It used a tripod and the Diana Collar + Cable release accessory to try and make sure the camera is most stabilised, although was a bit tricky as it is quite a windy day and the Diana itself is extremely light.

I used the meter to read what exposure time use for f/2.8 and then, with the above mentioned website, I found out the right timing for f/150. Mainly I did between 1 and 3 seconds exposures.

I’m quite curious to see what I am getting out of this roll, as soon as I have it back from the lab I’ll post the pictures.

Lomography, and why I still shoot film

Today, I want to talk about what made me start on film photography: lomography.

I want to use the definition of lomography that comes from the website of the Lomography Society International:

“Lomography is a globally-active organization dedicated to analogue, experimental and creative photography. With millions of followers and friends across the world, the concept of Lomography encompasses an interactive, vivid and sometimes even blurred and crazy way of life. Through our constantly expanding collection of innovative cameras, instant products, films, lenses & photographic accessories, we promote photography as an inventive approach to communicate, absorb and capture the world. ()”

lomo

This movement was born in the 1990s when a group of Austrian students found an old LOMO LC-A (see my page about this camera here) and used it to take some pictures, without knowing what the end result would be. Once they developed the films, they found out that the pictures had an unique lo-fi charme.

Mainly, lomographers tend to prefer certain cameras, like the ones shown below, but lomography is certainly not limited to only these sacred beasts (all pictures taken from Lomography official website).

 

What makes a photograph lomographic?

 

“Don’t think, just shoot.”

This is the motto of the movement, the essence of every lomograph. In each picture there is a mixture of spontaneity, lo-fi, color, randomness. There is no fix technique into taking a lomograph, often there is no technique at all. 

Each picture is unique, there may or may not be vignetting, extreme color (de)saturation, color shift, light leaks, light trails, blurriness… every possible defect that can be present in a normal photograph, is considered a virtue in a lomograph. It can be random or forcibly added to the picture by the lomographer.

To express this concept further, I’d like to copy the 10 golden rules of the movement (taken from the LSI website).

  1. Take your camera everywhere you go
  2. Use it at any time – day and night
  3. Lomography is not an interference in your life, but a part of it
  4. Try the shot from the hip
  5. Approach the objects of your lomographic desire as close as possible
  6. Don’t think
  7. Be fast
  8. You don’t have to know beforehand what you captured on film
  9. Afterwards either
  10. Don’t worry about any rules

These above are some examples of lomographs taken by me. I used my Diana F+ camera. More on my LomoHome.

Are you a lomographer? Why are you still using film?

Depends on my mood, and the camera I am using. Overall, I like both traditional photography and lomography and like to play with both. For some, photography is trying to reproduce reality in the most accurate way possible. For others, it is a way to capture moments and emotions, a way of self-expression. I think film is the best medium for the kind of photography I do and like, and the reason behind my shooting changes according to what picture you are looking at. Simple as that.

I like film because it adds a challenge, choosing the right medium for the right photo, or doing the best you can, for the best result you want, with what you have loaded in your camera. Unlike digital, you can’t switch colour to B&W or change ISO sensitivity on the fly, it all depends on what you have loaded.

I find that having a limited number of exposures per roll gives more meaning to what you do, what you choose to shoot and how you do it.

But the main reason of all, is that waiting for a film to be processed and see the pictures is like waiting for Christmas, every time. And when some pictures don’t come out as you wanted (or do not come out at all – happens!), the delusion gives quickly way to a new excitement and enthusiasm and will to continue shooting regardless.

Can I be a lomographer/film shooter?

Naturally. You need three things:

  • A camera
  • A roll of film
  • a bit of creativity

The best format with which to begin with is 35mm (aka 135). Every photo lab can process colour 135 and you can find films easily. Most common films you can find are AgfaPhoto Vista (200 and 400 ISO), Kodak ColorPlus 200 and Fujifilm Superia Xtra 400. Black and white shooting is also possible, but not all labs process B&W film. Ilford’s FP4 and HP5 are easily found in photography shops, sometimes with the XP2 (which is processed C-41 – colour – but produces a black and white image, still).

Getting a film camera is the next thing. Chances are you already got one lying around somewhere. Make sure there are some batteries in it if it’s an automatic model, load the film and start shooting. If you don’t you can find some in thrift shops or eBay quite easily. Even a point and shoot is sufficient to begin. Have a look at this, this, this one and this.

If you want to start even quicker, grab a disposable camera. They are still quite common (used especially in parties and weddings), or you can spend a little more and try your lomographic skills with Lomography’s own series of disposable cameras (they have a built in flash with colour filters).