|Kodak Disc 4000, a typical|
disc camera with film pack
image by Rick Soloway (Image rights)
Disc film was a format introduced by Kodak, along with the cameras in June 1982 (in the US) and September 1982 (in the UK). The intention was to develop the Instamatic idea, of foolproof loading and simple operation, into cameras which would work in all lighting conditions. Developments in emulsion technology were allowing reasonable quality from very small negatives - at 8×10.5mm, less than 40% of the area of the (already small) 13x17mm frames of 110 film, introduced ten years earlier.
Fairly thick film was cut into a disc of 15 8×10.5mm rectangular frames, arranged around the edge of a plastic hub, in a similar manner to View-Master disks. The disc was mounted in a light-proof cassette which could simply be dropped in to the camera. The camera would take a photo, and then rotate the disk 24° for the next shot. The discs had a magnetic strip included, to store information about print settings - allowing duplicate reprints to be made later. The hub carried raised white areas with frame numbers, which were visible through a hole in the cassette.
This format had an advantage over rolled film, in that the negatives stayed flat - needing no pressure plate or rollers, so the film was potentially less subject to image distortion from not being flat in the image plane, less liable to stretching, scratching or emulsion cracking during film advance. However, the small negative proved a greater disadvantage.
The discs were only available for colour-print negatives - no other types, such as slide film, were made. As well as Kodak, Konica, Fuji and 3M made disc film - sold under their own names and also as branded by other companies.
|Kodak Disc 6000|
image by Steve Harwood (Image rights)
|A Boots camera,|
open for loading
image by AWCam (Image rights)
Kodak developed special aspherical lenses for the cameras and printing equipment. The flat, roll-less arrangement of the film, meant that disc cameras could be very thin, and the negative size allowed very short focal length lenses (typically 12.5mm), and so lenses did not bulge out far. Most disc cameras were small & thin, with automatic exposure and often automatic flash. However the complex mechanism in a small space made manufacture difficult, and the film expensive. Once Kodak had established the format, many other companies also made Disc film cameras. Still more - such as the Boots chain in the UK - sold their own brand Disc cameras made for them by others.
Disc Camera Brands
Many of these are retailers of cameras made OEM by others.
Achiever, Alfon, Ansco, Birex, Black, Boots, Bushnell, Concord, Continental, Dejur, Dixons, Fuji, Halina, Hanimex, Image, Imperial, Keystone, Kinon, Kodak, Konica, Minolta, Nova, Osram, Premier, Prolux, Regula, Revue, Rokinon, Ronrico Rum, Rosley, Sears, Starblitz, Sylvania, Viceroy, Voigtländer, W.H.Smith, Wotan.
Results and Demise
The quality of pictures was not good, due to the size of the negatives showing large grain and poor resolution, and the tendency of photo labs to print them using optics designed for larger formats rather than use Kodak's specially-designed system.
The format ultimately failed due to the poor picture quality, the relative expense of the cameras compared to other formats, and reliability problems. Newer 35mm cameras - providing much better images and more automation along with a choice of film types - had become more popular. These new cameras were not as thin as Disc cameras, but were smaller in outline. Disc cameras went out of production in 1990. Most manufacturers stopped making film shortly afterwards - although Kodak carried on with film until 1999.
- Kodak History (archived)
- Coe, Brian, Kodak Cameras - the First Hundred Years, pp.261-265, Hove Foto Books, Hove, UK, 1988.