Kodak Automatic 35/Motormatic 35
The Kodak Automatic and Motormatic series were Kodak’s last American made 35mm cameras, and their first automatic exposure 35mm cameras. Tracing their original roots back to the Kodak 35 of 1938, there were seven different models; the first, the Kodak Automatic 35, was introduced in 1959 while the last, the Motormatic 35R4, was introduced in 1965. Production ceased in 1969.
Based largely on the Kodak Signet 50, the Kodak Automatic utilized that camera’s basic body, film transport, and lens. The lens was a 44mm f/2.8 Kodak Ektanar (Lumenized), a 4-element Tessar design with front element focusing. Like many of Kodak's better lenses of this period, the lenses are somewhat radioactive. The camera had a drum take up spool and bottom mounted advance lever.
The orignal Automatic 35 used a two-speed (1/40 for flash and 1/80 for existing light) Kodak Synchro 80 Shutter. All other Automatics and Motormatics used a four-speed (1/40, 1/80, 1/125, and 1/250) user-selectable Kodak Automatic Flash Shutter. Otherwise, the various Automatic and Motormatic cameras differ only in that the Automatics had a manual lever film advance, while the Motormatics had and a spring driven power film advance. The spring motor was wound by a ratcheted knob on the camera's right bottom plate, and could be disengaged for a "stealth" mode of operation. The concept of a spring driven film advance was to reappear on Kodak’s Instamatic 800 series.
The main difference between the successive models of each camera were in the flash capabilities, evolving from the side mounted M2 flashbulb gun of the original models, adding an aperture/distance guide number (GN) interlock on the B model), through the integral top mounted AG-1 socket and reflector of the F models, and finally to the top mounted Flashcube socket on the R4 models. Only the original models had manual exposure settings, Kodak evidently feeling that manual exposure control was only necessary for flash operations. On the B, F, and R4 models, it was not possible to manually set the aperture.
These are fixed-lens viewfinder cameras; focusing is by scale or estimate. The bodies are made from bakelite, with metal inserts, fittings, and attached plates. The top plate contains (from the right) the brightline window, the centrally located viewfinder, and the selenium meter cell. In addition to the viewfinder having a brightline for the 44mm lens and parallax marks for 3 and 5 feet, it displays the words “Close-ups”, “Groups”, and Scenes” when the focusing ring is set to the appropriate click stop.
The selenium exposure meter was calibrated for ASA speed via a dial on the left top plate. With the introduction of these cameras, Kodak finally abandoned the EV system, the meter now reading out in f/stops. Both cameras utilized the trap needle exposure automation system first developed in the Kodak Super Six-20 of 1938. Slight pressure on the shutter release set the 4-bladed aperture diaphragm at the f/stop indicated by the meter needle. The meter readout was located on a flat panel directly on top of the lens mount. On the original models, the same panel featured a movable pointer used to select f/stops when the camera was in manual exposure mode. The selenium photocell required no batteries, however the F and R4 models had a battery compartment to power the built in flash units.
The Automatic 35 originally sold in 1959 for a list price of $84.50 USD (app. $600 USD in 2007). The Motormatic 35 originally sold in 1960 for a list price of $109.50 USD (app. $765 USD in 2007).
Details of Kodak Automatic/Motormatic Cameras
The following information is taken from the original camera manuals.
Lens: Kodak Ektanar, 44mm f/2.8, Lumenized, retaining ring accepts Series 5 accessories
Lens Openings: f/2.8 to f/32
The original Automatic 35 used the Kodak Synchro 80 Shutter - automatically cocked when film is advanced. Double-Exposure prevention. Speeds: 1/40, 1/80
All other models used the Kodak Automatic Flash Shutter - automatically cocked when film is advanced. Double-Exposure prevention. Speeds: 1/40, 1/80, 1/125, 1/250
Film: 35mm Body Release: Right front of camera
Flash: Built-in synchronization, use No. 5 or 25, and M-2 bulbs to 1/30 second. Electronic flash (X-synchronized) at all shutter speeds.
External Kodalite flashbulb gun (original and B models), built-in AG-1 Flash gun (F models), or built-in Flashcube socket (R4 models)
Focusing Range: 2 1/2 feet to infinity.
Viewfinder: Optical, projected viewframe type.
Meter: Selenium photocell automatically sets lens aperture. ASA 10 to 160, 320, or 800, depending on model.
Construction: Single stroke lever film advance (Automatic models) or spring driven Power Drive (Motormatic models), easy drum-type loading, automatic exposure counter.
Summary of model differences
|Model||Lens||Shutter||Film Advance||Flash features||manual exp.||Dates|
|Automatic 35||44mm f/2.8 Ektanar||Kodak Synchro 80||Manual||Kodalite Flashbulb gun||yes||1959-64|
|Motormatic 35||44mm f/2.8 Ektanar||Kodak Automatic Flash||Spring motor||Kodalite Flashbulb gun/GN lens coupling||yes||1960-62|
|Automatic 35B||44mm f/2.8 Ektanar||Kodak Automatic Flash||Manual||Kodalite Flashbulb gun/GN lens coupling||no||1961-62|
|Automatic 35F||44mm f/2.8 Ektanar||Kodak Automatic Flash||Manual||AG-1 bulb on camera/GN lens coupling||no||1962-66|
|Motormatic 35F||44mm f/2.8 Ektanar||Kodak Automatic Flash||Spring motor||AG-1 bulb on camera/GN lens coupling||no||1962-67|
|Automatic 35R4||44mm f/2.8 Ektanar||Kodak Automatic Flash||Manual||Flashcube/GN lens coupling||no||1965-69|
|Motormatic 35R4||44mm f/2.8 Ektanar||Kodak Automatic Flash||Spring motor||Flashcube/GN lens coupling||no||1965-69|
- Automatic 35 PDF Manual on Mike Butkus' site
- Motormatic 35 PDF Manual on Mike Butkus' site
- Automatic 35F PDF Manual on Mike Butkus' site
- Motormatic 35F PDF Manual on Mike Butkus' site
- Automatic 35R4 PDF Manual on Mike Butkus' site
- Motormatic 35R4 PDF Manual on Mike Butkus' site
- History of Kodak Cameras at Kodak's website (archived)
- Automatic 35, Automatic 35 B, Motormatic 35 F on www.collection-appareils.fr by Sylvain Halgand (in French)
- Coe, Brian: Kodak Cameras, the First Hundred Years; Hove Foto Books, Hove, UK. 1988; ISBN 0-906447-44-5, or 2nd edition, 2003; ISBN 1874707375.
- Kalton Lahue and Joesph Bailey, Glass, Brass, & Chrome - The American 35mm Miniature Camera, University of Oklahoma Press, 1972
- Original Kodak user manuals for the various Automatic and Motormatic models