Kodak No. 1

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The Kodak is George Eastman's legendary first rollfilm camera bearing the new brand name "Kodak", patented and introduced in 1888. It used Eastman stripping negative film, the first successful roll film (the photographic emulsion was attached to a paper roll, from which it was separated during development). The camera was loaded at the factory. The Kodak No. 1 and No. 2 of 1889 resemble the original Kodak camera, but have a different shutter. They were available with paper-based stripping film or its successor, Eastman transparent film (with the emulsion attached to a transparent cellulose base from which it did not need to be separated).[1]

The shutter was tensioned by pulling a string (attached to the stud at the front of the top of the camera in the photograph), and tripped by pressing a button on the camera's left-hand side. The original Kodak and the No. 1 have a 'V' shape impressed in the leather on the top, showing the angle of view; this is the only framing aid. The No. 2 has a Watson-type reflex viewfinder and three aperture stops (in a swivelling plate in the shutter mechanism).

After exposure, the film was advanced with the key on the top. The moving film rotated a shaft, causing a pointer on the top of the camera to rotate, so the photographer could advance the correct amount of film. Once one hundred pictures had been taken, the user sent the whole camera back to Kodak for film processing and reloading - at a cost of $10[2].

The original Kodak and the No. 1 could take a hundred round photographs, with a diameter of 2½ inches (65 mm), on each roll of 2¾ inch-wide Eastman American Film; the No. 2 could take sixty photographs, with a diameter of 3½ inches.[3] The round image was a design decision, partly as a way of ensuring that the photographer didn't have to hold the camera exactly level with the horizon, and partly to compensate for the poor image quality at the corners of the image.

These first Kodak cameras were designed by George Eastman in collaboration with a cabinetmaker, Frank A. Brownell, who set up the production line at Eastman's factory. They are beautifully built, with box joints and strong leather covering.

  • Type: box camera
  • Manufacturer: Eastman Dry Plate and Film Company (later the Eastman Kodak Company)
  • Years of production: 1888-1889 (Kodak); 1889-1895 (Kodak No.1)
  • Price: US$25 (quite expensive at that time)
  • Film: paper rolls - changed by manufacturer, alternate loading with transparent film (only Kodak No. 1)
  • Lens: Bausch & Lomb 57mm f/9 Rapid Rectilinear wide angle lens
  • Shutter: string set; cylindrical (Kodak), sector 'T' and 'I' shutter (Kodak No.1)
  • Weight: 900 g
  • Dimensions: 8.3×9.6×16.5cm


Notes

  1. Pack of Eastman's Transparent Film for the No. 1 Kodak, sold at the tenth Westlicht Photographica auction, in November 2006.
  2. History of Kodak at Kodak corporate site.
  3. McKeown, James M. and Joan C. McKeown's Price Guide to Antique and Classic Cameras, 12th Edition, 2005-2006. USA, Centennial Photo Service, 2004. ISBN 0-931838-40-1 (hardcover). ISBN 0-931838-41-X (softcover). p472-3.


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