geeky,  history,  hobbies,  photography

Vest Pocket

2009 or 1919?
2009 or 1919?

What happens when you take a camera made some 90 years ago, nurse designed to use an obsolete format of film, symptoms and make it work again? Here’s your answer!

Since I started in with this photography hobby in earnest, my father gave this Vest Pocket Autographic Kodak camera to me about six months ago. Yesterday, I decided to take pictures with it. Today, I did! Here’s how I did it…

Vest Pocket Kodak ready to go
Vest Pocket Kodak ready to go

According to the Camerapedia article, the Vest Pocket Autographic Kodak was introduced in 1917. The history of this particular one is unusual. My father found it decades ago in the attic of a house his parents had just bought. He kept it and used it, including all through college. It had light leaks, which he fixed with black tape. The tape is still on the bellows! I’m scared to try to take it off. (I don’t think there’s anything to be gained by trying, so there it will stay.)

Vest Pocket Kodak autographic feature
Vest Pocket Kodak autographic feature

It takes the now obsolete and difficult to find 127 roll film. It’s a roll film like 120 medium format film, where there’s a paper backing that allows you to count the pictures frames. Size-wise, it takes images 4cm across, so it’s only a little wider than 35mm film, but not as wide as 120 format. A lot of Kodak Brownie cameras took this kind of film, too. Efke makes 127 film, as does a Canadian manufacturer whose name I can’t remember, but it’s not something you can pick up from any of the usual places. (Even more unusual was the “autographic” film this camera took, 127A, which allowed the photographer to write notes on the film with a stylus. It’s not required to have the “autographic” film; plain ol’ 127 will do.) This presents a problem for taking pictures with the Vest Pocket Autographic Kodak!

Vest Pocket Kodak extended
Vest Pocket Kodak extended

Since I develop B&W film at home now-a-days (hmm, haven’t written a Squirrley Post about that yet, have I??), I could develop just about anything. Ultimately, I decided to take plain 35mm Black & White Kodak Tri-X 400 and figure out how to get it into the camera. Long story short, I took a used 35mm cartridge’s film reel and trimmed down the sides of the spool to fit in the space where the supply reel goes. In a completely darkened room, I re-spooled the 35mm film onto the trimmed spool; attached the free end to the 127 spool that came with the camera; and loaded it into the camera.

Vest Pocket Kodak front
Vest Pocket Kodak front

Since there’s no paper backing on 35mm film, I also covered up the back red film frame counter window with black tape, and also the “autographic” hole. (The “autographic” feature is covered by a small door, seen open in the picture above on the left, but it doesn’t look light tight [it never needed to be] so I just covered it.) The Vest Pocket camera takes 4cmx6cm exposures, so I made an educated guess about how much to turn the film advance lever after each exposure.

I took the camera and took some pictures: two indoors, and the rest outside. The first picture, of Craftyangie, might have come out, except that the shutter stuck open. Of course, I had never seen it do this before; it waited until I actually had some film in the camera to pull that trick. I can’t even claim that it resulted in an interesting “arty” image… it’s just a wiped out blur on the negative.

Onto the great outdoors. The only image that came out at all is the one at the top of this post. Unfortunately, most of the rest weren’t even worth scanning. It’s not even a matter of overexposure or underexposure: they’re just really awful quality images.

(As for the scanning… The negative is longer and more narrow [in aspect ratio] than what you see at the top. The software that came with my scanner doesn’t know what to do with 35mm negatives that aren’t exactly 24×36. I could find and use other scanning software, but I wanted to actually scan this tonight, so here you are!)

Oh, well. It was an interesting experiment. And now, when I put it up on a shelf as just a decoration, I have a good reason for doing that!  🙂

5 Comments

  • Michelle

    Fun!

    Okay, you’re going to have to come to NYC for a visit. There’s a second-hand shop near me that always seems to have vintage cameras in plentiful supply. I always think to call you and ask you if you want me to buy one for you (with what money, I don’t know) and hold it until I see you next… But then I remember I don’t have your phone number! 😛

    -M

  • boombadeus

    Sshhh! Don’t tell CraftyAngie!! 😉

    You should know better than to tempt me like that! I’m really only interested in equipment I can use… which is most of it.

    Good thing we don’t have a store like that in my immediate neighborhood… trouble!

  • D'Dude

    So, you played with the camera I gave you! BTW, the black tape you talk about is actual real photographic tape (circa 1957) designed to seal light leaks in bellows. Except I have a feeling it was for much larger bellows with much larger pleats than the one on this camera. Yes, at one time, people actually repaired things simply. If the tape did the trick, so be it!