I love old consumer-grade cameras because they give me a greater appreciation of today’s media technology. It’s one thing to read about how pictures and movies were produced “back in the day” and entirely another to touch the process firsthand. I recently added three new cameras to my old camera collection, and it’s been fun to research where these models fit in the hundred-year history of amateur photography.
Kodak Brownie 8 Movie Camera
Manufactured beginning in 1951, the Brownie 8 represents post-war consumerism and an increasingly mobile middle-class. Kodak called it “Everybody’s Movie Camera,” and for the low price of about $25, it was. Instead of a battery, the camera used a hand-crank motor that was activated upon pressing the only button at the front of the camera beneath the lens. The camera took Kodak’s standard 8mm film, which was sold in spools of 25 feet. As the film advanced through the camera, it re-spooled on a second spool. The spools were then switched to expose the second side, resulting in 50 feet of exposed movie film. Processing the film required a film technician to cut the film down the middle and edit the two 25-foot strips together, resulting in a spool of 50 feet of film that could be projected using the Brownie 8 Movie Projector. I’m told there’s still film to be found for these cameras, but I haven’t tracked any down yet.
Argus C-series cameras were popular throughout the 40s & 50s for their reliable handling of 35mm film, and their solid chrome and plastic bodies. Manufactured by Argus Camera Company from 1956-1957, the C44 was a 35mm camera with interchangeable lenses and lots of accessories for the hobby photographer. It was one of the last 35mm rangefinder cameras Argus produced, partly due to the interchangeable lens system. The lenses for the C44 were not compatible with other C-series cameras, and the lens mount system was notoriously difficult. It was also an expensive camera; the purchase price for a C44 with a 50mm lens was $99.50. Accessories such as the leather carrying case and flash brought the total to $117 for the camera pictured above. If the camera still worked (it doesn’t) it would take modern 35mm film with little to no problem.
Kodak Disc 6000
The Kodak Disc 3000, 4000, 6000 and 8000 were manufactured between 1982 and 1984 and retailed for between $57 and $143. They have the unique distinction of being the only cameras Kodak manufactured that used HR Discs instead of film. The Disc system was almost entirely automated, making the loading of film and picture-taking itself much simpler for the consumer. Even the battery was not user-serviceable; the 3v lithium battery had to be replaced by Kodak. Despite the ease of use of these cameras, they didn’t quite take off and were quickly discontinued. Apparently the picture quality was lacking, and consumers were disappointed by the final prints. Kodak finally discontinued the HR disc in 1999.
Although these cameras are new to me, I’m actually taking stewardship of them from a wonderful man, Dominick Giammario. Sadly, “Grandpa Dom” passed away in December. I am very grateful to the Giammario family for trusting me with this part of their family history. I look forward to telling people about Grandpa Dom’s cameras for years to come.