F. and S. Marriott 140 Newbegin, Hornsea, England, HU18 1PB

May 2010. Stephanie died peacefully on 19th April after a short stay in hospital. She had been suffering from acute cervical cancer. Fred will continue to run the business to the best of his ability. The web site is slowly getting under control again as he tries to take over some of Stephanie's responsibilities, and learns some of the mysteries of Dreamweaver.

Pieces An on-line look at cameras etc. by Stephanie Marriott


Kodak Brownie 127

Instamatic 50

Kodak Electric 8 Automatic Movie Camera

Kodak Brownie M2 Super-8 cine camera

Kodak Brownie M12 Super-8 cine camera

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August 1998

Introduction. It has always been the case that some cameras cost less than others. Lower-priced cameras may not have the features and finish of more expensive cameras, but for their purchasers they did the essential thing - they captured the moment. Most purchasers were not interested in "art" but in family pictures, sometimes disparagingly called "happy snaps".

I take happy-snaps.

For me, the family snapshot market is one of the two most important markets there is (the other being photo-journalism), not because of the revenue it generates but because it is family snapshots that give a real window on the way life used to be. As a family historian, my collection of family photographs is very precious, and I know of countless other family historians who feel the same.

Yet many of these low-priced cameras were not, and should not be called, "cheap". In terms of the working time required to pay for one, even the ubiquitous Box Brownie represented a considerable investment for many families, which is why cameras were usually looked after carefully.

So if anyone can suggest a good substitute for "cheap" or "low-priced" (another relative term), I would be very grateful. Meanwhile, here is a look at some of the cameras, still and cine, which were very popular in their day so surely deserve a second look from camera enthusiasts today.

It would be impossible to write about popular cameras without mentioning Kodak at least once, so this entire column is devoted to products of Kodak. They, more than anyone else, have brought photography to everyone, and we should be grateful. I cannot possibly do justice to their entire output, so I have picked a few post-war items, starting with the Kodak Brownie 127.

Kodak Brownie 127. This is a simple Bakelite camera which is usually black (white ones were made but proved to look "grubby" after some use) with a decorative front plate. It was made in the UK from about 1952 until about 1963, an important time in Britain as wartime shortages (rationing finally ended in 1954) were replaced by post-war boom.

The first model has horizontal moulded lines in the body and a plain front plate. In about 1956 the face plate was ornamented with a diamond-pattern. (Picture) Both of these versions have a meniscus f/14 65 mm. lens and a single speed shutter (one-fiftieth of a second). In 1959 the horizontal pattern was replaced by moulded vertical ribs and the diamond patterning was replaced by horizontal lines. This model has a plastic Dakon f/11 lens and rotary shutter. Also in about 1959, an experimental white bodied 127 was made and test-marketed for a short time. Unfortunately, the white soon looked "grubby" and proved unpopular for this reason so the cameras were never put into full production. They are therefore more valuable now, but they contributed nothing towards making photography more accessible.

In about 1965 a third version of the Brownie 127 was made, with completely different styling and a dark grey plastic body. This camera has a plastic f/14 50.6 mm. lens and a single speed shutter (one-fortieth of a second), and a hot shoe for flash.

In 1954 the Brownie 127 cost £1 4s. 6d. (£1.23) and it was one of the cheapest cameras available in the UK. The price remained relatively stable for some time, although purchase tax rates may have changed, which may hide underlying changes in the price of the camera. In 1962 the second model cost £1 5s. (£1.25), while the third and final model cost £1 10s. 5d. (£1.52) in 1967.

Instamatic 50. One of the factors which undoubtedly hastened the end of the Brownie 127 line of cameras was the arrival of the Instamatic cartridge. The simplest and cheapest of the Instamatic cameras was the Instamatic 50. This had a fixed focus meniscus f/11 43 mm. lens, a two-speed shutter (one-fortieth and one-ninetieth of a second), lever wind and a hot shoe. In 1963 it cost £2 15s. 3d. (£2.76). By this time, these cameras were being marketed as "junior" cameras, suitable for children, although popular with adults as well. They sold in uncounted millions world-wide.

Kodak also had an impact on the cinematography market. Standard-8 (Regular 8) was widely seen as "fiddly".

Kodak Electric 8 Automatic camera. Kodak made an effort to simplify loading with the Kodak Electric 8 Automatic camera. This has a fixed focus Ektanar f/1.9 lens, automatic exposure with manual half-stop correction, and an electric drive offering 16 f.p.s. only. The "Duex" cassette has to be pre-loaded with a spool of standard-8 film, but then the cassette just drops in. The camera has an indicator showing which side of the film is being exposed. In 1963, the camera cost £43 9s. (£43.45), the case was an additional £7 19s. 10d. (£7.98) and a spare Duex cassette was £2 14s. 3d. (£2.71).

Despite efforts like this, and Kodak was by no means the only company to try a user-loaded cassette system, all that threading the film and turning it over was a disincentive to many people. When Kodak introduced the Super-8 cartridge, all this changed. Now loading a cine camera was as easy as loading an Instamatic 126 camera, and by 1965, when Super-8 was introduced, the Instamatic cartridge was already well-established.

Kodak Instamatic M2. The Instamatic M2 was the cheapest of a range of Instamatic cine cameras. Introduced in 1965, together with the new film, it was very much an entry-level camera with a simple fixed focus f/1.8 lens, manual exposure and single filming speed (18 f.p.s.). It cost £22 5s. (£22.25) in 1966.

Kodak Instamatic M12. The Instamatic M2 was superseded a few years later by the M12, still a useful camera for its small size; it is described in one 1968 report as "palm-sized". It has a similar specification to the M2, but with an f/2.7 fixed-focus lens, and in 1968 it cost £16 1s. 10d. (£16.09). The M14 was the same as the M12 but with a built-in CdS meter giving fully automatic exposure. The M14 cost £23 11s. 6d. (£23.58).

Note: I like to give price information in both sterling and American dollars. However, this information is not always available to me, in which case I use whichever I can get. I do not convert from one currency to the other; market conditions vary and camera prices were often very different in the U.S.A. and Britain, so conversion would not give an accurate picture.

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