Why would I want another Kodak 1A Autographic Jr? 12 April 2024

Why would I want another Kodak 1A Autographic Jr? 12 April 2024

Just lately I've become fascinated by really vintage folding cameras, by which I mean cameras from the 1920s, if not earlier. My first entry into the world of folding cameras was my Frankencamera, a broken Ihagee Viktor V that I combined with a 1980s Polaroid back to use with Instax Wide film.

While this was successful, it was still frustrating that I could only load one Instax Wide film at a time, so when I came across a cheap unbranded 1920s generic 9x12 folding camera I took the plunge into the waters of film holders and Instax Wide film. The generic folding camera has been a great experience, but I needed to do some restoration of this camera, including cleaning the lenses. This was really satisfactory, so when I came across a cheap Kodak 1A Autographic Jr folding camera I could not resist it.

Like many (practically all) of the cameras I get from the Kamerastore these are in the 'Not Passed' category,  which means that they are, 'Untested or tested, inspected, and found to have flaws that will affect typical use.' The faults are often well described and may include faulty shutters, bellows with holes in or just be very dirty, all of which my first Kodak 1A Autographic Jr possessed. It also lacked the little stylus that was used to write on the film between each frame, which was a little disappointing. 

So when I came across another Kodak 1A Autographic Jr on the Kamerastore website I was thrilled because although this one had, 'dust, haze, and fungus inside the lens ... some wear and corrosion on the shutter blades [and] a lot of haze in the viewfinder', it also had the stylus. Well, of course, how could I resist? The shutter speeds of the camera were also at fault, the '1/25s is the same [speed] as 1/50s (about 16ms [or 1/60s])'. However, this was not too important to me as I always take meter readings and adjust accordingly using neutral density filters. 

Looking at this model I think it dates from around 1921—24. Made in Canada, although the 'use Kodak film'sticker inside is in German, this is the fixed focus, single lens option, unlike my original Autographic Jr which is is much more versatile camera. A check with my little LED light suggests that the bellows are light tight and it was straightforward to remove and clean the single meniscus lens. 

The most work on restoring this camera was cleaning the viewfinder. Described on the website as having, 'a lot of haze in the viewfinder' it was near impossible to see through the glass, and certainly not possible to take a 'through the viewfinder' before picture. Taking apart the viewfinder is simple enough, and the design of these viewfinders are common across a range of Kodak and other manufacturers folding cameras. The viewfinder does contain two really tiny screws though, and it is important to keep these safe when disassembling and cleaning the glass.

After a thorough clean with alcohol, and a wipe with a microfibre cloth, the viewfinder is perfectly usable once again. This time, looking through the viewfinder gave a lovely bright image. 

To confirm that the bellows are light tight I thought a little experiment with Instax Square film might be fun. The dimensions of Instax Square film are perfect to slip in along the film plane of the 116 film format Autographic Jr, so I taped over the red window with electrical tape, loaded a piece of film, and went off to photograph my favourite tree and well. Incidentally, Instax film is exposed through the back of the film so it is important that the black layer is facing towards the lens.

From what I can find online, the aperture settings of the Kodak 1A Autographic Jr are roughly f11, f16, f22, and f32 for aperture settings 1, 2, 3, and 4, respectively. Using the smartphone app 'meter reading', an exposure of about f25 at 1/60s was suggested. Setting the aperture to '3', I made the first exposure. In a darkbag I removed the film and loaded it into an empty cassette. In turn I loaded this into an Instax Square SP-3 printer and closed the lid. This was automatically ejected, as if it were the dark slide in a new cassette, and developed. 

The first setting, at '3' was overexposed, so I made a second exposure, this time at '4'. This was also overexposed, though slightly less so. I realised that I should be using a neutral density filter so took a meter reading and applied a filter factor for an ND4 filter. This suggested an exposure of f25 at 1/60s, so I set the aperture to '3' (f22) and with the ND4 filter made an exposure. This was still slightly overexposed, but was much better than the previous images. Incidentally, I think the light streaks were me not positioning the ND filter properly against the lens, allowing light to reflect behind the filter.

Now that I have cleaned the camera, and shown that the bellows are light tight and the camera is working properly, the next step will be modifying the film back so that I can use 120 film in this 116 film format camera.

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#Kodak, #Autographic, #116Film, #Camera, #Bellows, #Experimental, #Film, #ShittyCameraChallenge, #FrugalFilmProject, #Retro, #Vintage, #ArtDeco,