Kodak 1A Junior – Autographic
This is one of the oldest cameras in my collection. She’s from 1916 as far as I can tell and she’s beautiful! There’s a bit of the leather missing around the side, but there’s very little damage to her otherwise.
When I bought her, I was thrilled to find that there was film inside. Film that had been left inside for who knows how long, but I had guessed perhaps 75-100 years. Of course, with all the blessings of books and internet research, I tried to develop the film, but I was pretty unsuccessful. Maybe I shouldn’t have tried to treat it so special and just developed it as though it was any black and white film.
I see now that someone named Butler (the name also barely visible on the front of the case) attempted to revive a bit of the good old days in 1968. I think there is a photo of of a woman beneath all that grain. With a fence behind her? I’ve stared at this for hours.
The reason we can see ‘Butler 68’ at all is because this camera is an autographic Kodak, which is one of the coolest photography gimmicks I wish still existed.
After taking each picture, you could wind the film and then use the silver stylus to scratch out a description of when, where, who, or what the photo was of. Professionals could use it to write exposure clues to learn the machine better perhaps. Here are the instructions from the original manual:
It took me three attempts the get Lucy centred in the frame. As you can see, the Instax Wide film is a bit too tall to fit, so when I shoved it against the frame in the dark room it caused it to ripple a bit. This caused that very fun and interesting effect at the edge of the exposed frame.
Focusing is done by pulling the lens a specified distance from the film plane. The distances are guessed or measured. I brought a tape measurer out to the garden with me and still loused it up 2/3 of the time. The first attempt has pretty good focus on Lucy, but the composition is off. When you couple the guessing focus with the film that doesn’t sit flat against the frame, it’s a tough one to use.
But 120 film can be used in this camera. It will make for panoramic style photos, but it should be fun to test.