Yoshizen's Blog

Kodak Vest Pocket Camera

K-Vi-014

  (Photo left = Vest Pocket A-127 camera.    Photo middle = Insert + Lens unit was pushed out. The round cup on the front panel is the Hood ring removed from the lens front.  Photo right = the half of the Vest Pocket camera was attached on the Sony A7R body)

Probably the most iconic vintage camera must be the Kodak A-127 Vest Pocket Camera.  Among the thousands of cameras, this camera was designed on the almost revolutionary “Cut the corner” philosophy.  On the surface, you might think that this camera was a toy though, actually the camera was 6×9 medium format (43mm x 65mm exact).  In today’s sense, if the camera was a medium format, it could produce quit high-resolution high quality picture —– but, you were wrong.  Virtually all the user of this camera had only seen their picture on a tiny 6×9 size contact print.  Think, how much a name-card size tiny picture could show the details ?  Imagine, to make a picture of photo-booth instant print, how many pixel was needed ?  (I guess, Kodak must have had many consumer test and found “good enough” compromise.)  The size of the picture to carry in a wallet (to show his baby or give his picture) IS 6×9 = card size.  To make 6×9 photo, lens focal length got to be at least 80 mm, and the size of the lens should be about 10mm.  So, on this Vest Pocket camera, the single glass lens was 12mm diameter though, a ring or hood which is restricting the aperture to 7.3mm was placed on front of the lens. (It’s mean, the lens was F6.6 but with the ring, F11. —– with this rather small aperture, a kind of pan-focus = focus-free was created = a bit of out focus may not to be a matter in a small print. ( = hence camera has no focus control) 

So the structure was designed in the same minimalist approach.   The camera consists  1) Outer shell    2) Insert with film gate   3) Lens / Shutter unit and the bellows to connect  Lens unit to Insert and the supporting pantograph   4) Bottom cover —– other than in the Shutter unit, very few screw was used, hence the Insert will be slide out with a simple push  (photo above middle)  Technically, Lens unit and the Insert, connected by the bellows and the pantograph can be seen as the Lens with focusing mechanism = it’s mean, just place the Lens unit / Insert to the front of a digital camera, we can make the pictures of Kodak Vest Pocket Lens, (which I did) — provided,  pantograph should be press-down to the correct point to have an image in focus. (photo right)

K-vest  F'open /  F13 ?The test shot showed rather promising results. (But shoot with an extreme  care ! —– Photo above left = the iris of the lens (without front ring) was fully open = F6.6.    The next, with the front ring which makes F11  (Photo right ) —– F6.6 showed nice softness and when it was stopped down, the image became more solid ! —–  though, the field test showed the other trouble of this optics —– because of not very solid lens support structure, they are pretty susceptive to the vibration =  image get easy to blur = considering the shutter shock made by the small lens shutter (when it was on the Vest Pocket) and the Square shutter in the A7R’s body, the effect seemed to be completely different, especially if there was a funny resonance on the wobbly pantograph  frame. So, I’ll show you the field test shot on the next post.

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