Thursday, July 28, 2011

#28 Vest Pocket Kodak Autographic

Vest Pocket Kodak  (3)

I have already mentioned this camera in older posts but I believe it deserves a more in depth review.

The Vest Pocket Kodak Autographic
Vest Pocket Kodak  (5)
Vest Pocket Kodak Autographic by RaúlM.

  • Single meniscus lens about 75mm 1:11
  • Three blades, Kodak ball bearing shutter, 1/25, 1/50 B and T
  • Fixed focus ~1.8m to infinity
  • 8, 4x7cm, exposures on 127 film
  • Folding bellows in trellis struts
  • Autographic window and stylus 
  • Size and weight: 67x121x30mm, 316g
Pulling the lens plate all the way, about 70mm, it clicks and stays rigid and focused.
Then is time to compose the image using the bright viewfinder that can be turned 90 degrees to take landscape pictures. The viewfinder mask accommodate both formats, portrait and landscape.

Vest Pocket Kodak Autographic top view
Top view and the bright viewfinder

Vest Pocket Kodak Autographic shutter closed
Shutter closed aperture 4 = f32

The lens is behind the shutter and aperture blades. There is a choke to avoid apertures smaller than f11. This way only the central part of the lens is used, avoiding the flare, that these lenses are prone.

In Japan this is very appreciated, so there are people that remove the choke and adapt these lenses to modern cameras to take advantage of the dreamy effect produced by the huge flare, at larger apertures.

Vest Pocket Kodak Autographic shutter open
Shutter opened (T) aperture 1 = F11

The apertures are marked as 1-2-3-4.
Being 1 = f11 the others should be 16, 22 and 32.
In some models the numbers have a scene correspondence:
  1. Near view Portraits
  2. Average view
  3. Distant view
  4. Clouds Marine
In these models the shutter speeds were identified like this:
  • 1/25 Clear
  • 1/50 Brilliant

The loading of the film is made by removing the side plate and introducing simultaneously both spools.

Vest Pocket Kodak Autographic film loading
Loading 127 film 

In the back there's a removable round port, to access the back of the lens, for cleaning purposes.
In the centre of that port is the red window, used to monitor the film advance.

Vest Pocket Kodak Autographic back port removed
Back port removed

Vest Pocket Kodak Autographic using stylus
The autographic feature is the ancestor of the the quartz date backs.
After the exposure one could open the small window and, using the iron stylus, write the date, place, whatever, in the backing paper. Then expose it, for a few seconds, to direct sunlight. When the film was processed they got their "analogue EXIF" in the space between negatives.
This was possible with a type of film, introduced in 1915 alongside with this new feature, the Kodak nº A-127.

Some facts about the VPK
It was made by Eastman Kodak Company, Rochester N.Y., U.S.A., from 1912 to 1926.
They sold about 1.750.000 units.
The VPK was the first camera to use 127 film.
This name it's self explanatory, it was a camera that could be carried in a vest pocket. In fact it isn't much bigger than many of the compact digital of today.
This was the successor of the long praised collapsible large Kodak cameras.
It's success was due to the small size and price. They sold for $6.
This price was possible due to it's simpler construction, instead of  wood, metal, leather... of the older and bigger models the VPK was made of an aluminium alloy fastened with rivets. What explains why there are still so many, in very good condition, today.

The first models didn't had the autographic feature and were painted in smooth black.
The autographic model was launched in 1915 with a black crackled finish, also called Japan crystal.
There was some special models with better, some focusing, lenses, like the Rapid Rectilinear by Baush & Lomb, the Cooke triplet, Zeiss Tessar and the rare Lacour-Berthiot Olor. Also different shutters and, some of these special models, were covered in leather.

As it was a very portable camera, there was a lot of WWI soldiers who took them to the trenches, what was strictly prohibited. That gave it the nickname "Soldier's camera".

Charles Lindberg used to carry one with him in his adventurous flights.

George Mallory, maybe the first person to reach the Everest summit, had one with him when he and Andrew Irving headed to the last part of the ascent. Both died, the body of Mallory and most of the personal effects were found, Irving's body and the camera were never recovered, in it could be the proof of their feat.

My camera story
This VPK belonged to an aunt and godmother of my father, named Rosália, she was born in the early years of the XX century. I can't say if she used it much or even if she was the original owner of the camera. All I can say is that she gave it, at some point, to my father.
He liked to show it to me when I was a kid, at home it was called aunt Zália's camera.
My father used it as a young boy.
As I started collecting cameras he gave it to me along with the ICA Minimum Palmos and the Halina X35 Super, on my birthday in 2008.

I was very curious to see what it was capable of, so I got some Efke R100 127 film, from Fotoimpex, Berlin, and made a few rolls with it.
The results amazed me:

Coruña-Praia Riazor
Playa Riazor, Coruña, Galicia, Spain by RaúlM.

Ribeira, Porto, Portugal by RaúlM.

D. Luis I bridge, Porto, Portugal by RaúlM.

These are some of my favourite photos, taken with it.

I take the chance to thank my parents for having given it to me and particularly, to my father, for the "photo infection" that he gave me when I was a little boy.

Vest Pocket Kodak - Os meus pais que me deram a câmara
My parents by RaúlM.

Thank you mum and dad.

Stay tuned (o;


  1. Beleza, Raul... e as fotografias, muito boas... mas o "analogue EXIF" é que é um pormenor delicioso!

  2. Obrigado Raúl.
    Isto é um "re-post", pois agora estou a seguir uma sequência cronológica de aquisições, daí o número, que corresponde à ordenação da minha colecção.
    Esta máquina é muito especial para mim e uma das principais responsáveis pela colecção em si.

  3. tb tenho uma com um rolo 135 la dentro! mas primeiro que me dedique a acabalo e revela lo ainda vai levar o seu tempo!

  4. @Neca:
    Olha que vale a termina-lo.