I came into ownership of an old "Kodak Automatic 35" about a week ago and thought it was cool. Little did I know how sharp the lens in this little mechanical wonder was.
Most people today think you need to spend alot of money on a camera to get a great picture, or even, dare I say it, go digital. lol That is what I thought when I found my little Kodak Automatic 35 at a garage sale. I expected a fifty-plus year old camera that would probably give me some cool shots with some light leaks and stuff like that. I knew that Kodak had pretty good (Ektanar) lenses but I wasn’t getting my hopes up.
So, I decided to take a test roll. First problem, the ISO (or ASA at the time) only goes up to 160. I didn’t want to wait for film to get shipped to me so I decided to get some Kodak Gold 200 and try it out (and believe me, it was hard to even find that in the stores). In essence, I was pulling the film a little bit. I didn’t think it would be too noticable; it was a test roll, right?
My next challenge was loading the film. I had worked with older cameras before but that was my Canonet but it was from the 70’s so this was a little different (The Kodak Automatic 35 was made in the lat 50’s). Needless to say, thanks to whom ever put a pdf of the owners manual online. Once the film was in, I wound it just like I would any other camera, and that’s when I hit my next goof up. I didn’t know that cameras before a certain time did not have a lock on the winder once you advanced to the next frame so needless to say, I wound through about four exposures before I realized this tidbit.
Now I was ready. The camera could be set to manual mode or to automatic, as the name would suggest, and rely on the fancy light meter and nifty exposure dial. My problem with this was that you had to take your eye out of the viewfinder to look at the meter. But that was a small price to pay for such a nifty camera. It also has two shutter speeds, 40 and 80. Since it was rainy all day, I decided to keep it on 40 and hope that my hands weren’t shaky.
The next cool thing was the focus. There was nothing in the viewfinder that told me if I was in or out of focus. I just had to use my best judgement in the matter. There were three settings that helped when you didnt want to take your face from the viewfinder. Call it early zone focusing. It was annoying at first but I ended up really liking it.
Well, my steady hands and fairly decent depth perception paid off and I got through the roll without any major screw-ups. I took it down to the friendly neightborhood Rite-Aid (local drug-store that’s the cheapest to develop for me) and had them develop the roll. I wasn’t holding my breath for the results.
To my utter surprise, the film came out way better than I would have imagined. There was a sharpmess that I had never seen in my other film cameras, and from a garage sale special to boot.
So in conclusion, get your hands on one of these cameras. They are simple to use yet still allow a fair amount of creativity. And they can be found pretty cheap.
note: havent tried double exposures yet. Check back soon, that’s the next roll.
Keep on snappin’