Some cameras have great back stories and this is one of them. Meet the Robot 1 35mm film camera. Designed by a watchmaker by the name of Heinz Kilfitt, the Robot 1 is a small yet feature-packed camera.
The Robot 1's story began in 1930 with Kilfitt designing a super compact film camera that shoots 24 x 24mm images instead of the usual 24 x 36mm size that Leica used. That unusual choice in image size let the Robot 1 take 50 exposures on a regular 36-exposure roll. Not many cameras matched up to Leica and Zeiss Contax standards back in the day but the Robot cameras were snapping at their tails. Robot cameras were (and still are) known for their great build quality, innovative design, and well-machined components.
Kilfitt was turned down by companies like Kodak and Agfa. Not long after, Kilfitt was able to sell his design to Hans Berning of Otto Berning & Co. The company got its patent for the Robot 1 camera in 1934 and made an estimate of 30,000 units until 1938.
Feature-wise, the Robot 1 camera was stacked. Who would have thought that a motorized drive can be found in its compact body? That's right, the almost flask-shaped Robot 1 had a spring-wound motor drive that was capable of winding up to four frames per second (quite an feat during the 1930s) and could advance the film up to 24 frames without rewinding. Another thing that made the Robot 1 quite interesting was its viewfinder that swivels around so the user can take photos "discreetly." That's some techy spy stuff if you ask us.
Rare? Absolutely. Only a few people own the Robot 1 and know of its lineage. It's definitely one of those cameras that can grab your attention whether it's sitting prettily on a shelf or around its photographer's neck during a photowalk.
Robot 1 Technical Specifications:
Lens Mount: 26mm screw mount
Standard Lens: Zeiss Tessar f/2.8 3.25 cm lens
ISO: ISO 25/15° – ISO 3200/36°
Shutter: rotary-sector type, 1 second to 1/500 sec
Film Type: 24 x 24mm images on 35mm, 50 frames on a 36 exposure roll
Winding Mechanism: motorized film drive using the knurled knob at the top of the camera, 4 frames per second, 24 frames without rewinding
Dimensions: 4 1/4 inches long, 2 1/2 inches high, 1 1/4 inches deep
Viewfinder: dual swivel-type viewfinder
Weight: 20 ounces
Body construction: stainless steel
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