I recently purchased a Kodak Junior 1A folding bellows camera from the 1916 era to take photos as part of the All's Changed 1916-2016 project I'm working on. It comes in a stylish leather case that it neatly folds into. K.H.P. is engraved on the case and inside there is a peeling sticker from the seller marked, Optician & photographic dealer 101-107 Bucnanan St. Glasgow, beside which in very faded pencil is marked 1917. It takes 120 medium format film.
It's interesting that cameras were sold through opticians and pharmacies a century ago.
The front is an art deco design. Looking at it, one thing I noticed about the cameras of yesteryear is the huge variety of designs and styles they come in. The cameras of today offer an incredibly vast array of tech options and functions, but from a design point of view they are utterly bland. The various brands and manufacturers try to out do each other in a pixel war but aesthetics and creative design of the products get left behind.
Unlike the other popular cameras of the period, like the Box Brownie or Vest Pocket Kodak, it was a step up in terms of features, rather then fixed focusing (i.e from three metres to infinity). It has a focusing mechanism of three distances 2.5, 8, and 30 metres. This also features a whole five aperture choices, yes you heard me right, five F stops, and two shutter speeds 1/25 and 1/50 not to mention T and Bulb mode. Most of the folding bellows cameras back then relied upon simplified markings rather then F stops which might confuse the amateur consumer. This is the Leica Q of the First World War.
For instance "one" would represent and be equivalent to F11, "two" F16 "three" F32 etc. But to simplify things for the user they would be instructed to set the shutter one when overcast/dark, two when cloudy and three sunny four very bright & sunny.
This camera has the worst parallax error ever on any camera I have ever used. I'm used to it using rangefinders as my main cameras like Leica's and the Hasselblad Xpan but this is ridiculous. You might as well just guess the hip shots it's so bad.
When I first opened and unfolded the camera, I did a light leak test on the bellows, which like most 100 year old pieces of folding leather break down over the years and allow light to creep in. After testing with a torch shining through the bellows with the film back opened in a dark room, I found several leaks. As you can see from the picture above, I first made a mix of black acrylic paint with glue and painted the bellows to reseal it.
Sadly light leaks were still getting in, although in the case of the photo above, I think it adds to it.
So I had to go to Plan B for light leaks and bellow repair. I use black masking tape. Cut to fit the contours of the bellows so it can still expand and contract when focusing.
I went to cover the O'Donovan Rossa funeral centenary. I thought it appropriate with a newly repaired century old camera that would have shot events like this originally. Although the only thing to shoot now, is crowds of people with mobile phones.
At Glasnevin Cemetery Prime Minister Enda Kenny.
I also got President Michael D Higgins walking by.
Down at Puck Fair County Kerry.
In closing a great little camera with still some life and use left in it. Who needs to spend €6000 on a Nikon D 4 or Leica M Monochrome, all you need is €20 for a brand new (well one hundred years ago it would have been new) Kodak 1A Junior.