I bought this camera a few months ago from Goodwill and it has sat on my shelf since then; mostly due to the fact that the focusing ring appeared to be seized.  I kept picking it up and considering whether to try to take it apart and see what was wrong but each time ended up just putting it back on the shelf.

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Then one day whilst pondering this camera I was thinking of ways to try to get the lens to move by applying the right pressure – I considered pliers (with rubber over the tips) and other means of gripping the front of the lens. I picked up a small rubber disk that was somehow conveniently on my desk at the time and with it in the palm of my hand pushed the front of the lens into it and tried to twist – it moved!  I tried again and moved it more; after a couple of minutes I had managed to release it enough to be able to focus fairly easily.  Now I had no excuses, it was time to try it out.

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This is a pretty basic camera being the first US built camera by the Kodak company – it failed to seriously compete with the cheaper and better equipped Argus C3.  It’s a lot more compact than the C3 which was one of the reasons it caught my attention in the first place.

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In terms of specs this is the slightly better equipped Kodak 35 known as the ‘special’ as it has the 3.5 Anastigmat 50mm Special lens (a 4 element Tessar design).  It doesn’t have the somewhat ugly rangefinder that was retro-fitted in later versions.   Mine has metal winding knobs which suggests it was post WWII but it’s serial number puts it as being before 1940.  The viewfinder on mine doesn’t have the adjuster which I guess also suggests it is earlier(?)  It has the Kodak No.1 Kodamatic shutter fitted according to the front bezel.

 

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I didn’t really have high expectations as I had already noticed certain quirks of the design.  Loading the film was the first hurdle; this camera is fitted with an extra set of rollers to help guide the film over the sprockets; this is not shown it the copy of the manual I have and so I guess it was a retrofit after film transport problems were noted.  After a few attempts though most of a roll of Ilford FP4 film was in place and ready to go; in the process I managed to tear the leader and had to re-cut it so now my film was going to be less exposures.  I forgot to set the exposure counter so would not really have any idea when I was getting to the end.

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As mentioned the shooting process has some minor quirks; the winding process cocks the shutter which is nice for the period and a small red flag indicates you are ready to expose.  There is what looks like a shutter release button on the top but that not quite it’s purpose; the shutter release is a small arm on the lens itself (similar to older folding cameras) and then the button is used to release the winder to allow moving to the next frame.  So wind-on> press shutter release> press winder release> wind-on.

Make Model Film/format Year Lens Shutter Aperture
Kodak 35 35mm c1939 50mm 1:3.5

Anastigmat Special

T B, 1/10, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100 and 1/200 f3.5-16

The shutter cocking is driven by the film sprockets passing over the guide roller, which puts a fair amount of strain on the film itself.

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Despite this operation and despite my expectations, I really enjoyed shooting this camera, it was a nice experience.  I got into the rhythm of the shooting process and quickly exposed the roll.

This is a range focus camera and so had to rely on my best guesses for distance; I kept it around f8 to get the most flexibility on depth of field versus shutter speed.

Results from this first roll are encouraging and although there were a few bad ones on the roll, overall results were reasonably good – not bad for a Goodwill purchase.  A good clean of the optics would make a big difference I suspect.