Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Kodak's Autotime Scale

One of my favorite Kodak cameras is the little No.2 Folding Autographic Brownie. It makes very fine images thanks to the excellent two-element Rapid Rectilinear lens. It also sports a curiously complicated dial on the shutter front in which the numeric speed and shutter settings are supplemented by words describing light conditions and subject choices. The key to this wordy mosaic is to be found just above the words, "BALL BEARING". There will be found the name Kodak gave to the exposure system incorporated in the shutter face, "Autotime", and the Patent date of 1908. Using the "Autotime" name in a web search turns up quite a few early Twentieth Century ads from photography magazines along with historical notes on the details of the Autotime exposure system.

Kodak's directions for obtaining correct exposures using the Autotime dial was to use the speed settings at the top of the shutter to select the prevailing lighting conditions, the possibilities being "Brilliant", "Clear", "Gray", "Dull" and "Very Dull". Once a selection was made from those choices, the photographer was then instructed to move on to selecting the aperture designated as subject choices at the bottom of the shutter dial, with the possibilities being "Portrait", "Near View", "Average View", "Distant View", "Marine", and "Clouds". It was also explained that subject movement and depth of field considerations would also require additional adjustments. All of this, according to the Kodak ads and instructions, would result in an "automatic" indication of the proper exposure settings. That seems now like comical advertising hype, though perhaps a little less so at the time when popular photo magazines were providing exposure determination explanations which included the calculation of logarithmic exposure scales.

The original 1908 patent application (883607) for the Autotime Scale shows that it was not a Kodak invention. An American living in London, Frank S. Andrews, actually thought up the system, and his concept included some real automation which was not carried over to the Kodak product which first appeared on its cameras in 1909. Andrews did lay out the design to include the terms for light conditions and subject choices, but he also described a mechanical geared linkage between the aperture and speed settings for automatically maintaining the proper exposure when the speed was changed to adjust for subject movement, or when the aperture was altered to change the depth of focus.

Kodak's implementation of the Andrews design did not include any mechanical alterations of the shutter or aperture mechanisms. It was up to the user to make a determination of the lighting conditions and to apply that observation to the shutter and aperture manually. The Autotime Scale came installed on a number of Kodak models including the very popular Vest Pocket series which used 127-format film. The Scale could also be installed as an after-market accessory at a cost of $1 to $1.50, depending on the type of shutter. It is hard to tell at this remove how many users actually made practical use of this feature, as was also true of the Autographic feature which was offered on many of the same cameras. The company's stated aim was always to make photography more accessible to the common man, but there were also sub-texts about differentiating products from the competition and selling more cameras.

The novelty of the Autotime Scale did not pass the test of time in a very competitive market and was eventually abandoned along with the Autographic feature. Playing a role in in the demise were the establishment of the modern f-stop system of aperture designation, the availability of a wider range of film speeds, and a generally higher level of sophistication in camera design and construction. However, that was not completly the end of the Autotime idea.

In the 1950's the coupling of aperture and speed settings was resurrected by Kodak in its Retina line of compact 35mm cameras. In my Retina IIc, the shutter and aperture rings around the lens mount are latched together in such a way that incrementing the speed setting by one stop will automatically increase the aperture to maintain an equivalent exposure. This was part of an industry-wide introduction of the Exposure Value (EV) system which assigned a single value to designate a setting of aperture and shutter speed to produce an exposure of film appropriate to lighting conditions and film speed. This was made possible in part to the wide-spread use of exposure meters calibrated to the EV system and often connected directly and automatically to the cameras' shutter and aperture adjustments.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011



I may not be sufficiently dexterous to use this Mamiya tlr. I do ok with it on still or slow-moving subjects, but there often seems to be one too many things to adjust to get the shot I want.

I duotoned the chickens to get adequate contrast after missing the exposure by a stop. The bellows lets you get close, but you have to remember to adjust the view for parallax while also watching the exposure scale to compensate for the bellows extension.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


There are always some interesting cars at the curb in the vicinity of the car shows. This one is a work in progress. I think it started life as a 1938 Buick 4-passenger convertible coupe with rumble seat.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Jupiter's Colors

At the Albuquerque Museum car show.

I was very pleased with the performance of the 35mm Jupiter 12 on my Zorki 2-C. The color was a little odd in a few of the shots, but I'm inclined to believe that the fault was with the film or the scanning rather than the lens. One issue with the lens that I discovered some time ago is that the DOF scale is off by one stop. So, if you want to shoot at the f-16 hyperfocal distance with this lens, you need to set the infinity mark at f-11 on the DOF scale.

The Big Show

The annual Albuquerque Museum car show.

I'm trying to resolve my love-hate relationship with my C330. It's big and clumsy, but capable of making very fine images.

Monday, May 09, 2011

No.1A Pocket Kodak

I eliminated the last of the pinholes in my Pocket 1A bellows and shot a roll of TMAX 120 at the Zoo yesterday. I liked the results except for the fact that I let a bit too much sky into the pictures and the flare degraded the images a little. The last shot on the roll of some filter tanks near the elephant enclosure gives a better idea of the nice resolution of the f-7.9, 131mm Kodar lens. The detail images are 100% enlargements scanned at 1200 dpi.

Exposure was f-32 at 1/50 on TMAX 400, developed in HC-110, dilution H.

1A Zoo

Saturday, May 07, 2011


We went to horse show this morning. There were some nice horses, but the undisputed star of the show was a very small lamb.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Monday, May 02, 2011

Argus Sandmar

I've been curious for a long time about the Sandmar lenses for the Argus C3. Recently, I was able to acquire a 35mm example inexpensively along with the viewfinder, and it came attached to a very nice 1953 model of the camera. There was little bidding competition for the outfit on ebay, possibly because of the missing lens shade. Most of these lenses were also sold as part of a set of two, the other being the 100mm telephoto.

The outer filter ring shows the model name of the lens along with its specifications: Argus Sandmar Wide Angle 35mm F:4.5 Nr. 422.
The rear ring contains the revolving focus scale along with an inscription showing the place of origin and a bit of post WWII history: Enna-Werke München US Zone Germany pats.pend.

The accessory viewfinder can be used both with the wide angle lens and the telephoto. The mask is pulled forward and placed over the front of the finder to provide the proper framing for the 100mm lens.

The Sandmar lenses are nicely made in typical German fashion, and they are coated for contrast enhancement. However, without the lens shade in place the results I got showed some flare, and I had to adjust the contrast significantly in Photoshop.

A brief slide show presents some example shots from the C3 with the Sandmar Wide Angle.