Monday, February 25, 2013

Kodak Flash Bantam

These are the first images from my new Kodak Flash Bantam, shot on Tri-X at the War Eagles Museum in Santa Teresa, New Mexico.
This camera was built to use 828 roll film, which is the same width as 35mm, but having just one sprocket hole at the beginning of each frame.  I decided to use some regular 35mm for my first efforts.  I attached the film without paper backing to the little 828 reels with masking tape for loading into the camera.  The frame counter viewing window on the back was securely covered with black tape to prevent fogging, and the film was loaded in a dark bag.  About 30% of the 828 format is lost to the sprocket holes and film borders on 35mm, but the upside is at least twice the normal number of eight exposures per roll of 828. On this roll, one-and-one half rotations of the advance knob between shots got me twenty images.

The Flash Bantam dates from 1947; it was based on a 1935 design by Walter Dorwin Teague. The simple construction of the strut folder used features developed even earlier by Kodak, but the quality was greatly enhanced and a number of advanced post-war features were incorporated into an ultra-compact camera that is about the same size at my Olympus Infinity Stylus.  The flip-up viewfinder is compact and bright.  The four-element Anastar lens is very sharp.


Jim Grey said...

Nice work with your Bantam.

Any idea why a 1935 design didn't see fruition for 12 years?

Mike said...

Sorry my skimpy explanation was not clear. The original design was produced. It was a compact but very basic design in terms of features. Over the next ten years or so, the design was elaborated into a line that included some very sophisticated cameras, including the high end Bantam Special rangefinder that commands a high price today from collectors.

Kodak and the other major companies brought in big name designers such as Teague as much for their name recognition as for their design ideas. In fact, most of the features of the Bantam could be found in other models that were designed in-house. So, it is not clear how much was really owed to Teague's talents; though I think there is no question that the Bantam line included some of the most elegant products from the company during the 1930s and '40s.

I'll have a good deal more to say about the Bantam once I have had a chance to work with it more.

Jim Grey said...

I would expect that any outside designer would have to start with Kodak's functional requirements for the camera, which would significantly tilt their influence toward form, over function. It was the same in the auto industry. Loewy designed Studebaker's Avanti to have a distinctive form, but the car was still recognizably a car and the pedals were in the expected places.

Mike said...

I think you are quite right. Teague's designs contributed some additional functionality, but much of his work was aimed at giving products a contemporary style. One can see a lot of Deco ideas in the Kodak cameras associated with Teague including the Bantam, the Baby Brownie, the Beau Brownie, and the Bullet Camera.

Julio F said...

Very nice subject, and good work in a difficult light. I love these old planes. Thanks for sharing!

The camera is a worthy one.