Monday, February 08, 2016
Shooting the Kodak Flash Bantam
Kodak stopped producing 828-format film in 1985, but it is still easily possible to use the 828 cameras today, including the Kodak Bantams and the Argus M. Expired rolls of 828 film are often available on eBay and some new custom-rolled is sometimes available too. In either case, the film is a bit pricey, particularly since the little 828 rolls yield only eight exposures. Some ambitious enthusiasts cut down and re-roll 120 film to fit the 828 spools; while that nicely reproduces the original experience of using the camera, it is pretty labor intensive. A much easier alternative is to use standard 35mm film with no backing paper. The sprocket holes on the 35mm film will protrude slightly into the image, but the ease of use and increase in film length will compensate for the slight loss of image area.
In addition to securely covering the frame window on the back of the camera, there are a couple other very simple camera modifications to the Flash Bantam which will greatly enhance the use of the camera with 35mm film, and also improve the images that will be captured by the coated Anastar lens. The little movable pawl that engages a toothed wheel allowed easy frame positioning with the original 828 film, but it is not needed and is a nuisance when loading and advancing 35mm film. To keep the pawl from slipping into the film sprocket holes you can easily introduce a small piece of foam rubber between the pawl's lever and an over-hanging tab on the camera body.
My Flash Bantam needed just some cleaning of the lenses and a little squirt of electrical contact cleaner into the shutter to get it working properly. An excellent tutorial on Flash Bantam shutter repair can be found at the Camera Collecting and Restoration site.
A manual for the very similar Bantam 4.5 can be found at the Butkus site.
Numerous examples of images made with the Flash Bantam are available on the blog.