Saturday, May 20, 2017

Kodak Pony 828

The 828 was the first in a long line of Pony cameras produced by Kodak in the post-war era.  It was a stunning departure from previous ideas about camera design, using new synthetic materials and jet-age streamlining.  When introduced in 1949 the camera carried a price tag of $29.95.  That seems cheap by today's standards, but when you take into account subsequent inflation, the original price is the equivalent in today's value to nearly $500.  So, Kodak was not in the business of selling cheap cameras.  They, like the other big manufacturers of the time, were really out to sell the idea of mass-produced prosperity.

Included in the Pony's sleek and ergonomic design was an extraordinarily big, bright viewfinder.  The camera's shutter/lens assembly could be telescoped inward to allow easy pocketing of the little camera.  The three-element Anaston lens was coated and produced pretty good sharpness, certainly more than adequate for its intended purposes.  With a top shutter speed of 1/200 and an aperture range from f4.5 to f22, the camera can still easily handle fast 400-speed film.  Most of these features would be passed along to other cameras in the developing Pony lineup which was switched to the more popular 35mm format.  The width of the 828 film is the same as 35mm, and it is not terribly difficult to roll a strip of 35mm film onto the 828 reels if one wants to try the camera today.  The small size and light weight of the Pony 828 make it a pleasure to carry and shoot.

The last shot illustrates the Pony's one design flaw which I have encountered.  The red-hued light leak is the product of an easily broken small plastic tab which is a part of the latch mechanism.  The camera will still seem to close tightly, but the missing portion of the tab may let in a bit of light.  Most newly acquired Pony 828 cameras are also likely to need some cleaning of the shutter, lens and viewfinder.  That is a pretty simple procedure which is very well illustrated at the Camera Collecting and Restoration web site.

I bought a Pony 828 used at the UW bookstore in 1961, just a couple years after Kodak ceased production of the camera.  I think I only shot a couple of rolls of film in it at the time.  I'm enjoying getting to know the Pony better all these years later.


JR Smith said...

What always fascinates me about Kodak is how they manufactured virtually everything to support photography. Cameras and very fine lenses, tripods, photography how-to books, darkroom chemicals, darkroom hardware, photo sensitive paper. Of course, all of this was designed to drive more sales of their core and highest profit product: film.

Their cameras ranged from entry-level snap shooters that most anyone could afford up to higher end cameras which cost several month's wages; so they had products for beginners and advanced shooters. And while they produced simple camera lenses, they also crafted very fine higher end optics.

I wish I would have taken a photo of the inside of last darkroom I had back in the 1990s. It would have been an advertisement for Kodak. Kodak safelights, Kodak chemical beakers, Kodak trays and tongs, Kodak print siphon, Kodak D-76 and Dektol developer, Kodak Indicator Stop Bath, Kodak Rapid Fixer, Kodak Photo-Flo, Kodak Polycontrast Filter Kit, In the fridge, boxes of various Kodak single and multi-grade papers, Kodak Tri-X, Kodak Plus-X...oh how the mighty have fallen.

Mike said...

I'm a fan of Kodak products and the history of the company is really interesting. There was a distinct company culture centered in Rochester. That produced an amazing industrial enterprise that spanned generations, but I think it also ultimately contributed to the company's demise. I did a review of The Story of Kodak a couple of years ago. The company sponsored book, published in 1990, had some revealing if inadvertent insights into how it would all come apart. Here is what the author reported about the company's view of the development of digital picture making:

""Between these two positions lies the question of whether Kodak should aggressively enter the business of electronic image making. Simply put, will video render silver-halide photography a quaint, antique way of making pictures? Kodak analysts think not. By all accounts film remains and will continue to remain the preferred medium for picture taking..."

I'm not quite sure what to make of that. It is a little hard to believe that a company with such vast information resources at its disposal could be so clueless about the near future. I suppose it could be that the management had become so inward focused that they were blinded to what was about to happen to the industry. On the other hand, I think it is also possible that they accurately perceived that the film industry was about to receive a mortal blow and they were manufacturing some serious hype in preparation for selling off the company assets.

jon campo said...

Very interesting as usual Mike. Those are some nice photos as well. The dog portrait is gorgeous. I seem to remember you did some very good work with a later model Pony some years regards,

Mike said...

I did have an article on the Pony IV on my web site. It had a sharp Anastar lens. Not sure what happened to the camera after we moved to Albuquerque, so may have to look for another one of these days.