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Flat Folding Kodak (1894)

This is a very rare camera that was marketed only in England during 1894-1895 (or 1896). Just 400 were made.

It is a folding camera for darkroom loaded rollfilm, with a capacity of 48 pictures of 4 x 5 inch (10 x 12,5 cm) on one spool. The Flat Folding Kodak cost £ 7.

The video shows two slightly different models, the difference being the position of the shutter speed lever. On one model it is on the lower right corner of the lens board, on the other it is situated in the center below the lens barrel.

The Flat Folding Kodak has a built in rollholder that is attached to the back panel. A brass exposure counter and winding key are placed on the underside.
Its settings are very simple:

  • the shutter can be set on Time and Instantaneous
  • the speed of the Instantaneous setting can be changed a bit by moving a lever on front of the lensboard
  • the lens has a dial with waterhouse stops
  • focussing is done with the help of a distance scale on the drop bed
  • the little reflex finder can be turned for horizonal pictures

There is no provision for shift of the lensboard or tilt of the back. Lacking all the more complex settings means that this camera was meant for amateur photographers who just liked to take a few snapshots. In ads it was called "The Cyclist and Tourist's Comrade".

When the Flat Folding Kodak appeared, its most appealing feature was its small size. Other 4 x 5 inch Kodaks were about twice as big. The new element in its design was the place of the spools to the left and right of the bellows instead of behind the plane of focus, making it less bulky than the contemporary No. 4 Folding Kodak.

The flat Folding Kodak was already obsolete before the end of 1895, when daylight loading film and daylight loading cameras began to replace the darkroom loading spools and instruments. A new and daylight loading 4 x 5 inch folding camera was introduced in 1897: the No. 4 Cartridge Kodak

Ad in Photography Annual (year unknown).

How to open the Flat Folding Kodak?

The front door can be opened by pressing on the hidden button op the top. It is a bump under the leather, in the center, between the strap and the front edge. NEVER FORCE THE DOOR OPEN WITH A SCREW DRIVER.

The back panel can be taken off by:

  1. unscrewing the winding key. It must be turned clockwise. At the same time a button on the back panel, close to the lower edge must be pushed in. This engages a ratched wheel, so the key will not just turn around. If the button on the back is missing, try to block the ratched wheel by inserting a long but thin screw driver in the opening. It must not be wider than 2 millimeter.
  2. when the winding key is detached, turn the two small levers on the bottom panel 90 degrees. They must point to each other, NOT towards the back panel. In the locked position they point towards the back.
  3. now you can slide out the back panel with the roll holder mechanism. If it does not come out, try to wriggle a bit with the levers.