View Full Version : Viewfinder Camera Results

Rich Silfver
06-07-2004, 19:58
Kodak Instamatic 500

A while ago we bought a Kodak Instamatic 500 off eBay for 20-30 dollars or so. Now granted it's not a rangefinder but rather a viewfinder from the 60's - but thought you may be interested in the results anyway...

The camera
To start things off - here is a link with some information about the camera if anyone is interested courtesy Chris Eve: http://www.toptown.com/nowhere/kypfer/126/i500.htm

For being 'just an instamatic' the camera feels pretty good.
My example has a working selenium meter with the words 'Gossen' printed across it.
You set three things before you take a photo;
- Shutter speed,
- Aperture, and
- Distance.

Now you kinda swag the distance setting ofcourse but I think the settings are actually pretty accurate so it may pay off to try to set it as accurately as possible.

One nice little quirk is that the lens is recessed when not in use and can be 'popped out' by the press of a button located on the bottom of the camera.

The shutter is very quiet as there is no mirror or anything slapping up and down. All in all it feels pretty solid.

The Film
Now, the Kodak Instamatic 500 uses the old 126 film cartridges and I'm lucky enough to live in a city that still have labs that develop and print these films. Go San Francisco!

What was also interesting to me was that the camera came with a roll of film in it - a Kodak 200 film - and three-four frames had already been exposed.... The mind boggled what could be on there; the shooter on the grassy knoll, a semi-naked cute girl, etc...who knew...

So...wanting to develop this film as soon as possible 'cause heaven knows how long the film had sat in the camera for...30 years? 20? 5? 1 week before I bought it? ;-)

Dropped it off and got it back in 2 hours.

The Results
First frame...black and blur
Second frame..the same...
Third frame...fuzzy picture of what may be a painting...
Fourth and last....a garden...
Here it is:


Looks like they may be preparing for a BBQ...I wonder where and when it was. No semi-naked girl but atleast a BBQ grill.

So, I wrapped up the film by snapping wildly for 10-15 minutes and I must say I was quite impressed by the quality if of the lens and film by what I saw.

Here's one strip:

And to showcase my dog, here's a closer scan of one of the photos just to show what atleast I think is a pretty sharp photo with not-so-bad colours! This was shot wide open at 2.8:

Snapping away, the next strip:

And finally a scan of one of these:


Bottom Line: I was pleasantly surprised by the sharpness and contrast by the lens as well as the colours of the film.

I've bought a couple of Solaris 126 film rolls and am hoping to put one through the camera in the near future to see how that film behaves.

06-07-2004, 20:14
Maybe the semi-nude girl is taking the picture!
By the style of chair and BBQ pit I'd say that the shot isn't very old. Your skills are markedly better than the previous owner, nice shots, I like the low perspective one of the dog.


Brian Sweeney
06-08-2004, 03:34
I have one of these; bought in a fine "Junque store" years ago. I read that it started out as a 35mm Half-Frame Retina project that got diverted to 126. I also have several Instamatic Reflexes, two of which still operate. The quality of the 126 paper-backed film cartridge does not put these cameras on the same footing as 35mm. Pictures from the Instamatic Reflex were never as sharp as those from the Reflex IV (or IIIS) using the same lens. Pity it did not continue as a 35mm half-frame; I would be using mine and scanning the pictures in.

06-08-2004, 04:55
Another fine tribute to the Xenar lens used in these cameras. Great work Richard. Love the dog picture shot wide open. Makes me want to try mine again after all these years.

06-08-2004, 07:09
I picked up one of these about 2 years ago. I tried it with Solaris 126. It seems to be a very nice camera, but the quality of the processing seems to be the limiting factor. I tried Walgreens and found that they send their cartridge films out to a contract lab. The results were mediocre to poor. In fact, a single use high quality 35mm was giving me better results. It should not be that way since 126 is just 35mm film in a different format. I had the same results with 110 cartridges at Walmart. I think they outsource to the same place.

If I can find a good processing facility I'll try it again. If you want to try a good rangefinder in 126, there is a the Kodak Instamatic X-90 with the Tessar formula Ektar lens and the Minolta Autopak 800 with a similar lens. They can be acquired for less than $20 each in uncontested auctions. Once I can find a processor, I'll unleash all three.


Rich Silfver
06-08-2004, 18:57
I can very much recommend Photo Max's here in San Francisco. I think they do mail-in orders as well - they also do 110 and photodisks...