Since I started posting photographs on the internet, it has always been an aim to demonstrate that perfectly acceptable images can be made with fairly simple cameras. The formation here of two groups particularly, Adrian Wittmann's Older Folder, and Rob Keppen's Three or less, both of which I am involved with, has prompted me to think a little more about the kind of cameras I use most.

I used folding cameras when they were what most families used to record their memories, so they are not novelties for me, but what is novel, is being able to use modern computer technology to share the images from older cameras with other people.

Ipernity seems to be a more thoughtful place than Flickr ever was, and this facility to write an article, which is not specific to any particular group, is a really nice feature, so I intend to use it to write an occasional description, and perhaps a bit of history, about some of the cameras that I own.

I do have quite a few very high quality cameras, with some of the most advanced optics of their day, which, in the realm of film photography at least, are unlikely to be bettered, but they belong to an earlier part of my life, and now only get used infrequently, simply because I prefer to use a camera that I can put in my pocket, on my travels around where I live, and the places I visit. Small does not have to mean inferior, some superb folding cameras have been made over the years, the Zeiss Ikon Super Ikonta, the Plaubel Makina, the Agfa Super Isolette, the Voigtlander Bessa III, - I'm sure you will want to add your own favourite to this list!!

But, all of these were, and still are, expensive cameras, made more so by collectors, as they become increasingly rare. It is with the "lesser mortals" that I will be concerned, the ordinary, family camera of previous generations, and there is one name, above all others, associated with photography for the general public, and that is Eastman Kodak, for although they owned many prestigious makers of professional equipment, they never lost sight of the fact that it was Joe Public who were the biggest market.

There are many books about the history of Eastman Kodak, so I will restrict my observations to the following. As well as the main factory at Rochester, New York, and several others in the USA, Kodak either established, or bought, manufacturing plants in Canada, England, Germany, France, and later, Brazil, so their reach was pretty long, but their overseas subsidiaries had a surprising amount of independence, producing cameras for a domestic market, rather than just copying the American models.

This brings me, rather belatedly, to my first subject, the Kodak 66 Model III, an English made folding camera, produced at the very end of Kodak's long history of folding cameras.

The Kodak 66 Model III

This camera was made at Kodak London's, Harrow, Middlesex factory in 1960. This was the last model of folding camera made by Kodak anywhere, and it is unusual, in that it uses 120 size film, instead of Kodak's favoured 620, and also is 6x6 format, whereas most Kodak folders were 6x9. As far as I know, you have to go back to pre-war days for another 6x6 folder, the beautiful Kodak Suprema, made by the Nagelwerke factory in Stuttgart in 1938, but I think less than 2000 of these were ever made. There was a Model II, similar in most respects, but with an f6.3 lens, and a three speed shutter, which lacked the double exposure prevention, there was never a Model I, and I believe the original intention was to market the camera as the "Rapier", but that didn't happen!

I'm not sure how many of these were built, but they seem to be both plentiful & cheap in the UK, so I imagine production numbers were fairly high. At first sight, it is not especially attractive, the plastic top plate is an unfortunate shade of grey, and creates a rather cheap image, and the anodised buttons, red for the shutter release, silver for the lens panel release, don't help either.

However, we should not judge a book by its cover, and closer examination reveals a nice, competant little camera, with a number of strong plus points, and strong is the word here, for these have one of the most rigid lens panels of any folder, regardless of size, format, or cost, and in addition to the actual lens quality, this is probably the single most important attribute of any folding camera, because no matter how good the optics are, if they are mounted on a less than stable framework, their true potential will never be realised.

As for the optics, this is another strong point of these cameras, because although only a humble triplet, this 75mm version of the Anaston lens is up there with the best. Its heritage goes back to the 1930's in the USA, where it first appeared as the 105mm Kodak Anastigmat, on the Monitor & Vigilant, and in post-war years it was re-named Anaston, and was fitted to some models of the Tourist range of folders as well, and also to some versions of the short lived Kodak Reflex TLR, and by this time, it had aquired hard coatings, called "Lumenized" by the marketing division, which, on Rochester built cameras, can be identified by a capital "L" in a circle.The 66 has no such markings, but the typical purple tint of coated lenses is there all the same. The lens is mounted in a 5 speed + B Velio shutter, proudly marked "German Shutter", which has the speeds click stopped, it has a standard PC flash socket, and the apertures are from f4.5 to f22, although there is a further position corresponding, I guess, to f32, which is strangely marked with the tiny letters"bt", possibly "brief time".

The film wind knob is on the right when holding the camera, like some Isolettes, and a small metal tongue appears from a slit in the front when the shutter is depressed. This prevents another shot from being taken until the film is wound on, when it again disappears, although this can be subverted by holding the tongue in for deliberate multiple exposures. The film is advanced using the red window method, and surprisingly, no window cover is fitted, although the red window is a very deep red. The film compartment is conventional, the spring plate is quite strong, no light seals are fitted, since the back has lips which sit inside grooves, and there is a warning about not using 620 film. Film is loaded by lifting the spring loaded cap on the left, which also carries an adjustable film reminder dial, and the take up spool is released by pulling the film wind knob upwards. Apart from the plastic top cover, the camera is made from a number of light alloy pressings, mounted on a die cast aluminium chassis, and as previously mentioned, is both light & strong. The body is covered with black leatherette, with "Kodak" embossed on the front of the drop panel, which when opened supports the camera level, when placed on a plain surface; there is a centrally mounted 1/4"x 20 tripod bush on the base plate

In use, the camera is just like any other post war 6x6 folder, most of which, including this one, are clones of either Zeiss Ikon Nettars, or Agfa Isolettes, but in this case the camera is very light, the viewfinder is quite bright, and the shutter very smooth to use, and very quiet. Add to the extraordinary rigidity the sharp, contrasty lens, and you have a very nice little post war picture taker, capable of excellent results, which can often be bought quite cheaply.

I was sufficiently impressed with the first one I bought, that I bought a second one for spares, but when it arrived, it appeared to be virtually brand new, except for the nice coating of dust it had aquired, so I have two of them now, not that it was an expensive exercise, I think that the total for both, including postage to France from the UK, was less than £15! A yellow filter, a lens hood, & a little accessory rangefinder, all bought very cheaply, complete the ensemble, - altogether a decent little set up for well under £30, including a spare camera. Medium format doesn't get a lot cheaper than this, or more fun!