Kameratöitä / Camera Work

Kodak Instamatic 134

Standard 35 mm film shot with a late 1960s Instamatic camera in a 126 film cartridge

Getting this camera to work was tricky. As we know, 126 film is no longer made, but it is exactly the same size as standard 135 film, only differently perforated and stored in a special cartridge. It has a black backing paper too, with frame numbers, just like 120 film.

There are a few instructions to be found on the net for reloading 126 cartridges with fresh 35 mm film (see here, for instance), but 126 cameras are varied, and it turned out that this particular Instamatic camera did not cock the shutter properly when loaded with 35 mm film in a 126 cartridge. The camera fired only once. After that the film got stuck.

The problem was the perforation. The original 126 film (at least the old film I had for this project…) only has twelve sprocket holes (one for each frame), and they are bigger than on the 135 film. When I put the original film back in the cartridge and ”shot” all frames, there were no problems.

I decided to work out this issue by cutting off one of the perforated edges of the 135 film strip and using the old film as backing paper, allowing the camera to cock its shutter properly with the aid of the original perforation. I also inserted a 20 cm paper leader in the roll, before the film(s). Cutting, taping and rolling the film and stuffing it in the canister in a darkroom bag was surprisingly easy. (Though as a whole, of course, this process is more complicated and troublesome than shooting 8×10 film with a view camera, but that’s exactly the reason for doing this.)

The trick worked quite well. The frames overlapped a little (not always), but that’s not serious. I got my twelve pictures.

The film I used was old Kodak movie film (which I got tons of), rated at ISO 50, so it fit well enough to this camera, which I believe was not originally designed to use film more sensitive than ISO 64. Even though this Instamatic camera has an ’electric eye’ and an automatic exposure of sorts, it does not need batteries to its basic function. Presumably, it only has two apertures, big and small, and a single shutter time. I shot on a sunny (and even snowy) day, and all pictures came out alright. The default aperture must be around f/8 and the time something like 1/40.

A slight problem was how to develop the film. Because one side of the film had been cut out, the strip could no longer be wound on a developing reel. So I just taped it to form a loop, emulsion inwards, and put it in a tank, hoping the developer reaches the emulsion evenly.

The pictures are scanned from hasty darkroom prints.

  • Kodak Instamatic 134 "Color Outfit" from the late 1960s or early 70s.

    Kodak Instamatic 134 "Color Outfit" from the late 1960s or early 70s.

  • 126 film cartridge with 12 frames.

    126 film cartridge with 12 frames.

  • The 126 cartridge can be opened without breaking it, though compromising light-tightness.

    The 126 cartridge can be opened without breaking it, though compromising light-tightness.

  • Paper leader attached to the spool, where the exposed film will be wound.

    Paper leader attached to the spool, where the exposed film will be wound.

  • The original 126 film strip attached to the leader, serving here as backing paper. The frame counter window on the camera back should be covered to prevent light leaks.

    The original 126 film strip attached to the leader, serving here as backing paper. The frame counter window on the camera back should be covered to prevent light leaks.

  • The new, unexposed 135 film, with one edge cut out, attached to the back of the original 126 film, which has the correct perforation for the camera to work.

    The new, unexposed 135 film, with one edge cut out, attached to the back of the original 126 film, which has the correct perforation for the camera to work.

  • The finished film construction looks like this. The film is then wound on a tight roll and loaded in the 126 cartridge.

    The finished film construction looks like this. The film is then wound on a tight roll and loaded in the 126 cartridge.

  • The developed film.

    The developed film.

  • The Instamatic camera exposes square frames, with rounded corners. The 135 sprocket holes remain visible here, because 126 film has perforation on one side only. This should be considered a feature, not as an issue.

    The Instamatic camera exposes square frames, with rounded corners. The 135 sprocket holes remain visible here, because 126 film has perforation on one side only. This should be considered a feature, not as an issue.

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  • The strong corner distortion at the left side is strange, because I can't see it in other frames.

    The strong corner distortion at the left side is strange, because I can't see it in other frames.

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