Kodak Special No. 1 Came!

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by kent_staubus, Sep 7, 2010.

  1. My Kodak Autographic Special No. 1 came today. It really has the "old" feel to it! This camera is about 96 years old. Latest patent date I found was 1914, and most others were 1910 & 1913. Lens is Taylor, Taylor, Hobson Ltd. Cooke Antistigmat f6.3. This is a premium lens for the period. Shutter is indeed Wollensak Optimo with 1/300s. First the bad. there are about three tiny pinholes in the corners of the bellows. I can't see them with the naked eye, but they are there when I do the penlight test. Second, the lens is basically clear but does have some some sort of crud in it. It appears to be some kind of shellac type substance. It looks like it should clean off though. Finally, the red window is missing. Now for the good. The aperture works fine. The shutter cocks and fires, although very slow. (So quiet I first thought it was broken!) The shutter dial is stiff but does move. The focus mechanism/rack is working. The brilliant finder needs some cleaning but is intact and looks to be in very good shape. The film wind works well. I got the back off and all looks OK--virtually no rust or corrosion at all! Case does not seem to have any cracks and is in good shape. Camera opens & closes OK, once I figured it out. It does indeed shoot 120--I pulled a roll of ASA 25 Verapan out of it. (Will have it developed.)
    My overall assessment is the camera is basically sound. For 96 years old I'm tempted say it borders excellent! I'm a bit worried about the pinholes, but since they are so small and so few I'm hoping they can be dealt with. The camera is seriously cool! I plan on sending it to Mark Hanson to get it restored to as good a condition as possible. I won't be taking it with me daily as I do my Voigtlander Bessa because the Bakelite construction is a bit fragile, and I want to take special care of this beauty. It's been around for nearly 100 years and I don't want to be the one who kills it! I feel like I am simply the current steward rather than the owner. This is the camera I will take to those places where other amateur photographers gather and pull out their 2 month old Nikon D3s etc., hoping someone will notice. It will be fun to see what happens when I pull out a 96 yr. old folding camera, LOL! I'm excited about my find. It might be the best twenty bucks I've ever spent on camera gear. Maybe I'm just infatuated and have gone off the deep end, LOL.
    Kent in SD
  2. Watch out the G>A>S Syndrome
  3. The Cooke lens dates the camera to 1915-1916.
    The "shellac substance" in the lens might be Canada Balsam, in a cemented group that's separating. Can be repaired, but not cheap. It will need to be baked.
    Bellows will need to be replaced most likely. One can patch the holes, but it's temporary, the material is now so brittle it will continue to grow new holes. There are some new old stock Kodak bellows for 6x out there, but finding one with the larger front size used on the "Special" cameras might not be possible. I know I can't find one for a No. 1 Autographic Kodak Special Model B, but it's unusual in also needing one that folds very flat.
    There's three generations of the No. 1 Specials:
    • No. 1 Autographic Kodak Special (bakelite sides) [1915-1920]
    • No. 1 Autographic Kodak Special Model B [1921-1926]
    • No. 1 Pocket Kodak Special [1926-1934]
    All are worth the effort to get going again. They were only made with excellent lenses, and were mighty expensive when new, from $45 to $70. They are rather on the rare side, the earliest model appears to be the most common.
    Of course, the Kodak Vigilant Six-20 or Monitor Six-20 with the Anastigmat Special lens is optically better, but it's not as cool looking, and has the whole "620" problem.
    Only shame is that none were made with rangefinders, only the 1A, 2C, and 3A Specials were offered in rangefinder models. They all have film supply issues.
  4. Hmm. I've really fallen for this camera. It absolutely fascinates me that something 100 years old can still be taken out and used to shoot some great images! My plan is to simply patch the holes for now. If the camera turns out to be my true love, I'll have a replacement bellows made--seems to be several places that do that. I looked at the gunk on the lens under good light and a loupe, and some of it seems to be on the outside. The good news is that it seems to be some sort of dried sticky crud rather than abrasion. I really want to get this thing up and going again. I keep coming back to the idea of making photos with a ~100 yr. old camera!
    I only have a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye, Duaflex III, Voigtlander Bessa, and the Kodak Special No. 1. I am NOT a camera hoarder. I now only want a 6x9 Cocarette Luxus--that's it. And maybe a war years Contax II with 50mm lens. Plus maybe a 35mm lens. But that will be all! I think.
    Kent in SD
  5. Kent, if you're careful, it's a very simple job to remove the front and rear lens cells from your shutter and get all the glass surfaces completely clean, inside and out There's no need to remove the shutter from the camera to do this. The two cells just unscrew from the shutter's face and back, in a normal counterclockwise manner.
    The front cell has a single element. The rear cell has only two, and it's designed to be easily unscrewed into one large and one small brass component--each piece holding a single element.
    If you don't have a conical rubber lens-wrench, then in order to gain sufficient traction under your fingertips to remove the cells and to disassemble the rear cell, you can wear a pair of disposable latex gloves, and/or cut a strip of wide rubber band (a clean, new one) and lay it around the rim--being careful of course, whatever you use, and however you do it, not to touch the glass.
    Once you've removed the rear cell from the back of the shutter, examine (using a loupe, or a magnifying glass) its forward end--i.e., the smaller end that goes into the shutter. You'll see that the end-edge is knobbed--there are tiny bumps circling the rim, very close to the glass, and that about 1mm down the barrel there's a junction line, which separates the tip from the rest of the cell. This thin ribbed tip is the part that unscrews. You just need to grip the larger outside rim of the rear cell firmly (carefully) in one hand, and with the fingers of your other hand, twist the thin, knobbed tip counterclockwise.
    A note of caution: between the thin, knobbed brass tip (which you must grip to unscrew) and the clear, concave, glass optical surface that it surrounds, there's a narrow "shoulder" of black-painted glass. It's hard to avoid putting pressure on this black-painted shoulder as you disassemble and reassemble the rear cell; but if you rub it too hard, the black paint will come off, which you don't want to happen. (If it does, you can always touch it up with black paint, of course.) In any event, you should carefully examine the cell under a loupe before you grip-and-twist; exercise care; and use the rubber lens-wrench, or latex gloves/piece of wide rubber band for traction.
    Once you've got the front cell and the two rear-cell pieces in front of you on a paper towel, you can freely use liquid lens-cleaner--or Windex, or a water-detergent mix, or isopropyl alcohol, as needed--on the glass. (The glass is uncoated, so won't be harmed by these alternative solutions. And since you're dealing with single elements, meaning no cemented glass seams for moisture to wick into and cause subsequent problems, you can ignore the standard warnings about never allowing drops or pools of cleaning fluid to form on lens glass while cleaning.) The only other supplies you'll need are cotton swabs and lens tissues.
    I have one of these. It's fun to use and makes excellent images.
  6. Um, John, the #1 Autographic Special was also made by Eastman UK. A while ago I saw one, a Model B, with 100/6.3 CZJ Tessar in Compur, on eBay.co.uk. IIRC, the lens' was made in 1930. Didn't bid on it, perhaps I should have. Pretty thing, and the OP's new treasure must be too.
    Barbarian that I am, I wanted the camera for its lens (to put on a 2x3 Graphic), not for itself.
    Anyway, not to denigrate Kodak's own lenses, but I b'lieve f/6.3 Tessars are better lenses than f/4.5s, except for speed wide open.
  7. rdm


    can you show us some photos of yours?
  8. rdm


    I was asking you Kent , if you can post some photos of your camera.
  9. rdm


    I guess not.

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