The Signet Revisited

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by rick_drawbridge, Aug 1, 2018.

  1. Recently, various references to the Kodak Signet 35 have cropped up on the Forum. It seems to be a camera that is either hated or loved, in similar proportions; I'm personally quite ambivalent about this odd little camera, as I don't really enjoy using it but I do like the quality of the images it produces. It's slow and clunky, with a shutter that has to be cocked in the same way as an old folding camera, and a very limited range of shutter speeds. The viewfinder is squinty yet it has a marvelously bright and accurate coupled rangefinder. I find it's appearance endearing; it's typically WWII American, a sort of baby brother to the big Medalist. Apparently the big focusing and shutter release levers were for the benefit of gloved fingers, and the Signet served with the armed forces in black and drab khaki versions, both of which are highly desirable to collectors.

    The crowning glory of the Signet is it's superb 44mm Ektar f/3.5 lens. While it's a little lacking in coatings and isn't too happy when pointed into bright light, given the right conditions it produces exquisitely sharp and contrasty images.I discovered that the shutter on the copy I used was really only reliable at 1/300th, and the cocking lever intermittently refused to stay cocked but snapped back, wasting a frame, but I liked the results so much that the camera is on it's way for a full CLA. Some cameras just deserve that sort of treatment...

    Years ago I posted quite a comprehensive file on the Signet 35, if anyone is curious about the camera:

    King of the Kodachrome

    Meanwhile, here are a few samples from the Arista EDU Ultra 100 I used to renew my acquaintance with the Signet 35, developed in PMK Pyro, and a pic of the camera for those members who haven't encountered one before.

    Kodak Signet 35

    Kodak Signet Pnet.jpg

    Playing to an Audience

    Playing to an Audience.jpg







    The Boating Lake : Late July

    The Boating Lake Late July.jpg



    The Smokers' Seats

    The Smokers Seats.jpg





  2. *cough* post-war *cough*
    *cough* "Luminized" *cough*
    Excuse me, dusty in here. ;)
  3. Quite right, Rick, I should have said "typically WWII in design", since the camera was released in 1951. As for the "Luminizing", it's pretty inadequate when compared to, say, Pentax SMC!
  4. It was Kodak's new single hard coating for all glass surfaces at the time, not just the internal ones like on the Medalist 1 as I recall.
    Also, best not to let JDM catch a whiff of this topic, I fear he has a deep-rooted dislike for all things Signet.

    You've managed to get some fine pictures with yours, despite the typical problem of the Synchro 300 (and 400) shutter.
    That's probably another reason why they made it easy to open up for servicing, the shutter is very susceptible to dust getting in along the top ridge.
    Once dust gets between the three shutter blades the resistance increase becomes too high the little spring to pull them closed again.

    I have 2 of them and both needed a thorough flushing (I mean: yank the shutter out of the housing and flush it under hot running water) before they would start opening and closing properly.
  5. luis triguez likes this.
  6. Great results, Rick. I wish I'd been the lucky recipient of the Signet that belonged to my great aunt.
  7. I was curious, and I'm glad I was. Just JDM's response, alone, was worth the price of admission. :D But, it was another treat as far as the camera, itself, too. So, thanks for the link. The quality of the images is surprising, even knowing who was wielding the camera. Very enjoyable.
  8. In 1951 this was a pretty advanced camera and as you can see, its still capable of great images in the right hands. Kodak cameras seem to get a bad rap from folks in the forum, but I love their quirky nature and very different looks from most other cameras of the time. Those Luminized lenses were superb.

    I haven't seen a 1950's review of this camera, but it would be interesting to see what reviewers had to say back then. Mike Eckman has a good review of the camera here:
  9. And it looks an awful lot like a miniature Kodak Chevron to me....
  10. Is that a good thing? I'm not familiar with the Chevron, either.
  11. I do know that my response is considered extreme, but in the summer of 1962, when I used it, the camera was way past its "best by" date. Like so many of the pre-war RFs the viewfinder and rangefinder were pitiful and hardly adequate for scientific field recording. Its ergonomics were only rivaled by some of the corpulent West German cameras from the likes of Balda which fit the human hand like a dodge ball.....

    Actually, I have got and shot some later Signets (link), and while I'll never love them, my dislike of Signets is mostly limited to the 35 model.
  12. The Chevron was another interesting Kodak camera of the 1950s, and one of the most beautiful I think. I've never used one or seen one in person.
  13. jason_withers said :
    It was a big, heavy rangefinder camera producing 6x6 cm images on 620 rollfilm, apparently capable of creating excellent images with a 4-element Ektar lens, but lacking the quirky charm of the Medalist with it's brilliant 5-element lens. It was certainly very much in the style of the Signet 35, but doesn't seem to have been a great success in the marketplace. I've hefted one but not shot with one, and it's a very solid camera. Another of Mike Eckman's great reviews, here.
  14. I don't get the dodge ball reference because I always found them to fit my hand perfectly, after about 5th grade.

    Personally, I didn't think your response was anywhere close to extreme, if you're referring to the one in Rick's earlier thread. But, it was written in such a way as to inspire a mental image of you growling out the words, with hackles raised, which perfectly captured the frustration you clearly felt. People are entitled to dislike what they dislike and, since you have a solid body of experience to back up your impression, you are more than usually entitled, in my view.
    Hmm. I went and searched it out, and didn't see anything I'd call beautiful. But, it's all in the eye... Maybe you saw different photos than I saw.
    Thanks for the link. I take "...very solid camera" to mean suitable as an anchor for up to about a 12 foot skiff. I did find a photo of one with a Signet in front of it, and it did appear to be of the hulking brute persuasion. It did not appeal to me on that basis. My RB67 is hulking enough.
  16. I meant Miranda reflex, the Exakta was very nice looking :)
  17. Whereas I think my Miranda G, with the T viewfinder, is one of the prettiest cameras I own. :)
  18. each his/her own I guess :)
  19. Here are all three beauties together! (Chevron, Signet 35, Medalist) (adapted from mike eckman's page)


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