Monday, October 6, 2008

Kodak Flash Bantam

copyright 2008 R. A. Suomala

Back in the 1950's the gracious lady who would become my wife and has remained so for the past 57 years took her whole weeks paycheck plus and bought a Kodak Flash Bantam which she presented to me on Christmas eve. How can anyone not love this kind of woman?

Sometime in the 1970's I had this camera rebuilt by Kodak at a cost that exceeded the original price. By the 1980's I had completely transitioned to 35mm SLR's and the supply of 828 film dwindled so I reluctantly sold the camera to a collector.

The 828 format uses the same basic film stock as 135 film but the film lacks the sprocket holes of 135. The 828 image format is 40 × 28 mm. This provides a 30% larger image compared to 135's standard 24 × 36 mm, yet on the same film stock. Because Kodak targeted 828 at a lower-end consumer market, the film provided only eight exposures per roll. The 828 film originally has one perforation per frame and uses a backing paper with frame numbers that can be seen through a colored window on the back of the camera. The original folding Bantams utilized the single perforation to stop the film at the correct location. One has to press a button on the back to wind the film to the next frame. This is a thinking persons camera as there is no double exposure prevention.

Kodak ceased production of 828 film in 1985. The Traid Fotron camera sold in the late 1960's used 828 format film. This film was enclosed in a proprietary pop-in cartridge that the consumer returned to Traid for processing. The Fotron was a classic scam with door to door salesmen peddling them for 5-10times what they were worth.

I always found that the eight exposures tended to make me much more selective in deciding what pictures to take, unlike today's digital cameras that tend to produce quantity over quality. When wandering about with a small camera in my pocket (like the Olympus XA) I very rarely shot all 20-36 exposures on 35 mm film before processing.

At a recent WPHS meeting I noticed a Flash Bantam on one of the tables and decided to renew my acquaintance with this truly pocket sized film camera

This particular camera had an inoperative shutter but the lens and bellows looked OK. I recently read an article detailing the repair of this camera's shutter on the Internet(1) so I decided to take a shot at it.

Removing the front focusing lens element was easy. Removing the next element was more complicated. The article describes it this way. "Next remove the center lens element. This element simply unscrews, but there are no spanner slots or holes and then lens is likely to be very tight. Use solvent on the threads to loosen them. I had to file two slots in the flange in order to use a spanner wrench before I could get the lens out. Try using a friction tool first".

My friction tool did not work so I filed the slots (see figure 1 below), used a little acetone and a lens spanner wrench to remove the lens.

The shutter assembly was quite dirty. A little solvent was used to remove the visible contamination. A miniscule amount of my favorite lubricant, Breakfree CLP (3), was applied to the pivot pin pins indicated with arrows in figure 2. A touch of shutter grease applied to the speed setting cam (arrow in figure 1) will help keep the shutter working properly.

There seemed to be quite a bit of hand fitting of the parts that made me a little uneasy regarding the results of my efforts. But all was right with the world when the shutter was tested. The 1/25 second speed was right on. The 1/50 and 1/100 second speeds were approximately less than 0.2 stop fast while the 1/300 second speed was 0.5 stop fast. It's a little fast but it will most likely slow up over time.

Now I have to bite the bullet and buy some film at about $20 per roll (4). Just thinking of all the hundreds of 828 film spools I discarded makes me gag.




Note: If you find any errors or tortured English in this article it is all my own doing. Sally, my wife and super editor, is in a hospital in Bangor Maine getting a bunch of pins, plates and screws installed to repair her badly broken leg. I am on my way to Maine tomorrow. RAS 7/31/08


Julie said...

By the 1980's I had completely transitioned to 35mm SLR's and the supply of 828 film dwindled so I reluctantly sold the camera to a collector..........

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Jeremiah G. said...

Awesome post! My father just gave me his Kodak Flash Bantam. I am really excited to try and get it going. I will definitely use your post as a guide. Thanks!

poker dealer said...

going through my dads stuff I found this Kodak Bantam camera, I would like to sell it? anyone interested?