5 frames with...

5 frames with Kodak Instamatic 500 – By Sergio Palazzi

my Kodak Instamatic 500

In a previous post, I didn’t mention that my very first personal camera is the Kodak Instamatic 155x that Dad brought me during a summer camp in 1972. After six years of school and/or summer pics I made my debut in the Canon FD world, but sometimes insisted with 126’s, when they were still available – so naïve with their nice square frame. Wisely, I tried to save a couple of shells for possible refill, but actually I never decided to use them, and the 155x is still waiting on a shelf.

Last April, at the end of a short GAS relapse, I saw an almost perfect Instamatic 500, with clean collapsible Schneider Xenar 38/2.8 in Compur mount, reliable coupled Se meter, and even a fine chrome-reinforced case. I couldn’t resist and had to invest 15€ in a massive, almost unusable, 1965-born jewel.

Original case for Kodak Instamatic 500

So I spent other bit of money for a sealed 126, an Ilfocolor HR 100 expired in 1987 and possibly badly stored. Instead of simply opening the shell under a comfortable light, throwing away the film, I decided to use it @ 25 ISO, on the day we were touched by the Giro d’Italia.

I then developed it in C41 (risking my fingers in the dark, with a trusty cutter blade). It came out greenish black with some barely perceptible coloured shapes. Busy and disappointed, I left both the film and the exoskeleton alone.

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Now on holiday, I’m betting on the refill experience. I loaded a strip of FP4+ to use it @ 200. The 500 has some erratic advancement problems (have a couple of ideas to fix them), but shows very good results, even with jammed frames. This crispy lens deserves a fresh vivid colour film.

Semi-sprocketed frames really don’t annoy me, and I hope that both the Square Sisters will soon be back in town.

Overlapped on both sides, but metering and lens are very good

Properly spaced yawning InstaCat

And the old negative? I asked for a miracle, presenting the strips to The Silverfast Soul Of The Mighty V700, and a miracle happened. Blistered, foggy and faded, but – yes! – readable.

Many people could be looking for these kinds of distortions?

Giro d’Italia – even a panning effect 😉

A Nicephoresque sunset from my window

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10 Comments

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Terry B
    September 11, 2019 at 2:31 pm

    Sergio,
    I’m guessing that you may be Italian. Have you come across this product by a compatriot of yours. You may find it interesting.
    https://www.camerhack.it/product-category/adapters/
    The b/w images show what the lens is capable of and if you wish to explore more its capabilities then the Fakmatic might be a boon.
    The colour images are a little bizarre but very interesting.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Sergio
      September 11, 2019 at 4:06 pm

      Thank you Terry. Yes, I know the CameraHack collection, nice stuff, but until now I didn’t purchase their 126 shell, trying to use the old recycled pieces. Still have to fix a couple of things.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Kodachromeguy
    September 11, 2019 at 7:35 pm

    The Instamatic 500 was my first camera. I bought it in the mid-60s with earnings from chores around the house. I’m sure my mom chipped in some funds also. I used it for years, and had pretty good results, even with Kodachrome 64. I was surprised that you’re having trouble finding 126 film, but I have been out of touch. With an internet search, I realize that nobody makes 126 film anymore. I’m amazed, considering the millions of 126 cameras that were sold in the 20th century. So it goes.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Sergio
      September 11, 2019 at 9:46 pm

      I’m a “kodachrome guy” too, although never used it in 126…! Yes, unfortunately this is the situation. Strange that, among a lot of weird initiatives and commercial suggestions, nobody really tried to propose a 126 revival. But it’s true that my “poor” 155x was considered one of the “quite good” models, majority of 126 cameras were of even lesser technical quality, and (apart from personal memories) only a rare, top level camera like 500 could commercially justify the use of this format. 🙁

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Terry B
        September 12, 2019 at 3:05 pm

        Sergio, Andrew.

        There were indeed some top quality 126 cameras with models from Rollei (A26 Sonnar and SL26 Tessar) Kodak reflex and Zeiss, and no doubt a few others that readers can suggest.
        This big issue with 126 wasn’t the film, after all being basically unperforated 35 stock (save for a single pin register hole) any emulsion of the day could have been used. The issue was with the plastic cartridges, notably those from Kodak. Unlike Agfa and others, Kodak didn’t have the experience of moulded plastics so theirs were of lower quality and somewhat flimsy. This meant that no matter which camera a Kodak 126 cartridge was used in, the results would be inferior as the film would not sit properly in the film gate. Sadly, Kodak put convenience over quality (remember 110 and Disc?) when 35mm was all that most wanted.

        • Avatar
          Reply
          Sergio
          September 13, 2019 at 2:24 pm

          Advancement of reloaded film could be improved, imho, putting a convenient backing among film and shell, maybe thicker than the original, very thin paper. Also using a very soft layer between the shell and the back door (on 500, probably not on 155x). Of course you need some time to DIY and then to develop and maybe to shout inadequate words. Have to take some more measurements.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Robert
    September 12, 2019 at 7:47 am

    My first camera was also a Kodak instamatic which didn’t take very good pics or the 9 year old me. I just recently got one of these for the lens which will be neat when adapted but it’s in great shape and the meter is still working so now I’m looking for some film to try 🙂

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Bernhard
    September 12, 2019 at 3:37 pm

    Hi sergio,

    thank you for sharing your experience.

    Regards Bernhard

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