in the land of the blind …

LIFE for June 1959 had this ad for the Kodak Brownie Starmatic camera

Toronto. … the one eyed man is king. Have you ever noticed that consumer goods ape each other using the most popular technical advances? Radios, televisions, smart phones, computers, even cars all embrace and promote the latest whiz bang idea.

In 1959, selenium cell exposure meters directly coupled to a camera in various ways became de rigueur for all camera makers.  Even cheap box cameras embraced electric eye devices. For example, Kodak marketed their 127 film size Brownie as a Brownie Starmatic Camera.

The ads (like this p 59 June 28, 1959 LIFE ad) touted how using the Starmatic would lead to “… beautiful snapshots and sparking color slides. All you do is aim and shoot!” The ad suggests you use Kodak film of course and you could take both outdoor (sun or shade) photos or even indoors, if by a window. The ad says you are “… always in focus — even as close as up to four feet (qualified by the manual) …”. Which is a fact of physics for a fixed focus lens with a small aperture and a 44 mm focal length.

Basically the electric eye mechanism adjusts the aperture slightly to correct for different lighting conditions. The fixed focus lens has a fast aperture of f/8 which is automatically stopped down in brighter lighting to as far as f/22. There is also a two speed shutter to help in accommodating different lighting conditions. In the 1950s, it was expected that cheap none-flash cameras were only used outdoors or in bright sunny rooms. You could buy an accessory flash gun for the Starmatic, of course, for indoor and night shots, but in such cases the electric eye did nothing for you so such help was not in the electric eye ads (I had a Weston Master III but it crapped out just as the light dimmed and you needed its help the most).

The original Starmatic camera was black.  A few years later a more pleasing two-tone version was marketed.

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