not a good image …

not a good way to promote the camera product line

Toronto. Kodak did show up in the last issue of Life (December 1972), but not in their own ad. Instead, a Kodak camera was featured in a colourful Raleigh cigarette ad as one of many ‘free’ items available with B&W (Brown and Williamson) coupons attached to the cigarette package. I wonder if the ad creator meant ‘three’ coupons, not ‘free’?

At the time, there was a huge issue over whether cigarettes caused terminal illnesses as stated much earlier in the medical press. Ultimately the case was settled with disastrous effects on the (American) tobacco industry.

At the time, I worked in Montreal for a company that permitted smoking in the work place as it had for many years previously and for some years later.

A thanks goes to our in house photo-historian, George Dunbar, for finding this example of the American tobacco industry trying to sway public opinion with ‘free’ goods while they tried to down play medical issues.

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a Johnny come lately

1936 ad for the Contax miniature camera first marketed 4 years earlier

Toronto. Introduced in 1924, the Leica by Leitz was a flat out success. Two years later, in 1926, its competitor, Zeiss formed the Zeiss-Ikon group to rationalize the German photographic Industry. By 1932, the first Zeiss Contax reached market – eight years after the Leica.

To compete, the Contax needed to be more precisely made, and better in every respect (camera, lenses, accessories) than the Leica. Unfortunately for Zeiss, Leitz had locked down all the easy miniature camera solutions via patents. As a result, the Contax was more expensive, more complex, more difficult to repair, etc. etc. See Lipinski’s 1955 book “Miniature and Precision Cameras” for a discussion of the Leica and Contax .

This ad in the first issue of LIFE (Nov 1936) promoted the then 4 year old Contax as the camera for ‘news photographers and amateurs’. My thanks to George Dunbar for his patience in discovering the early Contax ad and sharing it with us. Leica is still made today, but digital format. Its famous competitor, Contax, no longer exists.

The Leitz organization has become Leica; the Zeiss corporation continues as well but no longer offers any cameras. Both companies were and are German optical houses of renown. A huge Zeiss surgical microscope was paramount in my surgeon’s world about a decade ago while a friend of mine had similar surgery – but his doctor used a massive Leica surgical microscope. Still competitors.

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wishful thinking …

ad for Argus in the November, 1936 first issue of LIFE magazine

Toronto. Argus was a runner up to the mighty Kodak when I was a kid. Today, Argus is but an historical memory while Kodak continues on as a far smaller corporation, no longer the top dog of photography!

When LIFE was first produced in the fall of 1936, Kodak missed advertising in the new magazine, but not others including the International Research Corporation (IRC), then owner of Argus products.

IRC touted their cheap Argus A plastic body camera shown here as a solution  to underexposure and inaccurate focussing while copying (and dissing) “the expensive ‘miniature cameras'”.

This camera was said to have popularized the 35mm film size to the States while the low price assured high sales. Sadly, the tiny camera was little more than a box camera, made to look like a well designed and made European miniature camera.

Over the years the Argus C-3, fondly known as the brick, became the brand’s best seller by far.

Our thanks to George Dunbar for discovering this fabled bit of photo history and sharing the advertisement with us.

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in the thrill of the night

a Kodak ad for their darkroom products in late 1954

Toronto. It’s hard to imagine the thrill of first seeing  a photograph emerge in developer under the gloomy illumination of a dim safe light.

As a kid, I can remember this thrilling event. At the time, film development was a bit more iffy so I had others develop each roll ready for me to print.

Kodak, in its effort to be omnipresent in photography, had its own line of darkroom products. This fall, 1954 ad in Popular Mechanics entices the reader to try his hand at darkroom work using Kodak products.

Thanks to good friend and fellow photo historian, George Dunbar, for seeing and sharing this wonderful bit of history. It brought back a lot of memories for me. My first goal, after seeing the image rise like Lazarus from the blank sheet of paper, was to learn how to make the images even cleaner and more realistic.

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making a case

a 1954 ad showing the way Kodak makes quality cases

Toronto. Mid last century, Kodak had a growing public opinion to overcome – that of the quality and professional calibre of their goods. Although Kodak at the time was the largest player in the photo pool, it was often viewed as a source of less expensive goods. Many potential users viewed European and later Japanese products to be both better quality and more flexible.

To change opinions, Kodak spent money on books, professional-exclusive retailers, etc. – and education of potential customers. One way this was done was by rather wordy advertisements in popular magazines – generally far more written words than are ever used today. The ads often ‘explained’ at length how Kodak ensured quality in the construction of a particular Kodak product.

A case in point is their May 1954 ad in Popular Mechanics explaining how they make quality carrying cases (including ever ready cases for cameras).  As a kid growing up, Kodak was everywhere in photography, but their cameras were often more simple and less flexible than cameras from Europe. Sadly the post digital Kodak is a far smaller company – a shadow of what it once was to the photo fraternity.

The smart phone and DSLR/mirrorless crowd seldom think about just who makes their cameras, phones, and accessories. Cases today are likely to be thin rubberized bands or trays to protect the smartphone glass screen from being cracked when the phone is inevitally dropped.

George Dunbar in his search for historically important photo ads discovered this gem in which Kodak goes to great written lengths to assure the reader that their cases are all constructed to the highest quality. Our thanks to George for sharing this interesting ad with us.

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Photographic Canadiana 49-2

Photographic Canadiana 49-2 cover with green trim (actual colour profile not included to reduce file size)

Toronto. This is our latest issue by editors, David Bridge and Louise Freyburger. David promises another issue around year end.

Members WITH an email address AND who are subscribed to our MailChimp list have received this informative 16 page issue via pdf already. This issue is Photographic Canadiana 49-2 dated July-August-September  2023. Important: Please note that MailChimp does not send unsubscribed/cleaned addresses on our list any of our notices or journal issues.

This is another fine issue assembled, augmented, and produced by our editors. This issue covers “Hand Coloured Photographs: Art or Craft, Commerce or Larceny?– by David J. Kenny”, “Commerce and Larceny in the 1950s – by David Bridge”, “Washing camera bags – by Louise Freyburger”, “The Story Behind The Picture: Water Pictures – by Jeff Ward”and “A Zoom Pinhole Camera? – by David Bridge”.

Please drop me a line at if you are a member and haven’t received notice of any particular issue from volume 48, or 49  of Photographic Canadiana in pdf format. Hard copy versions of the journal are no longer printed. This allows us to use colour photos and vary the number of pages.

Not a member? Easy-peasy, just break out your favourite plastic (VISA, MasterCard, etc.), follow the rules at the upper right of this page and sign up via PayPal (no PayPal account needed – we will pay the modest fee). Membership is an incredible bargain. Period!

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hi fi photos

in this old 1954 advertisement Kodak extolls the virtues of its line of wratten filters

Toronto. In the days of film – especially orthochromatic  B&W, filters on camera were used to improve contrast in a scene. After panchromatic film became the norm, the filters could be used to create negatives and photographs that were closer to the natural range of brightness as seen by the human eye/brain.

Kodak marketed its wratten filters and explained in detailed ads how every effort was taken to make them high quality. Many high end camera makers sold filters branded by them to fit their expensive lenses while companies like Ednalite offered a cheap alternative for the economy minded.

This elaborate emphasis on filters seems to have ended with polarizing filters that could be carefully rotated to eliminate glare spots and vary the degree of contrast offered. Various aids helped the photographer ‘see’ the effect of the filter from flipping them up 180 degrees (to view the effect through a viewfinder) to using a reference post so the eye could see the change before the filter was added to the lens and rotated.

Nowadays with digital cameras and smartphones allowing so many post exposure adjustments using apps and computer software, filter use has slowly faded into history. George Dunbar has earned a big thank you here for once again spotting an historic advertisement and sharing it with us.

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take ’em … make ’em

1954 ad shows a way to use a camera between snap shot sessions

Toronto. Smartphone users likely never bothered with film, photo paper, gooey darkroom stuff, etc. But at one time it was the only way to take and make photos.

For the frugal amongst us back then, photographic manufacturers from time to time offered ways to combine both camera and enlarger so one device served both functions.

Turn the (camera/enlarger) head to face a wall and really big (area) papers can be used.  Turn the head back down, add a bellows or extension tube set plus film back and the ‘enlarger’ becomes a 1:1 copy camera!

The advent of a cold light head made such combination gadgets more practical than ever. This ad by Graflex shows their way mid last century to make a camera/enlarger combination for the frugal minded photographer.

A hearty thank you goes to good friend George Dunbar for sourcing and sharing this bit of photo history from the October, 1954 issue of Popular Mechanics!

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the one you have with you

Taken by Brian Matiash this month on an iPhone 15 Pro Max

Toronto. Smartphone cameras keep improving. Florida photographer Brian Matiash writes a blog newly christened, “Lightroom Everywhere“. In his very first article, “Smartphone Photography Apologetics“, he confesses that he has used his iPhone camera as his ‘mobile’ camera since 2008.

I must agree with Brian. I too use my little iPod Touch camera routinely as it is always with me. The tiny camera gives un-cropped images equivalent to a 35mm lens on a 35mm film camera. The modest 8 megapixel images are very good IF attention is paid to framing and lighting. Modest post adjustment sharpens an image and reduces noise. As brian points out you can make modest corrections to lighting by post adjustments but not to subject/framing.

Have a read and see how photographers in the future might view cameras and technology. Remember current items may become historical items in 50 years or more … The equipment changes but the fundamentals do not.

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exploring history

a photograph from the NOTL Museum taken in 1917 during a visit by Paderewski

Toronto. George Dunbar enjoys writing to editors. I can remember the first letter I saw in the Globe and Mail many years ago. In this particular case, George wrote to the editor about the Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL) Museum’s article in the column “Exploring History” – [in the NOTL weekly, The Lake Report].

In his email, George writes, “This 1917 photograph featuring Jan Paderewski appeared in a Niagara-on-the-Lake weekly, The Lake Report, Nov.16.

“The following week, a letter-to-the-editor was published which indicates a certain connection to your loyal correspondent.

“I mention this only to illustrate how wonderful it can be to discover that some memories are refreshed by even hundred-year-old photographs.”

Above left is the photograph George mentions. Click on it to see his letter to the editor. This article suggests that newspaper archives are another source of material for photo historians. Browse your local newspaper(s) archives today.


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