instruction booklets

Using the Kodak Six-20 c1936

Toronto.  In about 1936, my dad bought a Kodak Six-20 folder, a big step up from the box camera he took west with him a few years earlier. Kodak made the folder in this first version from  1935-1937. The rather simple camera was a step up from the box camera he first used, but it came with a 34 page booklet telling the new owner just how to perform various functions and how to take photographs. Imagine – a detailed instruction booklet necessary so the uninitiated amateur had at least a chance to make a Kodak Moment!

Ironically, different makers and different models worked in sometimes non intuitive ways making such booklets essential to the uninitiated so they could at least have a chance of success. There were no standards back then. One had to learn how to use each camera. Some cocked the shutter, then set the speed, others worked in reverse. In some cameras the wrong sequence could actually cause damage, in others the result was an incorrect exposure. My Exakta was intended for left handed operation.

Often for common or inexpensive cameras, the instruction booklets and original packaging  were more valuable than the camera itself. The late John Craig made a business from providing instruction booklets and other ephemera. Initially the booklets were originals, but over time many became reproductions or even pdf files.

One member of the PHSC donated his large collection of very old cameras to a museum in Ottawa. On a visit, he was dismayed that the staff showing his treasures seemed completely flummoxed by how the cameras worked, how to load film, how to make intelligent settings, etc. Worse, after making some 75 short videos to teach how each type of camera functioned, no one passed them on to those in need of such enlightenment!

By the way, our fairs, like the spring fair next month, are a great source of film cameras, films, and instruction booklets. Don’t sleep in and miss out!

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