ruby red window

Toronto. George Eastman’s company announced the Kodak camera in 1888.  Kodak used roll film – originally in 100 exposure rolls. Exposed films were processed and cameras refilled by the Eastman Co. Now, have you ever thought of an easy way to wind the film so each snap is captured on its own bit of film with no overlaps or wasted areas?

S. N. Turner of the Boston Camera Manufacturing Co came up with a simple, inexpensive idea. Wrap the back of the roll film with black paper. Mark each frame with a white number. Snap a shot, then wind the film until the next number appears in a little red window on back of the camera. This technique solved Eastman’s problem with the Kodak camera line too.

Turner first used this idea in 1892 on his Bull’s-Eye camera. In 1895, Turner received patent rights to the idea, forcing Eastman who had been using Turner’s idea to licence its use. A few years later Eastman bought out Blair camera who in the meantime had bought Boston Camera. This eliminated licence fees for Mr Eastman.

The  red window works because for decades film was orthochromatic – it could not register the much less energetic red end of the visible spectrum. After over a half century when panchromatic film became popular, the tiny red window worked if capped and exposed only in dim light. Tiny red windows and white numbers came to an end when colour film and miniature cameras (35mm, 120, 126, etc.) gained a huge market share.


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