7.04.2017

As American as the Fourth of July: The Kodak Instamatic 704 and 804

"You know, we once made stuff here."

It's a common refrain still prevalent among older Americans, and is something that can be particularly difficult for a larger percentage of our population to relate.  I tend to consider myself as one who can occasionally forget the significance that the U.S. once held in the manufacturing world as I type away today on my Chinese made computer, uploading some digital photos taken on a camera made in the Philippines, embellished with a Japanese made lens, and adding scans of film shots done on an Indonesian made scanner. 

Yes, the United States once had a robust manufacturing sector, which certainly extended to the world of photography, with names like Kodak, Argus, Detrola, Revere, Falcon, Ansco, Polaroid, Bolsey, Universal, and others all competing head to head in a crowded marketplace for the photographer's dollar.

So what was the most American camera model of all-time?  Some might say the ubiquitous Argus C3, a classic example of a well built camera that remained nearly unchanged for a production run spanning 3 decades.  Others could opine for any of the Polaroid Land Camera models as being stellar examples of American ingenuity.  Still others might pick a wild card like the Bolsey B2 as a classic example of an immigrant landing in this country and setting forth to accomplish his dreams in a new country.  And for the curious, there is certainly the story of the Univex cameras resulting from a pair of capitalists putting their minds and resources together in the midst of the Great Depression.

My answer for the most "American" camera of all time uses much more simplistic logic. There is no holiday more American than Independence Day, often simply known as the "Fourth of July."  So is there a camera out there that is as American as July 4th?!? I'm not sure there could exist a camera as American as Independence Day as this one...

All this camera needs is some deep blue leather on the front and some white stars and it would be the ultimate "American" camera.

The Kodak Instamatic 704, along with its upmarket sibling: the 804, represent some of the finest American camera craftsmanship out there.  These sturdy 126 format cameras, produced between 1965 and 1969 are a particularly endearing pair of photo taking partners with complementary red and blue emblems that truly portray a patriotic air to them.


Speaking of looks, these cameras have an appearance that can admittedly be an acquired taste.  When I first began even considering these cameras to my collection a while back, I was a bit put off by what I'd term a rather awkward and homely form to these cameras, thanks in large part to the "glass block window" front of the camera design, set into a stepped design that is a bit unconventional.

I really wanted a shot before a waving flag, but this golden hour side-by-side of these two fraternal twins is lovely nonetheless.

Gradually, however, as I got more familiar with these cameras, I began to not only appreciate the really nice and FUN photo taking experience that they offered. but also began to appreciate their unique beauty as well.  Few of my many camera pickups have elicited such a feeling of love that I tend to feel with these rugged little boxes, and even fewer still have seen the initial duty cycle that I've put this tandem through. They are a joy to shoot again and again.

I'm planning a much more in-depth review of these two cameras along with the rest of their 700/800 series family in the near future, so for the sake of time and brevity, I'm dispensing with the usual run through of features typical of my posts for new cameras, electing instead to focus more upon the images produced by these charming little American cameras.  I will note that the 704 and 804 are identical with two main functional differences.  The 704 is a zone-focusing model, while the 804 is a rangefinder model.  The 704 features a stroke winding advance while the 804 features a tensioned "automatic" spring advance between frames.  Given than most of the film passing through these cameras is respooled 135 film laid into a recycled 126 cassette, I have to admit that the 704's advance is more user-friendly (and efficient), while the 804's rangefinder focusing is nicer to have than the "guess it yourself" focus of the lesser 704 model.


Series V filters can be inserted beneath the outer ring on these cameras.  A red filter on the 804 with its blue emblem puts forth a patriotic vibe as seen above.  Below, yes that is an exposure compensation dial just above the "MADE IN U.S.A." markings.  


For now, enjoy these samples from these interesting camera models, and do stay tuned for the more in-depth review and history that will be coming soon.

Watch this space! 

Hagerstown, MD - Kodak Tri-X 400 - Kodak Instamatic 804

Beaver Creek, MD - Kodak Tri-X 400 - Kodak Instamatic 804

Frederick, MD - Kodak Tri-X 400 - Kodak Instamatic 804

Hagerstown, MD - Kodak Tri-X 400 - Kodak Instamatic 804

Jefferson, MD - Ultrafine Extreme 100 - Kodak Instamatic 804

Middletown, MD - Ultrafine Extreme 100 - Kodak Instamatic 804

Middletown, MD - Ultrafine Extreme 100 - Kodak Instamatic 804

Middletown, MD - Ultrafine Extreme 100 - Kodak Instamatic 804

Middletown, MD - Ultrafine Extreme 100 - Kodak Instamatic 804

Middletown, MD - Ultrafine Extreme 100 - Kodak Instamatic 804

Middletown, MD - Ultrafine Extreme 100 - Kodak Instamatic 804

Middletown, MD - Ultrafine Extreme 100 - Kodak Instamatic 804

Middletown, MD - Ultrafine Extreme 100 - Kodak Instamatic 804

Frederick, MD - Ultrafine Extreme 100 - Kodak Instamatic 804

Frederick, MD - Kodak TMax 100 - Kodak Instamatic 704

Jefferson, MD - Kodak TMax 100 - Kodak Instamatic 704

Frederick, MD - Kodak TMax 100 - Kodak Instamatic 704

Frederick, MD - Kodak TMax 100 - Kodak Instamatic 704

Frederick, MD - Kodak TMax 100 - Kodak Instamatic 704

Frederick, MD - Kodak TMax 100 - Kodak Instamatic 704

Frederick, MD - Kodak TMax 100 - Kodak Instamatic 704

Frederick, MD - Kodak TMax 100 - Kodak Instamatic 704

Frederick, MD - Kodak TMax 100 - Kodak Instamatic 704

Frederick, MD - Kodak TMax 100 - Kodak Instamatic 704

Frederick, MD - Kodak TMax 100 - Kodak Instamatic 704

Frederick, MD - Kodak TMax 100 - Kodak Instamatic 704

Frederick, MD - Kodak TMax 100 - Kodak Instamatic 704

Frederick, MD - Kodak TMax 100 - Kodak Instamatic 704

Columbia, MD - Kodak TMax 100 - Kodak Instamatic 804

Jefferson, MD - Kodak TMax 100 - Kodak Instamatic 804

Jefferson, MD - Kodak TMax 100 - Kodak Instamatic 804

Frederick, MD - Kodak TMax 100 - Kodak Instamatic 804

Frederick, MD - Kodak TMax 100 - Kodak Instamatic 804

Frederick, MD - Kodak TMax 100 - Kodak Instamatic 804

Frederick, MD - Kodak TMax 100 - Kodak Instamatic 804

Braddock Heights, MD - Kodak TMax 100 - Kodak Instamatic 804

Frederick, MD - Kodak TMax 100 - Kodak Instamatic 804

I still have some things to work on with these cameras, such as winding routines and ensuring my fingers are free of the lens (the curse of forward mounted shutter releases) but I am very much impressed with the results from these 50 year old cameras, and look forward to a more fitting review of these capable and quirky little cameras!