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Legacy Technology
Updated November 2023

Some Pocket Instamatic and 126 Resources

I have an article about Scanning 110-Format Film (and Kodachrome), with tips and information based on my experience scanning numerous Kodachrome slides for Europe Through the Front Door. I also discuss the available options for scanning 110 and 126 negatives.

Pocket Instamatic Films and Batteries

After Fuji and Ferrania discontinued their 110 films, Kodak’s MAX Versatility 400 became the “last film standing.” Kodak seems to have discontinued it sometime in 2009, without any announcement or publicity. The only statement I’ve seen from Kodak is buried in the “Knowledge base” section of their “Kodak Shop” Web site. An “answer” to the (in)frequently asked question Where can I buy 110 film? first published in July 2011 officially (and belatedly) acknowledges that the film was discontinued.


The specialty vendor Lomography has revived the 110 format as part of their range of “exciting analogue photography and lifestyle products.” As the only current source for new 110 film, they offer seven different films in 24-exposure cartridges. (Prices are per cartridge.) But you can’t count on any of them being in stock when you want to order them.

Color Tiger ($9 or $23 for a pack of 3) is a general-purpose ISO 200 color negative film that should be compatible with all 110 cameras. Modern color negative films easily tolerate the 1.3-stop overexposure the original Pocket Instamatics would give it. “ganzology” shot this flickr set on Color Tiger with a Pocket Instamatic 60. Repeated clicks on individual images will enlarge them enough to properly demonstrate the image quality. The grain and sharpness are much better than 1970s Kodacolor II. Film technology has improved a lot since then, and the overexposure also helps to reduce grain. But it’s still not as good as Kodachrome 64. These images also show that film (and camera shake, which makes several of the pictures slightly unsharp) is what limits the image quality of the 110 format. You can see that the 60’s lens is very sharp indeed.

Another well-illustrated review of Color Tiger notes that the Lomography 110 cartridges are sometimes subject to small light leaks. 110 cameras have a window on the back that lets the user see the frame numbers printed on the film’s backing paper through a hole in the cartridge. The backing paper Lomography uses is apparently not as effective as the paper Kodak and other major film manufacturers used (and still use for 120 roll film). To avoid light leaks, you can cover the cartridge hole with a piece of black tape.
 

B&W Orca ($9), an ISO 100 black and white film, is a traditional silver-based emulsion that you’ll need your own darkroom to process. Lomography provides a multilingual PDF Film Guide that includes instructions for processing it in four different developers. This review demonstrates this film’s image quality. It doesn’t discuss processing.
 

Peacock Color Slide X-Pro ($10) is an ISO 200 color slide film that raises several questions. First, the ISO 200 speed means many (most?) 110 cameras, including the original Pocket Instamatics, will not expose it correctly. You’ll need to somehow place a 1.3-stop neutral density filter over the lens. Second, although the film uses the standard E-6 process, users who don’t process it themselves may have difficulty finding a lab that can handle 16mm film— and even more difficulty mounting the processed film for projection or scanning.

Sandeep Sumal has a review of this film on Emulsive. MS Hobbies, a British firm that specializes in Minox subminiature cameras, processed the film in E-6 chemistry as (unmounted) slides. The sample images (scroll down and click on each one to enlarge) are indeed “[g]orgeously grainy, especially when enlarged,” to quote Lomography’s own description of the film.

Judging by their PDF Film Guide and the example images on their Web page, Lomography seems to have intended Peacock Slide for “cross-processing” in the C-41 chemistry meant for color negative film. Cross-processing yields grainy prints with distinctive “artistically” distorted colors. And as cross-processing lowers the effective film speed, overexposure at ISO 80 isn’t a problem. Any of the large wholesale labs that provide film processing for big-box stores should be able to process this film (and Color Tiger) in C-41 chemistry.
 

Lomography also offers four other color negative films that would have probably been described as “off the wall” during the heyday of 110. Lobster Redscale ($10) renders scenes in “warm shades of red, orange and yellow.” Lomochrome Turquoise ($9) is a “trippy emulsion concoction” that promises to “take you on a trip to the magical forest of mushroom houses where everything is blue or aqua, maybe cobalt, emerald or cyan.” Equally “trippy,” Lomochrome Purple ($9) “crafts a heady blend of earthy reds, crisp plums and velvety violet hues.” And finally, Lomochrome Metropolis ($10) is a “moody” film that “desaturates colors, mutes tones and makes contrasts pop,” making it “great for gritty street scenes and punchy portraits.”

I can’t imagine a use for these four oddball films, which are also available in 35mm. For that matter, I can’t imagine how photo lab printers and scanning software interpret the groovy color balance. But these films fit the aesthetic values that Lomography represents. The company, headquartered in Vienna, Austria, supports and takes its name from the “alternative photography” movement that began in the 1990s with the artistic use of cheap plastic cameras, notably the Russian Lomo and the Chinese Diana.

Lomography’s shopping site can price the film in various major currencies. European owners of 110 cameras can also buy Lomography films from the German Fotoimpex shopping site’s Pocket Films 110 page.


If you don’t like (or can’t find) the Lomography 110 films, you could reload old 110 cartridges with 16mm movie film, or cut down your favorite 35mm film. The difficulties are similar to those with 126 film, except there is currently no reusable 110 cartridge available.

Like 126 cameras, the original Pocket Instamatic cameras rely on the one-per-frame perforations of real 110 film to lock the film advance thumb slider when a frame is properly positioned. One work-around is to cut a notch in right side of the bottom lip of the cartridge, avoiding the little button that the cartridge presses when the camera is loaded. This is illustrated in a 2009 photo.net forum discussion thread. Scroll down to see the picture. (This thread also includes my post with the full text of the e-mail I received from Kodak technical support about the availability of 110 film in July 2009). When the button isn’t pressed (normally when the camera isn’t loaded), the film advance slider will not lock. After one full stroke of the slider resets the shutter, you can advance the film until the next frame number shows in the cartridge window.


The original 1972 Pocket Instamatics had exposure meters set to a fixed ASA 80, the speed of the original Kodacolor II negative film. Kodak labs reportedly push-processed the ASA 64 Kodachrome and Ektachrome slide films slightly to compensate for the 1/3-stop underexposure. (The old ASA film speed rating system was effectively identical to today’s ISO system.) If you’re going to reload old 110 cartridges with cut-down 35mm film for use with these cameras, Kodak Alaris’ fine-grained Ektar 100 (PDF) would seem the best choice. But the much easier option of Lomography’s ISO 200 Color Tiger color negative film should be “better than good enough.” Any users of Lomography Orca ISO 100 black and white film would have to process it themselves, so appropriate adjustment of developer time should compensate for slight overexposure.

Lomography Peacock slide film will look unacceptably washed-out if it’s processed as slides in E-6 chemistry. But it may benefit from the overexposure if it’s cross-processed as negatives to give prints with “brilliant citrus shades and cool blues.”

ISO 200 or 400 film is an appropriate choice for the cheap meterless cameras that were the last of the 110 breed. That’s probably why Kodak offered the now-discontinued MAX Versatility 400 as the last major-brand 110 film.

Some 110 cameras from the late 1970s (including the Trimlite Instamatic 48 that succeeded the Pocket Instamatic 60) have a feeler that detects a little plastic ridge on the right edge of the cartridge. The ridge sets the meter to “low speed,” which Kodak never officially defined but was apparently ASA 80. Kodacolor 400 cartridges of that era lacked this ridge, setting the meter to “high speed,” also undefined but probably ASA 400. For some unknown reason, Kodak’s ISO 400 MAX Versatility 400 cartridges had a ridge.

I recall that 110 cartridges in the 1970s had notches on the cartridge’s bottom “lip” to indicate a range of film speeds. The notches on cartridges of Kodacolor II (ASA 80) and Verichrome Pan (ASA 125) were different from the one on the Kodachrome-X (ASA 64) I used most often. The older 126 cartridge had a similar system, which only a few high-end cameras were equipped to read. But the original Pocket Instamatics could not read the notches; and as far as I know, neither Kodak nor any other manufacturer ever made cameras that could. But I don’t know if and when Kodak stopped “notching” their 110 film.


Once you have film, there is still one more hurdle to clear before you can use your old Pocket Instamatic. Whether for technical or marketing reasons, Kodak decided that the Pocket Instamatic cameras needed a new “Size K” battery. A few non-Kodak cameras also used it. Battery manufacturers continued to produce them until the late 1990s. The last time I saw any for sale was in 2005.

If you have an old dead “K” battery, you could reload its plastic shell with fresh button cells. D. Scott Young’s former Web site devoted to 110 and subminiature cameras had comprehensive illustrated instructions for doing that. The Web site has disappeared, but the “Wayback Machine” Internet Archive has a copy of those instructions.

Another battery workaround is illustrated in this flickr set. The author notes that the batteries “lost voltage quickly leading to underexposed photos.” I suspect that might have been a problem with his camera rather than the batteries.

3D printing technology may eventually solve the “K” battery problem. One version is available on eBay from Bergytone Products. The “shop” page frequently changes with each production run, so look at bergytone’s profile page to find what’s currently available. It’s essentially a specialized holder for three readily-available LR44 (alkaline, also called 76A, A76, or V13) or SR44 (silver oxide, also called SR44W, 357, or 303) button cells. The 3D-printed shell is held together with screws, allowing the replacement of depleted button cells. Instructions for replacing the button cells are provided; but I’m not sure how easy that actually is, or how the plastic around the screws will stand up to repeated reassembly. These batteries currently sell for $18.20 each, with discounts two or more.

Another version, designed by Michael F. Chisena, is in the prototype stage. YouTuber NanoBurger offers a comprehensive assessment in this video. As the battery design is still a work in progress, pricing and availability are to be determined. You can e-mail Mike for more information at KA2ZEV  {AT] Yahoo [dot} com (I have his permission to publish this address). He has an interesting set of pictures showing what’s involved in producing these batteries. Like the original “K” battery, this one has spot-welded cells in a sealed shell that can’t be reloaded.

In his video, NanoBurger also discusses several alternatives he’s tried: Reloading an old dead “K” battery à la D. Scott Young, which he called “a pain in the butt”; modifying a “K” battery shell to hold a small 6-volt alkaline battery; and a rather ridiculous external battery pack.

Of course, if you have a Pocket Instamatic 20, the cheapest of the original 1972 cameras, or the even cheaper Pocket Instamatic 10 that Kodak added to the line in 1973, you won’t have this problem. These cameras have fixed-speed mechanical shutters that don’t need batteries.

126 Film (Roll Your Own)

The last cartridge of fresh 126 film left the Ferrania factory in Italy in 2007. Today the only way to use an Instamatic camera is with either long-expired film or a cartridge reloaded with 35mm film. Over the years, various companies have hinted about possibly resuming production of 126 film; but they’ve never actually produced any.

The German film manufacturer ADOX had a Web page describing their efforts to obtain tooling for making 126 cartridges. The last time I saw it was in November 2015. It stated that the film is “out of production,” and that the “earliest date for a possible re-evaluation of the situation is at the end of 2012 when we have set up all other confectioning areas in our factory.” (Did they also plan to offer sugar-free film for diabetics?) The page disappeared when ADOX revamped their Web site in January 2016. (It’s archived at the “Wayback Machine” Internet Archive.) I would guess they abandoned the long-stagnant 126 project.

ADOX was also working on a 110 color negative film. A Web page last updated in February 2011 claimed that they had made some progress, but noted that too many technical and economic unknowns remain to provide any availability date. (“It might be the summer it might be the fall it might be the end of the year of next year.”). ADOX also hinted at a “Pocket-Films (110)” version of their black and white PAN 400, a resurrected version of Agfa’s APX 400. The Web pages describing those “vaporware” products were removed during the summer of 2015, and now redirect to the Fotoimpex shopping site that sells ADOX and Lomography films in Europe. ADOX presumably concluded that the availability of the Lomography films made their their planned 110 products unnecessary.

Ferrania stopped manufacturing film in 2010. In 2013, with the help of the Italian government and a Kickstarter campaign, new owners began an effort to restore the factory and revive film production. They had planned to deliver the first batch of 35mm ISO 100 color negative film in 2015, and hinted at eventually producing it in 126 and 110 formats. But the restoration of a mothballed factory seemed to hit obstacles at every turn. In February 2017 they announced their first product, an ISO 80 black and white film Ferrania originally offered as motion picture stock in the 1960s. Their second offering, announced in April 2023, is an orthochromatic black and white film, insensitive to red light. For now, the Web site is interesting.


While you’re waiting for Ferrania (or Godot), the only option is reloading old 126 cartridges with 35mm film. This is a rather old article, illustrated with photographs but with many broken links. If you don’t have any ancient cartridges hiding in your closet or dresser drawer, you might be able to find some on eBay.


And now there is FAKMATIC (€22.50), a reusable 126 cartridge you can load with 35mm film. It’s a “personal project, not a business company” of Claudio Bettio, who produces the FAKMATIC (and adapters for obsolete roll film cameras) on demand with a 3D printer. He ships the adapters worldwide from Italy. Shipping will add at least another €11.50, if you want registered mail with a tracking number.

The linked page includes a video in which Mr. Bettio demonstrates how to load and unload the cartridge. Loading the FAKMATIC looks to be a rather fiddly operation, done in total darkness. Pull the film from a 35mm cassette and cut the end of it, leaving a few centimeters of film protruding from the cassette. Attach film to the FAKMATIC takeup spool with tape, insert it into a channel in the cartridge, and then roll the film into a compact roll that fits in the supply end of the cartridge. Finally, snap the top onto the cartridge and put the cartridge in the camera. The FAKMATIC cartridge is not light-tight.

Unloading the cartridge seems even more fussy, as it involves splicing the end of the film from the cartridge to the film left protruding from the original 35mm cassette with tape and winding it back into the cassette, again in total darkness. If you’re processing the film yourself, you can skip that step and load the exposed film directly from the FAKMATIC to a reel. But if you’re sending the film to a commercial lab, I would be very concerned about that tape splice. If the exposed film isn’t perfectly joined to the stub of film from the original cassette, or if the corner of the film at the splice gets bent while winding it back into the cassette, the splice could break during processing. Or the tape could snag or get caught in the processing machine. That would probably ruin your film (along with all the other film in the machine), and possibly damage the machine. And if you explicitly note that the film is spliced with tape, they may refuse to process it. I think it would be better (and also easier) to load the exposed film into a reloadable plastic cassette intended for bulk film, which requires no splicing.

The Film Photography Project store imports the FAKMATIC and sells it for $30. The cost of shipping, via UPS or USPS, varies by type and location. For Americans, this may be a faster and cheaper option than ordering it directly from Italy. The linked Web page provides some useful tips, a list of cameras and films that have worked with the FAKMATIC, and a video that’s somewhat more comprehensive than Mr. Bettio’s.

Finally, a post on Mike Eckman’s blog offers what is likely the most detailed guide to the FAKMATIC, including how (and why) to use it with backing paper salvaged from old 126 film. It also offers a nice history of 126 film.


Regardless of what sort of cartridge you use, shooting 35mm film in a 126 camera will be inconvenient at best. 126 film was 35mm wide, but it had a single perforation at the bottom of each frame. A little mechanical feeler in the camera locks the film advance when it reaches the perforation. As 35mm film has many sprocket holes, resetting the shutter and advancing the film requires special effort. Both FAKMATIC videos demonstrate this problem.

Also, 126 film had a special paper backing that showed the current frame number through a hole in the back of the cartridge, visible through a clear plastic window on the back of the camera. This setup also showed that the film was properly advanced. As the FAKMATIC is not designed to use use backing paper, the cartridge has a solid back. And it’s necessary to put heavy black plastic tape over the window on the back of the camera to avoid light leak. That means you need to keep track of the number of exposures and verify film advance without that visual aid. But according to Mike Eckman, if you salvage some backing paper from an old cartridge you can use it with the FAKMATIC. That can restore film advance compatibility with many cameras by obstructing most of the perforations. This benefit comes at the cost of adding even more complexity to the process of loading and unloading the FAKMATIC in total darkness. And you still won’t see the frame numbers.

There’s also a difference in the frame size. A frame of 126 film is a square 28x28mm. A frame of 35mm film is a rectangular 24x36mm. In a 126 camera, the four millimeters of image at the top of the frame will appear in the top perforated area of the film. Some people consider this a beneficial contribution to the “retro” aspect of using a 126 camera. But if you’re going to scan the film with a 35mm film holder, that area won’t be scanned anyway.

Finally, 126 cartridges had a notch on the bottom “lip” to indicate film speed. While the vast majority of Instamatic-type cameras either had fixed exposure or assumed ASA 64 or 80, advanced cameras had pins that sensed the notch and set the exposure meter accordingly. The FAKMATIC has no notch; and a reused old cartridge probably has the wrong notch. Again, this is a problem only for a rather few high-end cameras, which had exposure meters but provided no other way to set the film speed.


In my opinion, loading any kind of 126 cartridge with 35mm film is not worth the cost, effort, or hassles. Remember that the whole point of 126 and Instamatic cameras was the convenience and simplicity of dropping in a film cartridge, closing the camera back, and shooting. Kodak devised the “instant-loading” Kodapak cartridge after their marketeers determined that many snapshooters found the chore of threading 35mm or roll film onto a spool complicated and daunting. The hassles of loading and unloading a cartridge with 35mm film in total darkness, working around the shutter lock and film advance designed for one perforation per frame, and keeping track of exposure count entirely negate the convenience — and the sole advantage— of 126 and 110 film. Even before digital photography rendered film (almost) obsolete, auto-loading compact 35mm cameras that were nearly as easy to load and offered better image quality had displaced both cartridge formats in the marketplace.

More importantly, other than the few high-end models, 126 cameras had single-element plastic lenses that were barely adequate for small prints. Unless you’re part of the Lomo, Holga, or Diana crowd— who specifically value the fuzziness and aberrations of cheap plastic lenses for their “artistic” effect— compact 35mm rangefinder cameras, the later 35mm “point-and-shoot” cameras, and even the 110 Pocket Instamatics are much better choices. They’re just as “retro,” and are capable of much better image quality. And you can still buy the correct film for them.

APS, 110, “Disc,” and Formats du Jour

It used to be that every decade or so Kodak would come out with a new film format calculated to sell lots of cameras and film to snapshooters spooked by the apparent complexity of roll-film and 35mm cameras. They started with the Kodapak (126) cartridge and Instamatic cameras in 1963, went on to the Pocket Instamatic (110) cartridge in 1972, and then unleashed the abominable Disc Camera in 1982. For what turned out to be the final go-around, Kodak realized they could no longer dictate formats by themselves. So in 1996 they joined with leading Japanese camera makers to develop the “Advanced Photo System,” or APS.

At first glance APS seemed appealing. It was based on a little cartridge that holds 24mm-wide film. You just dropped it into the camera, which let you select any of three different sizes of print for each picture. After processing, the negatives were safely sealed in the little cartridge, so you didn’t have to worry about storing and damaging negatives.

But a closer look revealed few real advantages over 35mm. The final generation of point-and-shoot 35mm cameras also had simple loading. Before they got out of the 35mm camera market on their way to bankruptcy, Kodak sold a line of inexpensive EasyLoad 35mm cameras that, as the name implies, were as easy to load as APS. APS cameras could be very small and light, but not much more so than the smallest 35mm point-and-shoots. APS film and processing also cost more than 35mm.

Most of the touted advantages of APS really weren’t advantages at all. While modern films allow decent small prints from 24mm negatives, you were still sacrificing image quality. It might not have mattered much if you only put the 10 x 15cm prints in your photo album; but it could become significant if you ever wanted to enlarge some of your favorite pictures.

A more serious problem related to the “advantage” of storing negatives in the cartridge after processing. While that might have prevented damage from handling, it also prevented users from easily looking at the negatives. Since the quality of photofinishing in the U.S. is far too often inexcusably atrocious, it’s essential to be able to examine negatives so you can tell whether the fault is with the camera or with the lab. It’s much easier to demand a new print when you can show the clerk that the dark, gray “underexposed” picture was actually a nice dense negative. There was no easy way to do that with APS. Processors did provide an “index print” with thumbnail images of each frame as a way to select pictures for reprints and enlargements, but many labs also offered it for 35mm.

Aside from the technical concerns, I have other misgivings about snapshooter formats du jour. Back in 1972, I thought the 110 Pocket Instamatic was a good idea. The top-of-the-line Pocket Instamatic 60 was a clever little camera with a rangefinder and a sharp f/2.7 lens. While the 16mm Kodacolor II negative film wasn’t so great— grain was visible even on the standard small prints— Kodachrome-X (and later, Kodachrome 64) showed that the format was capable of very good image quality. The slides, in special 30 x 30mm plastic mounts intended for cute, tiny Pocket Carousel slide trays, had amazing sharpness and impact when projected on a large screen in a special Pocket Carousel projector. (Read more about the history of the Pocket Instamatic.)

The pictures in my Europe Through the Front Door galleries were all made from 110 Kodachrome slides in the 1970s. On the Travel Photo Essay pages, three very nice pictures of the Pont du Gard (#1, #2, and #3) in France, as well as two pictures from my first trip to Hawaii— the Hana Highway on Maui and the “Samoan village” at the Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu— were also made from 110 slides. (I processed the “Samoan village” picture to reproduce the Kodachrome 64 transparency as faithfully as possible.)

Kodak discontinued the Pocket Carousel projectors in 1980. They discontinued all 110 slide film in 1982. That year, after my first trip to Hawaii, the resulting package of processed slides included a notice from the Kodak lab informing me that Kodak was discontinuing Kodachrome and Ektachrome films in the 110 format. With the demise of the only films capable of getting decent image quality from a 13 x 17mm frame, it was time to retire my Pocket Instamatic 60. The camera became officially useless some time in the late 1990s, with the discontinuation of the unique “Size K” battery it required.

Kodak stopped making Disc film in 1998, and discontinued 126 film in 1999. Disc film is completely extinct, and not missed by anyone. 126 became extinct in April 2007 (after 44 years) when Ferrania discontinued Solaris FG200, the last available 126 film. 110 became extinct sometime in 2009 when Kodak quietly discontinued MAX Versatility 400, the last 110 film from a major manufacturer.

Kodak discontinued their APS cameras in 2004. Kodak and Fuji both discontinued their APS films in 2011. (Unlike 110 and 126 cartridges, reloading APS cartridges is not feasible.) But APS probably passed into the “legacy technology” category in 2002. Each December, the now-defunct Popular Photography magazine included an annual “Top Cameras” guide that was a reasonably comprehensive survey of the current market. The last time any APS camera appeared there was in 2001.

I have a large collection of 110 slides in obsolete little trays, which can only be projected in one specialized collector’s-item projector, for which neither replacement bulbs nor repairs are readily available. Projectors and trays for 35mm slides are also no longer made. Kodak discontinued their once-popular Carousel projectors in 2004. But enough were made over some four decades to ensure that the projectors can be maintained and repaired for the foreseeable future, although finding someone to repair them may be difficult.

At least for now, there seems to be something of a revival of interest in 110 cameras. Lomography, an online vendor specializing in “analogue photography” products, now sells seven different 110 films, although they do not disclose the provenance of any of them. And entrepreneurs with 3D printers are starting to sell replacements for “K” batteries. So if I wanted to, I could take my Pocket Instamatic 60 out of retirement. But there really is no reason to do that. If I ever wanted to go back to film photography, a 35mm point-and-shoot is more versatile, yields far better image quality, and isn’t much larger or heavier.

Two Pocket Cameras

Pocket Instamatic 60 and Canon S100

Left: Kodak Pocket Instamatic 60 (1972), the top-of-the-line Pocket Instamatic. Right: Canon Powershot S100 (2011), an “advanced” shirt-pocket digital camera. Both are now extinct species.

The Pocket Instamatic measures 143 x 54 x 27mm and weighs 269 grams, including film and alkaline or mercury “K” battery (no longer commercially available). Its list price was $128 in 1972, equivalent to $688 in 2011. It’s too long to fit in a shirt pocket. It can fit in a trouser pocket, or in a backpack or purse, but the lack of a lens cover means it really requires a case. (The lens is recessed behind a rectangular glass window at the center of the front of the camera.) When I used this camera in the 1970s I carried it in a fake-leather case clipped on my belt, much as one might wear a cellphone today. The less-expensive Pocket Instamatic models had sliding lens covers and were somewhat shorter, which made them more practical to carry in a pocket.

The S100 measures 99 x 60 x 27mm and weighs 198 grams, including a proprietary rechargeable lithium-ion battery and SD memory card. Its list price was $430 in 2011. The lens retracts behind a cover when not in use (as shown here). The camera easily fits in a shirt pocket, although I more often slip it into a waist pack when it’s not in my hand— and it’s smaller than my hand.

The Pocket Instamatic has a 26mm f/2.7 lens, equivalent to a 50mm “normal” lens on a 35mm camera. The fully automatic exposure system uses an averaging meter fixed at ISO 80, and allows no manual control. The exposure meter is behind the bright round window to the left of the lens. A coincidence rangefinder (the little circular window to the left of the exposure meter) aids manual focusing; and a Magicube (no longer manufactured) fits in a socket on top of the camera when flash is needed. The Pocket Instamatic 60’s feature set is comparable to what small Japanese 35mm point-and-shoot cameras offered in 1972, though the latter could be set for different film speeds.

The S100 has a 24 - 120mm equivalent, f/2 - f/5.9 zoom lens; automatic or manual focusing; an extensive set of fully automatic and manual exposure modes, all with exposure compensation; exposure metering through the lens in evaluative, center-weighted averaging, and spot modes; and an underpowered built-in electronic flash.

Like the Pocket Instamatic, the S100 has a “base” ISO of 80, though at the comparable 50mm equivalent focal length its lens is a full stop slower at f/4. The S100’s image stabilization compensates for the slower lens, allowing shutter speeds two or more stops slower than without stabilization. The camera’s working sensitivity can be adjusted in 1/3-stop increments from 80 to 6400, though in practice image quality starts to decline noticeably at ISO 200. Anything above ISO 400 requires aggressive noise reduction and loses fine details. The S100 can also shoot video, incorporating the function of the Super-8 movie camera a tourist might have also schlepped in 1972.

Both cameras have standard tripod sockets, not visible in the picture. The Pocket Instamatic has a screw-in socket for a cable release in front of the shutter release button (that button is shown here in its “locked” position, to prevent accidental actuation in a pocket). Kodak sold a “Compact Camera Stand,” a plastic base the size of a large bar of soap with a little arm on a ball joint that screwed into the tripod socket for “existing light” pictures. The S100 has no provision for remote shutter release, although it does have a self-timer that can provide a similar function.

Another “feature” on the Pocket Instamatic but not on the S100 is the Plimsoll mark (⦵) behind and to the left of the shutter release. The symbol— a circle with a horizontal line through its center— indicates the focal plane, the exact position of the film within the camera. It’s a standard feature on 35mm and larger cameras, ostensibly as an aid to precision manual focusing. I doubt anyone actually used the Pocket Instamatic 60’s Plimsoll, but it was a clever way for Kodak’s marketeers to suggest that the camera is a precision instrument. (My “entry-level” Canon Rebel XT/350D and SL1/100D digital SLRs include a Plimsoll to indicate the sensor position, probably for the same reason. The SL1’s Plimsoll is easily visible in white on the black body. The 350D’s is embossed into black plastic and almost invisible, which is why I never noticed it in nine years of using that camera.)

The Pocket Instamatic’s 110 film format has a 17 x 13mm frame. The Kodacolor II negative film was too grainy for prints larger than 5 x 7 inches, but sharp Kodachrome slides could easily produce 8 x 10 prints. A particularly sharp slide could make an acceptable 11 x 14 print, which I consider the maximum possible enlargement for the 110 format. The S100 has a “1/1.7” CMOS sensor that measures 7.6 x 5.7mm, providing a 4000 x 3000 (12.1 megapixel) image. Although the sensor has less than 20% of the 110 film frame’s area, its image quality at low ISO settings is significantly better. I have no difficulty making tack-sharp 11 x 14 prints from the S100 at ISO 80 or 100. Peeping at the pixels suggests that satisfactory 16 x 20 prints should be possible, though I haven’t tried making them.

Like the Pocket Instamatic, the S100 is now “legacy technology.” Canon replaced it first with the S110 in 2012, and finally with the S120 in 2013. In 2015, they very quietly discontinued the S120 without a successor model. Photographers who want a reasonably small “advanced” camera that creates raw files can now choose one from the somewhat bulkier and heavier (and costlier) “G” family. Those don’t fit in a shirt pocket, but they do use a much larger sensor that should provide better image quality, particularly in low light. Canon’s G5 X Mark II is roughly equivalent to the S100. It costs $900 and weighs 340 grams with battery; but its 24 - 120mm equivalent lens is much faster (f/1.8 - f/2.8), and it has a swiveling display and a pop-up electronic viewfinder. Along with competition from improved cameras in the smartphones now used for the majority of the world’s photography, the unavoidably inadequate performance of the S100 family’s tiny sensor at high ISO settings may have been the reason Canon and its competitors abandoned “high-end shirt pocket” cameras.

Canon now looks to have quietly discontinued the G5 X Mark II. As of October 2023, it’s just about impossible to find a new copy of it. The major online camera stores in the US show it as either “out of stock” or on back order with an expected date that slips with each passing month. On Canon USA’s Web site, it has disappeared from the list of “Compact Cameras”; and several of Canon’s Web sites for other countries explicitly note that it’s discontinued. (For some reason, Canon’s American branch prefers to quietly remove discontinued products from product listings on its Web site without explicitly stating that they’re discontinued. They still maintain support pages for those products, but you have to search for them.)

I can only suppose the marketeers decided there was no longer a need for both it and the G7X Mark III. The latter, promoted as a vlogging camera for making social media videos, is similarly sized, has the same sensor, and costs $150 less; but its its lens extends only to the equivalent of 100mm.


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