75 years – The Super Kodak Six-20

Posted by on Jul 17 2013 | Photography

SuperKodakSix-20

Super Kodak Six-20, 1938, Eastman Kodak Company, Rochester, New York. Gift of Eastman Kodak Company

July 2013 marks the 75th anniversary of the Super Kodak Six-20, the first production camera to feature automatic exposure (AE) control. Aimed at removing the exposure guesswork for photographers, the camera’s shutter-preferred AE control meant that the photographer chose the shutter speed and the camera would then “choose” the correct lens opening. Kodak’s engineers accomplished this feat by mechanically coupling a selenium photo cell light meter, located just above the top half of the camera’s folding clamshell.

This advancement, though groundbreaking, was not picked up by most camera manufacturers for some twenty years after the debut of the Super Six-20. These days, automatic exposure is a standard feature on almost all cameras. And it is not much of a stretch to call the Super Kodak Six-20 the first “smart camera.”

But auto exposure was not the only cutting-edge feature of the Super Six-20. It was also the first Kodak camera to use a common window for both the rangefinder and viewfinder. The film advances with a single-stroke lever, which also cocks the shutter at the end of the stroke, thus preventing double exposures. And like auto exposure, these features would not become common on cameras for many years.

SuperKodakSix-20.1

Features aside, the Super Kodak Six-20 is one of the most attractive cameras ever marketed. Its lovely clamshell exterior design was styled by legendary industrial designer Walter Dorwin Teague.

All this innovation came at a rather high price and not without some issues. The Super Kodak Six-20 retailed for $225 in 1938 (that would be over $2,000 today) and it had a reputation for being somewhat unreliable—the built-in self-timer was known to lock up the shutter. Since few models were manufactured, some 719, it is highly sought after by camera collectors.

 

 

 

 

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This… is the Memory Card

Posted by on Jan 22 2013 | Technology

Check out this short clip from the local news with Todd Gustavson our technology curator taking a look at the inside of the Tactical Camera. One of only two models ever made, this camera is what all digital cameras were derived from.

Big box of a memory card shown above

More on our new historic acquisition here.

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Historic New Acquisition at Eastman House

Posted by on Dec 19 2012 | Technology


An excerpt from our Films & Events publication

The object above is the Eastman Kodak Company Tactical Camera. Designed in 1989, this was donated to us by Exelis Inc. in Rochester, NY.

This piece is most notable for being the earliest extant digital single-lens reflex camera. Eastman Kodak produced its first megapixel imaging sensor in the mid–1980s.

James McGarvey, a company engineer, designed and built the imaging firmware and storage system for the M1 sensor, which was installed in a Canon F1 film camera, making it the world’s first digital single-lens reflex camera. Known as the Electro-Optic (E-O) Camera, it was built for the U.S. government in 1988 for covert use. The Tactical Camera evolved from the E-O project the next year and was a more robust system used to demonstrate the company’s digital technology to potential industrial customers.

Kodak M1 Sensor

Our Technology Curator Todd Gustavson on the acquisition, “The Tactical Camera may well be the most important object acquired during my 24 years at Eastman House. There is nothing like it in the collection. Not only is it is the oldest digital camera in the collection, but more importantly, it is one of only two ever made, and it is from these models that all digital cameras were derived.”

For more information, visit McGarvey’s website.

 

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