Lady first! Kodak Petite (ca 1929)

Posted: August 6, 2012 in WaLL Gallery!, WaLL Museum!
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Kodak Petite (1929)

Regardless of which era, camera manufacturers are keen on expanding the user base, hope that their products reach the hands of every home. Traditionally, photography-related products most are male-oriented; therefore many camera manufacturers are competing to expand the female market. Let’s take “mirrorless camera” as example, Panasonic introduced the world’s first m43 camera G1 in 2008, the advertisement in Japan was positioning the product in favor of female users. In fact, this is not new, as early as almost one hundred years ago, Kodak has targeted the female market, launched a camera which is specifically for the ladies – the Kodak Petite.

To produce a camera for ladies, manufacturers have to take some efforts on color and pattern. The trick now, most of them change the camera’s color to pink or with some cartoon characters printed on, such as Hello Kitty or Disney characters. But this would never be the strategy in 1929; because the women could enjoy photography in 1920s were ladylike or wealthy ladies. Therefore, the appearance of the camera must be able to express elegant feeling. Kodak Petite can certainly do this, palm-sized camera covered with simple motif of patterns. The folding bellow part is a touch of gray. The delicate impression makes you love this camera at first sight. Really, I first saw this camera in Norway Oslo film museum; I knew I had to have this camera in my collection.

This Kodak Petite is being displayed in Oslo Film Museum

This Kodak Petite is being displayed in Oslo Film Museum

According to the advertisement of Kodak in 1930, Kodak Petite was Paris-inspired. The color mentioned above is just one of the series. The Petite was available in blue, green, grey, lavender, and old rose. The folding bellow part was also with matching color.

I very much admire Kodak in that era, because of their innovative spirit and willingness of achieving the ultimate. The product line was very broad, with continuous improvements and new features. Based on the Kodak Petite, the company decided to introduce the camera gift box sets called “Kodak Ensemble” and “Kodak Coquette” during the holiday seasons. In addition to the elegant Kodak Petite, there were also a mirror, a compact and a lipstick in the box! Yes! A mirror and some cosmetics (supplier: House of Tre-Jur) were bundled in a camera gift box! You may feel that this is very strange, but try to imagine in the old days, taking pictures was not easy. The girls hoped makeup before shooting, it absolutely makes sense.

Kodak Ensemble

Kodak Ensemble

If you look closely, you will find that there is a metal-made pen at the front of the camera. Obviously, this can not be a stylus for touchscreen. In fact, it is used to enter notes on the film. To do it, you have to use a special film called autographic film (A-127 film for Kodak Petite). Autographic film consisted of a tissue-like carbon paper sandwiched between the film and the paper backing. When shooting, open the small window at the back of the camera, the photographer can then “write” something, such as time, location, date. After development, the information will appear in the photo edge. It is a very smart design, can be said that the original version of the exif record!

Kodak Petite (1929) - Back

Kodak Petite (1929) – Back

Autographic film window

Autographic film window

Regarding the functions of this camera, it can be said is extremely simple. Only “I” or “T” shutter speed can be selected. “I” means “Instant shutter” provides around 1/30s exposure time. “T” for “Time”, keeps the shutter open until the shutter release is pressed again, it is used for longer exposure. In addition, Kodak Petite has four different aperture size selections (about f/8, f/16, f/32 and f/64), the largest one is numbered as “1”, and “4” is the smallest.

"I" or "T" shutter

“I” or “T” shutter

4 different aperture size selections

4 different aperture size selections

Finally I met “her” in a camera market in Paris, and the condition is good. So now “she” is a member of my collections.

Kodak Petite (1929)

Kodak Petite (1929)

Owning the camera is not difficult, but it is not simple if you want to revive it. Firstly, there are some small pinholes in the corners of the folds of the bellow, must be patched. In addition, the 127 format film has long been discontinued by Kodak in 1995 (for those who are interested in different film specifications, please visit here), need to find another film instead. I am not going to explain how to deal with those difficulties in this article, let’s enjoy the photos taken by the camera which is full of feminine!

Mask - Kodak Petite + Fujifilm instax mini film

“Mask” – Kodak Petite + Fujifilm instax mini film

"Window" - Kodak Petite + Fujifilm instax mini film

“Window” – Kodak Petite + Fujifilm instax mini film

"Desk" - Kodak Petite + Fujifilm instax mini film

“Desk” – Kodak Petite + Fujifilm instax mini film

"Red" - Kodak Petite + Sensor from Olympus EPL-1

“Red” – Kodak Petite + Sensor from Olympus EPL-1

Details of the Camera:

Camera model – Kodak Petite

Type – Folding viewfinder

Year built – ca.1929

Lens – simple meniscus lens

Shutter – Rotary shutter

Shutter speed – “I” or “T”

Made in USA

  1. Mickey Oberman says:

    Wu & Lu,

    Once again I must thank you for an excellent article.

    Mickey Oberman

  2. Mickey Oberman says:

    An addition to my note.
    I believe this camera was designed by Kodak’s great designer, Walter Dorwin Teague.

    • Wu and Lu says:

      Thanks Mickey

      So happy you like this article. And it is very good to know that Kodak Petite was designed by this very famous designer, Walter Dorwin Teague! Many Thanks.

  3. Mickey Oberman says:

    Wu and Lu,

    The paragraph under your third picture (Kodak Ensemble) states “Obviously, this can not be a stylus for touchscreen. ” It is, indeed, called a stylus.

    After carefully examining your photos of The Petite I have come to the conclusion that it is the exact same camera as the Vest Pocket Kodak Model B which was produced from 1925 to 1934.
    There were many minor variations. I have nine.

    With your permission may I add an adjunct to your offering in The Camera Collector?

    • Wu and Lu says:

      Hi Mickey

      Thanks for your comments. I know it is called stylus. I mean this is not a stylus for touchscreen (likes the current stylus for some digital cameras with touchscreen). But thanks for your remarks.

      Regarding adding an adjunct in the Camera Collector, it is absolutely fine. Please feel free to do so. 🙂

  4. Frank says:

    Please let us know how you used the instax mini film in a 127 camera~

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  10. Fred Ford says:

    Hi all,
    I have just “discovered” my mother’s old Kodak Petite camera, box and all. But is there any trick to sliding the bellows out? I cannot move them down their tracks at all. Any advice hugely appreciated!

    • Wu and Lu says:

      hi Fred

      Hold the camera with 2 hands. the lens facing outside.
      can you see the 2 little metal stalks? try to use your thumbs to put them.

      • Fred Ford says:

        Hi Wu and Lu,

        Thank you very much for trying to assist me with the camera problem. I had done what you suggested already as it is the obvious way to go. But the movement outwards of the camera appears to be impeded by a little catch between the tracks. Pushing the catch down with a tiny screw driver still does not free up the movement.

      • Wu and Lu says:

        Then try to remove the back of the camera. Push the front part from the internal. But please be careful, very easy to break the bellow

  11. Fred Ford says:

    Hi again. This morning I took the little Petite camera to a specialty vintage camera store and by lubricating the bellows a little, they managed to expand and slide the bellows (which had become dry and stuck together) down the tracks, without damaging the bellows at all. Many, many thanks for your help, much appreciated.

  12. Henry says:

    I have the same camera plus 2 Kodak brownie cameras and would like to sell all of them. Any interest? Regards, Henry

  13. Marc Allan says:

    I just found this in a box of junk, it looks like it has never been used. Perfect condition.

  14. I have one of these cameras. I’m not sure if it’s in working order. How did you use the Instax film in it? I want to try it out.


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