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