I think it’s safe to say Eastman Kodak produced cameras in order to sell film, and until the digital revolution, they have been first and foremost a film company. (insert ‘duh’ here) I’ve read that a Kodak engineer decided that space on 35mm film was being wasted by the sprocket holes so they developed 828 to allow for more image space. How noble! I would say it’s more realistic to assume that 828 roll film was a marketing ploy to sell alternate versions of the same film stock, with the added benefit of providing about 30% more image space.
35mm film was introduced in 1892 primarily as film for the Kinetoscope invented by Thomas Edison to create motion pictures using emulsion supplied by George Eastman and his film company Kodak. As early as 1912 35mm was being used in still cameras but didn’t really become a still photography standard until utilized by Leica in 1925. Sprocket holes were used in movie cameras at the time so Kodak and other manufacturers probably decided why not use the same stock and create a film advance mechanism in their still cameras that utilizes sprockets. Until Eastman Kodak produced its 135 film type in 1934 (a spool of 35mm film inside a light-sealed, plastic cartridge) photographers manually rolled 35mm film stock onto spools or into canisters from bulk reels in a dark room and then loaded their camera. Eastman Kodak had surmised correctly that more film could be sold if it was preloaded in the light-sensitive cartridge allowing ease of use and portability. This cartridge configuration continues to be the most popular film format for amateur and professional still photography.
A year later (1935) Eastman Kodak released the 828 roll film with the Bantam camera line (all but one model were folders.) 828 is the same width as 135 (35mm) but Kodak chose to remove the sprocket holes, add a paper backing and include less film emulsion per spool. Originally 828 spools produced only eight 28x40mm negatives (later up to twelve frames) on 135 film stock which included a perforation between each frame. Alternate versions also included a single hole for an advance system that didn’t require the common red frame window on the back of the camera. 828 roll film just didn’t catch on with consumers outside of Kodak’s own Bantam and Pony camera lines. A few other manufactures produced 828 cameras but to little notice by the buying public. The now standard 35mm cartridge was just too convenient, provided up to 36 frames for minimal cost and many more cameras of all price ranges supported 35mm film. Eastman Kodak stopped production on 828 roll film in the 1970s.
The Kodak Pony 828 and Bantam RF (Signet style) were the last US camera model Kodak produced for that film size. Subsequent Pony models utilized 135 (35mm) film. This camera came to me from an outside source and the five dollars that person paid for it at a thrift store was probably too much. Not big enough to hold a 35mm film cartridge, manually spooling 35mm film onto an 828 spool and loading the camera in my dark room would be the only way I could use this camera in a practical manner. I’d have to cover the ‘green’ frame window on the back of the camera and determine how many turns of the advance knob to guesstimate the framing. I doubt I will ever find the time.
The camera itself is pretty basic. The body is modeled Bakelite and plastic like many of the budget Kodak cameras of this era. The lens housing must be turned counter-clockwise, pulled out then locked into place by turning it clockwise. The lens is a decent 51mm ‘Lumenized’ Anaston with an aperture range of f4.5 to f22. The Flash 200 shutter which needs to be manually engaged prior to each exposure, provides a limited speed range of 1/25, 1/50, 1/100 and 1/200 plus Bulb. There is a flash connector on the lens barrel for the bulb type flash guns using SM/SF or No.5/No. 25 bulbs. There is a film type reminder dial on the top of the camera and a remote cord connector on the lens barrel. Framing is accomplished by using the simple viewfinder (no frame lines). Load the camera (if it was still 1959) by pushing the button within the end slide and then push down the slide. Remove the back, drop in the 828 roll film spool and attach the end to the take-up spool. Turn the advance knob until the film is flat and straight, then replace the back. Turn the advance knob until the ‘1’ frame number appears in the ‘green’ window on the back of the camera. Snap back into the year 2006 and simply place the camera on a shelf and admire it from a far because it’s not really worth it to rig this thing for 35mm film unless you have a lot of time on your hands. If you really want to work with 828 roll film cameras get the Kodak Bantam models, they are more interesting. Pony 35mm models exist in similar and in some cases better configurations than the Pony 828, so grab one of those to get a feel for the ‘performance’ of the Pony.
CLEANING AND REPAIR
Cleaning these old Bakelite cameras is an easy endeavor. Windex or any other non-streaking glass cleaner is the all-purpose answer. Use it on the Bakelite body, the plastic viewfinder housing, metal front plate and even the lens (in moderation). The Flash 200 shutter might get stiff with age. As with most of these basic shutters usually just firing them at all speeds several times works out the kinks. I’d also suggest the tried and true method of placing a few drops of lighter fluid around the shutter cocking lever and firing the shutter several times. This tends to loosen up and stiffness. If more extreme measures are needed the faceplate can be removed for better access to the shutter mechanism. An indepth shutter repair process can be found in the links below.
Don’t buy one of these! Unless you really want one for the purposes of completing your Kodak Pony collection, or like having a paper weight in the shape of a Pony camera. Get one of the four 35mm Pony models so you can actually use the thing to take pictures without much hassle. If you pay more than five dollars on EBay or any other auction site for the Pony 828 consider contacting a mental health professional.