Kodak 3a Autograph Jr.

Kodak 3a



I know very little about this camera, I bought it pretty much for display. I love the way some of these classic bellows cameras look, and they can really add dimension to a shelf of photos and curios, or a classic accent to a table. (Uh oh, I think I’m channelling Martha Stewart, somebody slap me!) Seriously, some of them are truly beautiful pieces of work and are, I think, perfect display items for the home of a photographer. Plus I’d rather one of my kids bust up a $10 non-functioning camera than play with my Ikoflex.

You’ll love this from the advert: “…neither (the 3a or 2c) presents any difficulty as far as easy carrying is concerned. Dropped in the topcoat pocket, swung smartly from the shoulder in a case or slipped in the side pocket of the car, either camera will more than pay its passage with pictures – and without inconvenience.” This is a 37 oz (without case or film) camera that measures 2″ x 5″ x 9 3/4″ (again without case). Those must have been some pockets! I guess compared to Ansel Adams’ rig, it is indeed a pocket camera. Same advert says it takes (took) 122 film, which at the time of this writing is still available at FilmForClassics at $20 a roll for Plus-X only. For another $20 they’ll process it too.

The Autographic feature is an interesting one that took a little research to figure out: there is a door in the camera back and a metal stylus attached to it. Apparently you would use special Autographic film (A-122 in this case) and after you took the picture you could open the little door and make a note with the stylus that would come out between frames, basically a caption system for your pictures. An ingenious invention that somehow failed to catch on.

Interesting details on this one – it has two tripod mounts, one for landscape view and one for portrait view. It also has a slip-on accessory lens or filter taped to the shutter mount with the original tape! The shutter cocks and fires in a single lever movement, though it only works properly on T, B and 25. For 50 it must invoke a fast-speed mechanism which isn’t working, it acts like the B setting instead. I don’t really intend to investigate.

Overall it’s not in great shape but what the hey it was $10. I plan to use it as a practice restoration project…

FOLLOWUP and restoration primer (helpful info gleaned from various sources): I cleaned the glass with Windex, cleaned all the metal surfaces with Flitz metal and fiberglass cleaner, reglued the peeling leather with Pliobond, cleaned the leather with Lexol, restored the leather with Kiwi black shoe polish, then rubbed it down with Sno-seal (beeswax). Many Q-Tips later, it looks almost as good as the Ensign now! Quite a transformation, and a very good (and fun) learning project for me.

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