Review - Kodak 828 Flash Bantam
I can't believe how long it's been since I updated this blog! Promise- more updates in the future. Really.
Last time around I promised you a review of the Kodak 828 Flash Bantam and now, over two years later here it is! The 828 Flash Bantam is not really a user-collectible. I mean that in the sense that it's not really something you can pick up and go out and use. You CAN use it if you're a hardcore 828 film size fan and are willing to create your own film, as I use one of mine every now and then but sometimes I enjoy doing things the hard way.
828 film was a small roll film size the same width as regular 35mm film, but without sprocket holes. It did however have 8 little rectangular holes spaced accordingly for the little "catch" in the camera to automatically locate the film for the next exposure correctly. Something not really needed since the camera also has the traditional green window on the back to read the exposure number on the backing of the film. The film has been discontinued for years. Every now and then you find a company selling 828 film. My experience has been you get one of two things. Film hand cut and wound into vintage backing paper and wound on a vintage 828 spool, or hand cut, hand wound film on a home made spool made out of a brass tube and two hand cut metal discs for the ends. I have had no good experience with ANY moden purchased 828 film. Two ways I create my own film: 1. Hand wind regular 35mm film into backing paper and wind onto an original 828 spool. Old film and spools can be found on line, in used cameras you buy, etc. Advantages are you don't have to cut the film strips yourself and you have a wide variety of 35mm films to choose from. Disadvantage is you'll have sprocket holes in the image area, and will need to compose allowing for the very top and bottom edge to be cut off from what you see in the finder. 2. You can get 120 roll film, measure 35mm from one spool end, and actually saw the film spool creating a shorter spool of 120 film that is now 35mm wide. This works, and can be done in dim light with a simple jigsaw, etc. You do get a teensey bit of light strike on the edge you cut, but for me it has not encroached into the image area. Now that you have some 828 film, on to the camera itself.
The 828 Flash Bantam is one of the earliest "pocket" cameras. The finder folds down, and the front lens board moves inward to make a camera that you can actually put in your pocket -- although they're heavy and will make your pocket sag! Near as I can remember this was the first "real" adjustable camera I ever used. I was going to the high school homecoming football game -- I was not in high school yet -- only a 6th grader at the time. I asked Dad for a good camera to take with me. He gave me a Flash Bantam loaded with Ektachrome, set the shutter and lens for what I now know was the "sunny 16" rule, set the focus for pretty much "snapshot to infinity" and sent me off to the game. I took my 8 exposures and had my first slides! My Dad had two of these cameras (somehow now I manage to have both of them, don't tell him) and he had used them for a lot of slides since the 50's. You can always tell the 828 slides compared to the 35mm slides as the image area is just a bit wider and taller in the 828 format.
The camera itself offers an f: 4.5 48mm lens (which is a bit more wide angle than you think due to the larger image area compared to 35mm) and shutter speeds of 1/25 up to 1/200 and of course T and B. Focuses down to 2.5 feet. You have to manually cock the shutter for each shot (there is a little cocking lever behind the front lens board on the shutter release side). Like most cameras of this ilk, the shutter is nearly silent and makes for great candid shooting. It's all metal construction with leatherette covering makes them hell for stout little cameras. The short bellows is pretty well protected with the folding metal cross bars top and bottom and I've never found one of these with a leaking or damaged bellows. Many years ago I posted a few 828 photos taken with the Flash Bantam and home made film, and you can find them on an old "vintage" area of my current web site here.
Note that the Flash Bantam has no easy way to affix a flash unit. There IS an old fashioned post connector for a flash cord -- and adapters are around to let you connect a regular PC type cord (although they're getting harder to find). Dad had a flat straight bracket that screwed to the camera bottom into the tripod socket and had a flash mount to which we always put one of those nifty folding fan flash units. (Danged if I don't have THAT now too). Most of which would take M2 style or the #5 or even Press 25 bulbs.
There were several other 828 models of course, including some variations on this model. There were some very basic bakelite body models that fold up small and are much lighter, but of course not as versatile. The film used to come in cute little 828 size metal screw top Kodak film cans, too!
If you like to play with older cameras and don't mind making your own film rolls, consider playing with some of those neat 828 models you find in the second hand and antique stores. Most of these are also basic enough with traditional, mechanical screw and bolt style construction that if you need to disassemble and clean and lube to get it working right, you can!