Antique & Vintage Photographic Equipment

Vest Pocket Kodak Special Camera (Non Autographic)

Eastman Kodak Company

Name: Vest Pocket Kodak Special
Type: Folding (Rollfilm)
Manufacturer: Eastman Kodak Company
Country of Origin: US
Construction: The Vest Pocket Kodak is a small compact camera with collapsible bellows, supported by scissor struts on each side.
The VPK Special was a variant that had much better lenses, but still used the same shutter as the standard model. However there are a number of variations.
Plate / Film Size: 127 rollfilm for pictures 1 5/8" x 2"
Dimensions (w x h x l): 2 3/8 x 4 x 1"
Production Period: 1912 - 1915

This page relates to the early non-autographic version of the Vest Pocket Kodak Special camera. When initially introduced, the camera had square section bellows but these were replaced quite quickly by the more conventional chamfered type as the former were prone to failure at the sharp square corners.

Reference is made in all the pages relating to the Vest Pocket Kodak to a guide to this series of cameras produced by Jay Kay [12], which identifies the many different design variations that exist between the models. The book identifies a number of key characteristics that vary between models such as the faceplate design, shutter plate, side panels etc. I mention a number of the key characteristics that relate to each of the cameras in my collection, but a full list of the various characteristics based upon the Jay Kay's scheme can be found in the separate VPK Capture Sheet.

Model / Variant: Early pattern with square cornered bellows (Type S-02)
Lens: Zeiss Kodak Anastigmat f6.9
Shutter: Ball Bearing No 0
Date of this Example: c1912
Serial Number: Serial 3748-S on support stand
Availability:
  • Common [ ]
  • Uncommon [ ]
  • Hard to Find [x]
  • Scarce [ ]
Inventory Number: 505

<Photographs to be added>

Description

This is an example of the Vest Pocket Kodak Special with Zeiss Anastigmat f6.9 lens (Type S-02), finished in black enamel and with its original square cornered bellows. The camera serial number (3748-S)suggests that this is an early model, which is quite scarce. The bellows are in very good condition.

The black enamel shows wear on the rounded ends, but the faceplate is in very good condition. The only other significant sign of wear is on the circular surround to the red window that has lost some enamel around its edges.

The "Zeiss" inscription on the lens was very hard to make out as it was covered in grime and some of the coloured infill to the lettering has been lost.

This example was purchased from the US.

~ # ~ # ~

Model / Variant: Early pattern with square cornered bellows (Type S-01)
Lens: Zeiss Kodak Anastigmat F=9cm, f6.8 (Carl Zeiss Jena No 212155)
Shutter: Ball Bearing No 0
Date of this Example: c1913
Serial Number: Serial 74319 on reverse of support stand
Availability:
  • Common [ ]
  • Uncommon [ ]
  • Hard to Find [x]
  • Scarce [ ]
Inventory Number: 513

<Photographs to be added>

Description

This is another example of the Vest Pocket Kodak Special, but this time with a Zeiss Anastigmat f6.8 lens (Type S-01), finished in black enamel and with its original square cornered bellows. This lens is marked Carl Zeiss Jena and is different to the other Special in both this marking, the maximum aperture (f6.8 rather than f6.9, with an aperture scale that has been added to cover over the normal markings) and the serial number format (74319) when compared to #505. I suspect that this example might be a factory upgrade of the camera rather than the Special "as sold" - further investigation required.

According to McKeown, the lens dates to 1913.

The bellows are in very good condition. The black enamel shows only minimal wear on the rounded ends of the side plates; the faceplate, main body and rear plate are all in very good condition. The side plate is the early pattern without the open/close marking (Type A), with the rod style of viewfinder handle (Type 2).

This example was purchased in the UK.

~ # ~ # ~

Model / Variant: Early pattern with square cornered bellows (Type S-01)
Lens: TT&H Kodak Anastigmatic f6.5, serial 34672
Shutter: Ball Bearing No 0
Date of this Example: c1914
Serial Number: Serial 73453 on reverse of support stand
Availability:
  • Common [ ]
  • Uncommon [ ]
  • Hard to Find [x]
  • Scarce [ ]
Inventory Number: 480

<Photographs to be added>

Description

This is another example of the early Vest Pocket Kodak Special, but this time with a fixed focus TT&H Kodak Anastigmatic f6.5 lens (Type S-01), finished in black enamel and with its original square cornered bellows. Coe [4] identifies this lens as a UK variant that was available in the period 1914 - 1915.

The front panel carries a 1902 patent date (Type 2); the case cap on the rear is plain (Type 1). The markings on the inner edge of the lens are quite hard to read. Note that additional aperture markings for this lens are engraved on the front panel beneath the standard autotime shutter plate. Jay Kay notes this as happening on Type 4 & 5 front plates and suggests that this was most likely done in the UK for private sources. This modification to a Type 2 plate is therefore an extension of this pattern.

This example is in quite exceptional condition. The original square section bellows are in very good condition, with no obvious sign of wear or misfolding. The black enamel shows only minimal signs of wear, with only minor marking on the face plate. The side plate is the early pattern but has the open/close marking (Type B), with the rod style of viewfinder handle (Type 2).

This example was purchased in the UK. It came with a brown leather case with carry strap.

~ # ~ # ~

Model / Variant: Early pattern with square cornered bellows (Type S-01)
Lens: TT&H Kodak Anastigmatic f6.5, serial 34603
Shutter: Ball Bearing No 0
Date of this Example: c1914
Serial Number: Serial 73735 on reverse of support stand
Availability:
  • Common [ ]
  • Uncommon [ ]
  • Hard to Find [x]
  • Scarce [ ]
Inventory Number: 510

<Photographs to be added>

Description

This is another example of the early Vest Pocket Kodak Special, but this time with a fixed focus TT&H Kodak Anastigmatic f6.5 lens (Type S-01), finished in black enamel and with its original square cornered bellows. Coe [4] identifies this lens as a UK variant that was available in the period 1914 - 1915.

The front panel carries a 1902 patent date (Type 2); the case cap on the rear is plain (Type 1). The markings on the inner edge of the lens are quite hard to read. Note that additional aperture markings for this lens are engraved on the front panel beneath the standard autotime shutter plate. Jay Kay notes this as happening on Type 4 & 5 front plates and suggests that this was most likely done in the UK for private sources. This modification to a Type 2 plate is therefore an extension of this pattern.

This example is not in such good condition as #480. The original square section bellows are in good condition, with no obvious sign of wear or misfolding. However, the black enamel shows signs of wear, with a number of dings, scratches and other marks. The side plate is the early pattern but has the open/close marking (Type B), with the rod style of viewfinder handle (Type 2).

This example was purchased in the US, although it may have originated in the UK.

This camera is identical in form to #480. It is interesting to note that the body serial numbers are only just over 280 apart, while the lens serial numbers are separate by just 69. However the higher lens serial is on the lower body serial camera!

Notes

Example #505 was found on eBay, but without any write up about the lens. It is worth examining pictures quite carefully to check what variant of the VPK is listed as sellers seldom know one from another. Also examine the bellows carefully; the early versions with square section bellows are harder to find, especially if you are seeking one where the bellows remain in good condition.

I have a fairly substantial collection of VPKs in their various formats and finishes. Refer also the Vest Pocket Kodak page for the standard (non-autographic) model, the Vest Pocket Kodak Autographic for the later and longer running autographic version and the Vest Pocket Kodak Autographic Special page for the higher specification models (including the highly desirable UK Compur / Tessar model).