Antique & Vintage Photographic Equipment

Vest Pocket Kodak Camera (Non Autographic)

Eastman Kodak Company

Name: Vest Pocket Kodak
Type: Folding (Strut)
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 initial versions were fitted with square bellows rather than the more common chamfered bellows that were used from 1913.
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"
Movements: None
Production Period: 1912 - 1914

This page relates to the early non-autographic version of the Vest Pocket Kodak camera made in the US. When initially introduced, the camera had square section bellows but these were replaced after 1912 by the more conventional chamfered type as the former were prone to failure at the sharp square corners.

The non autographic VPK was only produced in the plain black enamel finish.

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.

Model / Variant: Plain enamel finish (Type S-01)
Lens: Meniscus Achromatic
Shutter: Ball Bearing No 0
Date of this Example: 1912
Serial Number: Serial 4538 on rear of support leg
Availability:
  • Common [ ]
  • Uncommon [x]
  • Hard to Find [ ]
  • Scarce [ ]
Inventory Number: 481

<Photographs to be added>

Description

This is an example of the first version of the Vest Pocket Kodak with Meniscus Achromatic lens (Type S-01), finished in black enamel and with its original square cornered bellows. The camera serial number (4538) identifies it as a very early model, which is quite scarce.

The bellows are original and are in surprisingly good condition. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the enamel finish on the face plate, which shows significant wear and paint loss, exposing the underlying aluminium.

I have included it here, not because of its condition, but simply because it is the earliest example I have as yet encountered. (Serial numbering started from 1001 according to Jay Kay [12]).

Note that there is a dimple in the Index Plate to the left of the "1" f stop. This is there to limit the iris opening. Compare this with #448, where the lens surround has been changed to make a narrower opening, removing the need for this restriction on the iris lever movement.

The viewfinder on this early example has no handle (Type 1).

The camera exhibits another fault that I have also encountered on other early cameras, which is that its shape has distorted. Place a straight edge along the back and it is apparent that the camera is slightly banana shaped (a distortion in this case of nearly 2mm from flat)! Another example that I acquired of a similar age actually had a weld repair to the removable side panel, which was significantly distorted.

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Model / Variant: Plain enamel finish (Type S-01)
Lens: Meniscus Achromatic
Shutter: Ball Bearing No 0
Date of this Example: 1912
Serial Number: Serial 6857 on rear of support leg
Availability:
  • Common [ ]
  • Uncommon [x]
  • Hard to Find [ ]
  • Scarce [ ]
Inventory Number: 400

<Photographs to be added>

Description

This is probably the best example of the first version of the Vest Pocket Kodak with Meniscus Achromatic lens (Type S-01) that one might hope to find! As with other early models, it is finished in black enamel and with its original square cornered bellows. The camera serial number (6857) identifies it as a very early model, which is quite scarce.

However, what marks this out as such an exceptional example is the fact that it is complete with its original slip box, finished in purple and still in good condition. Better still, it retains its original instruction booklet. This is the only example I have ever seen of the first version of the booklet (dated April 1912); it shows the camera with square cornered bellows in the photographs.

The bellows are original and are in surprisingly good condition. The only significant wear to the enamel finish is on the case cap on the rear. As with the previous example, there is a dimple in the Index Plate to the left of the "1" f stop to limit the iris opening. The viewfinder on this early example has no handle (Type 1).

Fortunately this example does not exhibit the curvature of the back seen on several other early models.

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Model / Variant: Plain enamel finish (Type S-01)
Lens: Meniscus Achromatic
Shutter: Ball Bearing No 0
Date of this Example: c1913
Serial Number: Serial 75433 on rear of support leg
Availability:
  • Common [ ]
  • Uncommon [x]
  • Hard to Find [ ]
  • Scarce [ ]
Inventory Number: 398

Image of Vest Pocket Kodak Camera with square cornered bellows

(Image Amateur Photographer 2011, taken for an article by Ivor Matanle and reproduced with kind permission)

Description

This is an example of the Vest Pocket Kodak with Meniscus Achromatic lens (Type S-01), finished in black enamel and with its original square cornered bellows. As with the previous examples, this early camera has the wide lens opening and dimple on the Index Plate (Type S-01).

Several minor changes are apparent on this camera (serial 75433). The viewfinder now has a rod handle (Type 2). The opening side panel now benefits from 'Lock' / 'Open' markings (previously blank). The face plate now carries a patent date of 1902 engraved, along with the camera name, immediately below the Index Plate (Type 2).

The black enamel shows wear on the raised edges, but the faceplate is in comparatively good condition. The only significant sign of wear is on the case cap (the circular disk where the red window is mounted) that has lost a significant amount of it enamel.

The bellows are intact but have some misfolds on the vertical faces (not uncommon with these early pattern bellows). Like #481 above, the camera is another where its shape has distorted.

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Model / Variant: Plain black enamel finish (Type S-01a)
Lens: Meniscus Achromatic
Shutter: Ball Bearing No 0
Date of this Example: c1914
Serial Number: Serial 137213 on the rear of the support leg
Availability:
  • Common [ ]
  • Uncommon [x]
  • Hard to Find [ ]
  • Scarce [ ]
Inventory Number: 443

<Photographs to be added>

Description

This is an example of the Vest Pocket Kodak with Meniscus Achromatic lens, finished in black enamel and with its original square cornered bellows. Note that the dimple to the left of the "1" f stop is absent on this Index Plate. The shape of the lens surround is different to the previous examples - it has a narrower opening, which removes the necessity to limit the iris opening. Jay Kay [12] identifies this as Type S-01a.

The faceplate carries a patent date of 1902 (Type 2). This example exhibits another design change whereby the rod handle on the viewfinder was changed to a bar (Type 3).

The bellows are original and are in surprisingly good condition.

The black enamel shows some wear but is undamaged.

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Model / Variant: Plain black enamel finish (Type S-03a)
Lens: Kodak Anastigmat f8, serial 18782
Shutter: Ball Bearing No 0
Date of this Example: 1914
Serial Number: Serial 26081-S on the rear of the support leg
Availability:
  • Common [ ]
  • Uncommon [ ]
  • Hard to Find [x]
  • Scarce [ ]
Inventory Number: 309

<Photographs to be added>

Description

This is an example of the Vest Pocket Kodak with Kodak Anastigmat f8 lens, finished in black enamel and with chamfered bellows. Early cameras with this lens had a raised dot near the f8 mark to signify the f-stop. This is absent on later examples, as in this case (Type S-03a).

When first introduced in October 1913, this camera was sold as part of "The Kodak Gift Case".

<Insert scan of advert>

The following year the camera was made available separately and it is almost certain that this example dates to this time as it has a relatively high serial number. According to Jay Kay [12], these cameras were numbered from serial 10001-S. Only 5000 of the Kodak Gift Case sets were produced (and I have as yet to see one).

The face plate carries a patent date of 1913 (Type 3). This is also the first example on this page that has the later pattern of collar around the viewfinder lens (Type 2) and later pattern of support leg (Type B).

The black enamel shows significant wear, with some damaged in the form of scratches to the enamel surface. The bellows are worn, but sound.

Notes

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