Kodak Vest Pocket Autographic

The Kodak Vest Pocket Autographic cameras were small folding cameras using 127 roll film. They were manufactured beginning in 1912 until the 1930s. The early models have trellis struts while the later versions have a drop bed.

Looking at the camera you will notice there is no way to remove the back. The film is loaded from the top. To load the camera with film, you slide the lock on the top and lift the top off. You then insert the film leader into the takeup spool and put both spools into the camera. Optionally, you can remove the film number window from the back so that you have access to the film leader. The film number window is removed by turning the large circular piece clockwise.

The shutter button is located behind the front panel and is accessible after the front is pulled out (see first image below). The waist-lever viewfinder rotates 90 degrees for either portrait or landscape framing.

A variety of lens and shutters were used over the years. Some Vest Pocket cameras have a single element meniscus lens. Because the lens is located behind the shutter it looks as though the camera is missing its lens. The camera picutred here has the better Kodak Anastigmat f7.7 triplet lens.

This camera uses the two speed version of the Kodak Ball Bearing shutter. Disassembly and cleaning is similar between the two shutters.

This image shows the location of the shutter release. This lever is held in place by the front panel and will fall out when you remove the front panel, so watch carefully for it.

I removed the viewfinder first for cleaning. To remove the viewfinder simply unscrew the fascia ring from the front. It isn't necessary to remove the viewfinder to disassemble the camera.

If you intend to remove the shutter for cleaning, or need access to the rear lens for cleaning, you can remove the film number view window from the back to gain access. Turn the circular ring on the back clockwise and the window will lift off.

If you need to replace the bellows or clean the inside of the body, it is necessary to remove the main assembly from the body. To do this, remove the top cover, then remove the two screws in the bottom plate. Reach inside the camera body and slide the bellows/shutter assembly out from the top.

This image shows the camera bellows/shutter assembly removed from the camera body.

To gain access to the shutter, remove the six screws in the front plate and lift the plate off. Locate and remove the shutter release lever (not shown in the picture). If fits into the slot on the right side of the lower strut.

Turn the camera over and unscrew the shutter retaining nut. The shutter will then lift out of the camera.

The front of the bellows is held to the shutter by the shutter retaining nut and will come loose when the shutter is removed. I didn't remove the bellows from this camera, but the rear of the bellows appears to be attached to the strut frame. The frame is held by rivets on the side, so if you need to replace the bellows it is best to just cut the bellows out and then glue the new bellows in.

To gain access to the shutter mechanism for cleaning, remove the lens elements by unscrewing them from the shutter. Remove the four screws in the faceplate and lift the faceplate and aperture control ring. Remove the one screw on the front cover and the three screws from the back. The shutter cover will then lift off.

You can see from this picture that the shutter is very simple. Cleaning the pivot points with solvent was all I needed to do to get the shutter running again. One problem I encountered was that the trigger would stick after the cover was put back on. I put a small amount of oil on the stud on the trigger where it goes into the hole in the cover and the problem went away.

The different speeds are set by varying the tension on the main spring. Speeds on this type of shutter are usually innacurate. Since there is no escapement or speed cam, the only adjustment possible is to try and bend the spring to increase or decrease tension. That is probably not a good idea on an old shutter like this. I think it's best to just measure the shutter speeds and then set the exposure appropriately by varying the aperture. Also, if you shoot on modern B/W films with wide latitude you will get a good enough exposure even if the speeds are off by as much as one or two stops.