Kodak Instamatic 500  –  Vintage Camera

Kodak Instamatic 500 (three quarters, lens extended)

Kodak Instamatic 500 (three quarters, lens extended)

Kodak Instamatic 500 (three quarters, lens extended)

Kodak Instamatic 500 (three quarters, lens extended)

Kodak Instamatic 500 (front view)

Kodak Instamatic 500 (front view)

Kodak Instamatic 500 (rear view)

Kodak Instamatic 500 (rear view)

Kodak Instamatic 500 (top view, lens retracted)

Kodak Instamatic 500 (top view, lens retracted)

Kodak Instamatic 500 (top view, lens extended)

Kodak Instamatic 500 (top view, lens extended)

Kodak Instamatic 500 (bottom view, lens extended)

Kodak Instamatic 500 (bottom view, lens extended)

Kodak Instamatic 500 (with 35mm cassette for scale)

Kodak Instamatic 500 (with 35mm cassette for scale)

Kodak Instamatic 500 (three quarters, lens extended)Kodak Instamatic 500 (three quarters, lens extended)Kodak Instamatic 500 (front view)Kodak Instamatic 500 (rear view)Kodak Instamatic 500 (top view, lens retracted)Kodak Instamatic 500 (top view, lens extended)Kodak Instamatic 500 (bottom view, lens extended)Kodak Instamatic 500 (with 35mm cassette for scale)

Kodak Instamatic 500 Specifications

Manufacturer: Kodak AG
   
Origin: USA
   
Made in: Stuttgart, West Germany
  (modern day Germany)
   
Introduced: 1964
   
Type: Viewfinder
   
Format: 126 Film
   
Dimensions: 12.4 x 6.2 x 5.8 cm

Kodak Instamatic 500 Review

The Kodak Instamatic 500 is a high-end viewfinder camera designed for the 126 film cartridge and manufactured by Kodak AG—Eastman Kodak’s German branch—starting in 1964. The 500 is arguably the most well-built and highest quality fixed-lens camera in Kodak’s expansive Instamatic line but the title of flagship model belongs to the Instamatic Reflex, an interchangeable lens SLR system camera also built by Kodak AG.

In keeping with the proud tradition of German engineering and craftsmanship, the build quality of the aluminum-bodied Kodak Instamatic 500 is superb and each of its most important components are sourced from high-end German manufacturers. For starters, the Instamatic 500 features a retractable 38mm f/2.8 Xenar lens crafted by the legendary optics company Schneider-Kreuznach. Paired with the lens is a Compur leaf shutter manufactured by F. Deckel, another famous firm. Last but not least, the integrated selenium light meter is made by Gossen, the renowned Nuremberg-based light meter company.

Although it looks relatively simplistic, the 500 actually has a complete set of manual controls, most of which is integrated into the lens barrel. The ring immediately surrounding the lens’ front element controls the focus which can either be adjusted using the distance scale on top or the focus zone markings on the bottom. Immediately surrounding the focus ring is the shutter speed selector with speeds ranging from 1/500-1/30 seconds and Bulb. Finally, at the base of the lens barrel is the aperture ring with a black plastic tab.

Just off the lens barrel at eight o’clock is a flash sync post with the Gossen light meter and adjacent viewfinder window at two o’clock. Directly underneath the meter and viewfinder is a guard that stops the user’s left hand from obscuring either one. The top plate is relatively spartan featuring only a hot shoe and a threaded shutter button and the bottom plate is much the same with a tripod socket, recessed film advance lever, and the little silver button, which when pressed, allows the lens to be released or retracted. Besides the strap lugs, the only thing on the sides is the circular film door release switch.

As far as Instamatics go and maybe even Kodaks in general, the 500 is my personal favorite. Its sleek, modern design paired with premium materials and excellent build quality paired with world class optics and internals make it a clear winner. I actually own two of these beauties, both of which were found on eBay. I bought them separately but for the same reason: the deal was just too good to pass up: this one was $15 and the other was $10 (but missing the nameplate). Compare that to the 1964 retail price of $94.50 (about $725 in today’s US dollars) and it’s an absolute steal. Now all I have to do is wait for someone to make a digital sensor module in the shape of a 126 film cartridge.

References:

McKeown, James M. and Joan C. McKeown’s Price Guide to Antique and Classic Cameras, 2001-2002. (Grantsburg, USA: Centennial Photo Service, 2001), 349.

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