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  1. #1
    BetterSense's Avatar
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    Why did Kodak not make cameras?

    Ok, sounds like a dumb question. I know there were the retina rangefinder cameras, and the brownie box cameras, and folding cameras, and ok, the instamatic cameras. But it seems like Kodak never made a 35mm SLR camera that competes with the Japanese Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Olympus, Minolta cameras. This was all way before my time, so I'm not familiar with the dynamics of the time. It seems strange to me that Kodak would just stay out of what was clearly a giant market.

  2. #2
    Steve Smith's Avatar
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    Retina Reflex S and III.

    Interchangeable lens SLRs but with leaf shutter in the body rather than a focal plane shutter. I have a couple which work really well but they are not known for their reliability. I have a couple more which are seized up with the shutter half open.

    Camera repair people don't like working on them either. If you turn up with one they are likely to run away and hide under the table until you have gone!


    Steve.
    "People who say things won't work are a dime a dozen. People who figure out how to make things work are worth a fortune" - Dave Rat.

  3. #3
    darinwc's Avatar
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    Kodak made a ton of cameras for for at least 50 years!! Including SLRs - look up retina reflexes.
    With such great success of their film products and inexpensive cameras like the instamatic.. i dont think it was worth it for them to compete with the likes of leica, nikon, canon, minolta, olympus, pentax, and others who dominated the pro camera markets in the 70's and onwards.

  4. #4
    Rol_Lei Nut's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Smith View Post
    Retina Reflex S and III.
    Though branded "Kodak", they were made by what was Nagel in Stuttgart, Germany.

    I don't think that Kodak had anything to do with their design, either, as their lens mount, shutter and lens line were shared by several other contemporary German cameras (Voigtlńnder, Braun & so on).

    I'd be curious to know what Kodak's input was, if any...
    (General marketing strategy? What type of product to come out with?)
    M6, SL, SL2, R5, P6x7, SL3003, SL35-E, F, F2, FM, FE-2, Varex IIa

  5. #5
    Steve Smith's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rol_Lei Nut View Post
    I'd be curious to know what Kodak's input was, if any...
    (General marketing strategy? What type of product to come out with?)
    Perhaps it was: Make something that looks and works a bit like a Bessamatic but put Kodak on the front. And the winder on the bottom!



    Steve.
    "People who say things won't work are a dime a dozen. People who figure out how to make things work are worth a fortune" - Dave Rat.

  6. #6

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    I guess that Kodak were doing very nicely out selling the ammunition for all the cameras mentioned. They didn't do too badly in the "stack 'em high, sell 'em cheap" camera market either, so there was probably no mileage in going head to head with the serious camera manufacturers. Just my guess.

    Steve

  7. #7
    Rol_Lei Nut's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Smith View Post
    Originally Posted by Rol_Lei Nut View Post
    I'd be curious to know what Kodak's input was, if any...
    (General marketing strategy? What type of product to come out with?)

    ____________
    Perhaps it was: Make something that looks and works a bit like a Bessamatic but put Kodak on the front. And the winder on the bottom!
    Steve.
    And the World's most complicated to reset frame counter, also on the bottom...
    ;-)
    M6, SL, SL2, R5, P6x7, SL3003, SL35-E, F, F2, FM, FE-2, Varex IIa

  8. #8
    Ian Grant's Avatar
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    Funny you should ask that question.

    Looking back through various copies of the British Journal Photographic Almanac recently from the mid 30's to the early 60 it's very noticeable how Kodak never really competed properly in the market place with good modern cameras. By the early 60's they'd really been left behind.

    For many decades Kodak relied on Box Brownies, I don't know exactlywhen they were finally discontinued but the were still vaailable in 1962. Kodak had made a good attempt to improve by taking over Nagel in Germany in 1931, but they were never innovative and like many other German camera manufacturers, like Zeiss Ikon, they didn't make cameras that could compete with the Japanese in the 50's and 60's.

    It's easy to see the gulf that had opened up by the early 60's both Fuji and Konica were manufacturing modern reliable reliable cameras and other manufacturers like Canon, Nikon, Minolta etc were being imported into the UK in increasing volumes. Kodak sat at the bottom end of the market with their cameras after that.

    We knock Kodak management now for it's mishandling of it's business but the roots of its problems go back a long time to before WWII. As Steve says film and consumables like paper & chemistry were the bedrock of the company, but they lacked vision and inspiration when it came to the future of the camera market. They stayed in the mass market with 126 which was just repackaged 828 roll film in a light proof cartridge, then 110 & eventually Disk cameras.

    Ian

  9. #9
    Steve Smith's Avatar
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    When they are working, I find the Retina Reflex III very nice to use. I like the interlocked aperture and shutter speeds and the twin needled meter viewable on the top plate and in the viewfinder. The Zeiss lenses are nice too especially the 50mm f1.9.

    The problem is they are just too complicated. This was reflected in the price. I don't remeber the figures now but when my father bought his first one he found an old advert from around 1960. A Kodak Retinette 1b (simple rangefinder like camera) would have cost him about half a week's pay at the time whereas a Reflex III would be more like ten week's pay.

    I think the Reflexes, Retinas and Retinettes did compete favourably at their time of introduction but were quickly surpassed by the Japanese and German manufacturers.



    Steve.
    "People who say things won't work are a dime a dozen. People who figure out how to make things work are worth a fortune" - Dave Rat.

  10. #10

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    And the German manufacturers went behind competition because of some stupid agreement that they should use Compur leafshutters. Maybe such an agreement existed for Kodak as well.
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