I can think of few good reasons to own a Kodak Tourist. You can find far better vintage medium-format folding cameras for reasonable prices. But this shine one cost less than $10, so I bought it. I should be glad I don’t always have $10 in my pocket or my house would be crammed with shiny things.
The 1948-51 Tourist was the last in a 50-year line of folding medium-format cameras from Kodak. Amateurs who wanted more from photography than their box Brownies could deliver turned to medium-format folding cameras until 35mm photography really took off in the 1950s. There were some real advantages to medium-format folding cameras, the largest of which was the 6×9 centimeter negative. Even a contact print off that negative was big enough to show the subject in detail. And even with a so-so lens, you could capture good enough
Even though the Tourist is quite sturdy and its back is cleverly designed to be opened at either end, mine is cheap where it matters — in the lens and shutter. My Tourist is the entry-level model, with a fixed-focus 86 mm f/12.5 Kodet lens and a fixed-speed (probably 1/50 sec.) Flash Kodon shutter. You could adjust the aperture from f/12.5 to f/16, f/22, and the itty bitty f/32.
Better Tourists came with glass Anastigmat or Anaston lenses that you could focus, and shutters with variable speeds. But even those Tourists can’t touch medium-format folders from manufacturers such as Agfa, Zeiss-Ikon, Voigtländer, and several better-specified Kodaks, which could be had with wonderful four-element lenses, high-speed shutters, and even coupled rangefinders that took the guesswork out of focusing. Those cameras produced sublime images. But those cameras were expensive, while the Tourist was not. Judging by the number of Tourists available on eBay every day, Kodak probably sold hundreds of thousands of them. Despite its low cost, my lowly Tourist probably took decent enough photographs in its day, as long as you were mindful of its limitations.
One of those limitations is that it takes 620 film. Actually, it became a limitation in 1996 when that format was discontinued. Fortunately, you can respool still-available 120 film onto 620 spools as the film is the same width and length. Or you can buy hand-respooled 620 film from the Film Photography Project (here).
If you like folding cameras, you might like my reviews of the Voigtländer Bessa (here), the Ansco B2 Speedex (here), the Certo Super Sport Dolly (here), the Kodak Monitor Six-20 Anastigmat Special (here), the Agfa Isolette III (here), and the Kodak Six-20 (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.
I don’t remember where I came upon the roll of 620 Kodak Plus-X I eventually loaded into this camera. I took it out and had a positively dreadful time with it.
Not a single image on the roll looked any good. Now, at the time I shot these I had no idea what my Tourist’s shutter speed was. I guessed wrong, so they’re all overexposed. I also had a terrible habit of double-exposing frames.
Always remember the cardinal rule of a camera that doesn’t have double-exposure protection: wind immediately after shooting a frame.
Also, unless the sun was perfectly behind me I got all sorts of ghosting on the frame.
To see a couple more images I made with this camera, check out my Kodak Tourist gallery.
I did not enjoy using this clumsy camera. It went into the box of unloved cameras under my bed until I eventually sold it. I sure hope whoever bought it didn’t have any designs on good photographs from it, as I did.
If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
To get Down the Road in your inbox or feed reader, subscribe here.