The Kodak VR35 K40 was part of Kodak’s return to selling 35mm cameras. Kodak had some success with its lines of 35 mm cameras in the 1950s and 1960s, cranking out plenty of Retinas, Signets, and Ponys. But Kodak quietly exited the 35 mm photography business in 1969 to focus on building the very popular Instamatic cameras that used 126 or 110 drop-in cartridge film.

Then in the 1980s other camera makers introduced new lines of moderately priced, easy-to-use compact 35 mm snapshot cameras. Suddenly everyone could take good snapshots using 35 mm film, which had the cachet of “real” photography. It ate into Kodak’s Instamatic business. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em; in 1986 Kodak introduced the made-in-Japan VR35 line of 35 mm point-and-shoot cameras. Like this one, the VR35 K40.

Kodak VR35 K40

It set my mother back $83 when she bought me my first VR35 K40 in 1986 (that’s about $171 today). It featured a fixed-focus 35mm f/3.8 (I think) Ektanar lens, which was a little soft but not terribly so. It had a pop-up flash, motorized winding and rewinding, and an autoexposure system probably driven by a CdS cell. It operated on two common-as-pennies AA batteries.

At right is my old friend Gary taking a picture of me with my K40 in 1988. I photographed him simultaneously with my backup camera, a crappy Keystone 110. Ah college days, where the excessive homework would make us loopy enough that photographing each other like this seemed like excellent fun. I also used the K40 to photograph a spring morning over the pond adjacent to my residence hall (see that photo), and to photograph the aftermath of an ice storm in 1990 (see some of those photos). My K40 was a reliable and easy-to-use workhorse, and did a fine job for the simple snapshots I liked to take then.

My K40 disappeared somewhere along the way, but I didn’t miss it all that much. When I started taking road trips and needed a camera, I spent $20 on a used Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80 and never looked back. But I had a little time to kill a few weeks ago and stopped by a Goodwill store to see if they had any bargain cameras. Glory be, they had a K40 for just $5.

Kodak VR35 K40

There’s nothing to using the K40, starting with loading the film. Drop in the film cartridge on the left, pull the film across the back until it touches the yellow outline of the film leader, and close the back. The K40 winds the film to the first exposure and you’re ready to go.

To take a photo, slide the lens cover out of the way, frame the shot, and press the button atop the camera halfway down. If the red light next to the viewfinder glows, pop up the flash by pushing up the slider below the flash. Then press the shutter button all the way down to get the picture. The camera’s winder is on the noisy side. When you’ve shot the roll, slide the rewind button (upper right on the camera’s back) to the left and wait until it stops. Easy peasy.

If you like compact 35mm point-and-shoot cameras, check out my review of another Kodak VR35 camera, the K12 (here), and also the Canon AF35ML, the Yashica T2, the Olympus Stylus, the Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80, and the Minolta AF-Sv. You can also have a look at every camera I’ve ever reviewed here.

I dropped a roll of Fujicolor 200 into this camera and spent a lunch hour in Broad Ripple looking for things to photograph. The Monon bridge is a reliable and colorful subject.

Monon bridge

This is my favorite photo from the day. In real life, the wall is a little more vividly blue. I also wasn’t thrilled with the unusually noisy scans I got from Costco this time. But after I posted this photo so my Facebook friends could see it, one fellow said that its imperfections are part of its charm. I suppose he’s right.

Colorful clothes

This is my second favorite photo of the day, simply because I like how all the lines converge. The fellow walking toward me on the sidewalk gave me a very funny look when he passed by.


This mural is on the wall of a pool sales and service company. Notice how the frame darkens a bit in the corners; the lens is subject to vignetting.

Blue mural

I took this photo because I wanted to see how the K40 compared to my Canon AF35ML, which I also used to photograph this wall. The lighting conditions differed for the two photographs, which certainly matters, but I think the colors and sharpness are better on the photo from the Canon. I used the same kind of film for both shots.

The Bungalow Inc

It was lunchtime in Broad Ripple. It was unseasonably chilly, so everybody was eating inside.

Today's specials

On a later outing with the VR35 K40 I visited Lafayette, Indiana, where I found this great alleyway. I was shooting expired Kodak Max 400.

Lafayette alley

This reproduction Coca-Cola ad is painted on a building north of downtown in Lafayette.

Drink Coca-Cola

I found this little pocket park in a neighborhood on Indianapolis’s Near Westside. The VR35 K40 didn’t mind the cold, which is nice. I did keep it in my coat pocket until I needed it, however.

Pocket park, Hawthorne, Indianapolis

Before we wrap this review, let’s look at a couple photos from my first VR35 K40. I made these photos in the early 1990s on whatever Kodak’s everyday color film was then. This is my car parked in front of my house, on a residential street in Terre Haute, Indiana.

My first car

Terre Haute’s Coca-Cola bottler was a few blocks away. I’m glad I went over there to photograph this great sign, because it’s gone now. Looking back, I got a lot of great use from my VR35 K40. It handled every kind of subject I threw at it with good color and sharpness.

Terre Haute Coca-Cola Bottling Company

See my entire VR35 K40 gallery here.

Even though my Canon AF35ML is a more capable camera, I think the K40 is more pleasant to use. I’d have a hard time choosing between them for an afternoon of easy shooting.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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28 responses to “Kodak VR35 K40”

  1. ryoko861 Avatar

    I could have sworn I left a comment on this post! I mean how can I not comment on that beautiful Rolls! I’ve noticed that too that certain lens show less than what’s in the viewfinder. And it’s usually farther away. But the camera takes a decent picture. The colors are vibrant! Then again you shot some pretty cool scenes that were colorful. Kodak always made a nice, cheap camera for everyday use.

    1. Jim Avatar

      This post was feeling lonely, so thanks for commenting on it! I used my first K40 as my primary camera for a long time and frankly (a) if I still had it and (b) digital hadn’t taken over, it might still be my go-to point and shoot.

  2. Richard Flad Avatar
    Richard Flad

    I have a Kodak VR 35mm K40 still in the original casing never been used.I also have a Kodak CameoEx 35mm still in the original case never been used. I have a Kodak Cameo35mm zoom plus that has had some use and all are for sale if someone is interested.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Hi Richard. eBay is your best bet for your old cameras. You’ll get lots more attention for them there than you ever will here.

  3. Paul Avatar

    So glad I found your blog! Amazing write-ups. Question: What is the ISO range on the VR35 K40? I just picked up one from a thrift store ($4.03). (Also, great Berlin Wall photographs. The lo-fi is very faithful to the spirit of the scene. Or perhaps convinces us of the desolation.)

    1. Jim Avatar

      Paul, the K40 handles 100, 200, and 400 ISO film. It uses the DX coding on the canister to set the speed.

      For many years I regretted taking that cheap 110 camera with me to Germany. But at least for the Berlin Wall shots, you’re right, the lo-fi shots are just right.

      1. Brandon Campbell Avatar
        Brandon Campbell

        I seem to remember it went up to 1000, although I usually stuck with 200 or 400.

  4. Paul Avatar

    Or rather more to the point, what do you think would happen if I dropped a 3200 speed B&W film into the back?

    1. Jim Avatar

      This camera is really meant for the family snapshooter to use films available at the drug store. I’d think you’d get unsatisfactory results with that fast film.

  5. Brandon Campbell Avatar
    Brandon Campbell

    Oh man, this was my first 35mm camera ever! I did feel limited by the lack of zoom or any manual controls, but it was with me for so many awesome memories! Also do you remember that “Hollywood movie film” they used to advertise, that you mailed off to get developed and they’d send you back slides and/or prints, and another free roll of film? I used a lot of that stuff as a kid. Dang I miss the smell of film!

    1. Jim Avatar

      Sure — that film was from Seattle Film Works. I never had the guts to try it. I stuck with Kodacolor II.

  6. Jalia Avatar

    After you shoot your film, where do you go to develop your film? And what method do you use to upload your pictures?

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I send most of my film to The Darkroom ( for processing. I upload the scans I get from them to Flickr.

      1. jahleelee Avatar

        Oh wow that’s cool. About how long does it take for the scans to get back you after you send your film?

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          That’s the bummer: one to two weeks.

  7. Mike Avatar

    This is great fun to read about this old camera. I bought one new back in the 80’s and took many photo’s with it when I was in the army. I just dug it out of an old box with film still loaded. I changed the batteries and took a few shots. I have no idea whats on the rest of the film, about 19 frames worth.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      In its time, this was a decent enough point and shoot. Even today it does good enough work. Have fun with the photos you get, especially the 19 from the past.

  8. Daniel Avatar

    I recently was given one of these cameras and an old pack film polaroid and I used it with black and white came out decent of course compared to my other cameras it’s pretty basic. But I love film in all it’s forms

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’ve never thought about trying b/w in this camera. Interesting!

  9. Maura Avatar

    I know this post is over 4 years old but I am a young person taking my first solo road trip from Missouri to Austin Texas next month. I have never owned a film camera and stumbled upon this model for cheap and decided to do a little research to see if it was something I could easily use and operate to document my little adventure. When I googled, your blog was the first link I clicked and your review swayed my decision to purchase it! I can’t wait for it to arrive so I can test it out around town before I set off on my trip. Thanks again!!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Maura, I’m glad this old post found you then. Have fun with your VR35 K40. It’s a great trip camera.

  10. Max Avatar

    I bought a brand new K80 at a flea market this summer. I was about to load an expired film when it hit me: This camera read DX code on films to set the ISO, you can’t overexpose to compensate for lost sensitivity. Always load a fresh color film in your VR35.

    PS: I favorited your blog *thumbs up

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Maybe if you use film that’s not too expired you could get away with it!

      1. Max Avatar

        Absolutely :-) Under a decade for color films and B\W from the past 30 years *should hold fine.

  11. lilacsdie Avatar

    this is one of my favorite point and shoots, but find that the flash always gets stuck aand then will have to buy another. anyone have any idea on how to fix the broken flash? thanks!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m afraid I haven’t had this trouble before. I wish I had some advice to give!

  12. armandsalmon Avatar

    I must say how much I do enjoy the storytelling with your post and the personal blog format in general. There is something here that is missing from haste of AI curated feeds.
    So for that, I am glad I stumbled on this post… and while I certainly don’t need another Point & Shoot, (already here with unfinished rolls in Stylus Epic, Inifnity Stylus II, and a Ricoh L-20) I can’t help myself it seems after seeing a mint VR35 show up on my local craigslist. :-)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m pleased you enjoyed this review! I hope you enjoy your VR35.

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