Vintage TV: 1950s commercials for Ansco cameras and films

Pacific Rim Camera photo

Do you remember Ansco cameras and films?

For many decades, Ansco was second only to Kodak in the United States. Headquartered in Binghamton, New York, the company’s history stretched back to 1841. But its peak years were probably the 1950s, when it routinely manufactured two million cameras a year.

Ansco Shur Shot
My Ansco Shur Shot

Ansco manufactured simple cameras that anyone could operate, like my Ansco Shur Shot box camera.

Ansco also imported more fully featured cameras from other makers around the world, including Agfa, Ricoh, and Minolta, and rebadged them as Anscos.

During the 1950s, Ansco advertised its cameras and films on television. Many of its commercials were shot on film, and survive.

Here’s a short spot for Ansco films with a simple jingle. Don’t those harmonies just scream 1950s?

Here’s a spot for three Ansco cameras that took 127 film. Ansco manufactured the two Cadet cameras, but imported the Lancer from a German maker. I had a Lancer in my childhood collection. I never put film into it because its weak latch kept popping open, which would have spoiled the film. I hear that this was a common problem with Lancers.

This spot for Anscochrome color slide film mentions its “big extra margin of sensitivity” that makes up for challenging lighting. It also mentions making prints from slides using the Printon process. You can see a Printon print here, which shows that Anscochrome was a capable film.

If you have boxes full of Anscochrome slides, you’re going to want to project them. So you’ll need an Anscomatic projector!

It cracks me up how formally everybody dressed in these commercials. In the 1950s, did friends really gather casually in each others’ homes wearing suits?

Whatever happened to Ansco? Well, in 1967 it began to favor using the name of its parent, General Aniline and Film, or GAF. As GAF, it stopped making cameras, instead selling GAF-branded cameras that other companies made. By the late 1970s, the Ansco brand name was sold to a Chinese camera maker. You could buy Chinese Ansco film cameras through the 1990s.


24 responses to “Vintage TV: 1950s commercials for Ansco cameras and films”

  1. hmunro Avatar

    What a fascinating look back — and what commercial gems you’ve unearthed! Isn’t it kind of shocking to see how much technology (and social mores) have changed in a couple of generations? Makes me wonder how different the world will be in another 50 years. I wonder if anyone will even *remember* film by then …

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I feel like things changed most in the 1960s, and the pace of change really slowed starting in the 90s — on the social mores front anyway. Technology is another story altogether!

      1. hmunro Avatar

        Well … I suppose social mores can only evolve so much before society totally breaks down. :D But as you say, tech is another story! We’re privileged to be witnessing a critical turning point in our species’ evolution, I think.

  2. bwc1976 Avatar

    Love these commercials! And I especially wouldn’t mind having that slide projector that accepts medium format.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I looked. They pop up from time to time on eBay.

  3. bodegabayf2 Avatar

    Having grown up in the Binghamton area in the 60s and 70s, I remember the Ansco factories getting re-badged as GAF. I also recall people saying…”I used to work at Ansco.”

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      That had to be a hard transition in Binghamton, especially as GAF stopped manufacturing cameras. My main memory of GAF was that their logo was on the VIew-Master I had as a kid. As a boy without vision challenges that scotched my 3D vision, my View-Master wasn’t that much fun.

  4. ambaker49 Avatar

    Yes we did put our “good clothes” on, when going visiting; or even out to dinner. Same thing for going to the movies. We had school clothes, and changed into our play clothes, after we got home.

    It truly was a different time.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I grew up at the very tail end of the school clothes / play clothes era. Most of my friends did not change into play clothes when they got home, but my brother and I did, and so did a few of our friends.

      I rather like how casually we dress now for most occasions — but I admit, I do wish that some wouldn’t dress so sloppily when they go to the movies or out to dinner. There’s casual and then there’s “don’t leave home looking like that.”

      1. ambaker49 Avatar

        I have to admit that I lean towards the, “My dead presidents are dressed just as nicely as yours”, these days; but not the bottom of the clothes hamper look.

        I find I shoot more film these days, and enjoyed the old ANSCO commercials immensely.

  5. Gerald Avatar

    I thought I was reasonably knowledgeable about film, but I’ve never heard of Printon prints, so thanks for that. I only wish I had as much interest in technology that wasn’t obsolete! Right, I’m off to back up some files on to a floppy disk….

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’d never heard of Printon prints either! I did some Google-fu to learn about the process. That’s how I found the link that I shared.

      Was Ansco a known brand on your side of the ocean? When I was a young collector in the 70s and 80s, old Ansco cameras were cheap and plentiful.

      1. Gerald Avatar

        As far as I know we didn’t have Ansco cameras in the UK. I certainly don’t remember any. Kodak was a very popular brand for lower end consumer cameras over here.I remember being very impressed in the late 1970s by a school friend of mine getting a Kodak Ektra camera with a fold out handle. It took 110 film I think and it had been heavily advertised on TV in the run-up to Christmas.

        In the 70s my Dad had a rangefinder camera of some sorts. I remember because I could never work out how to focus it with that mysterious yellow patch. By the early 80s, as a family we had several cheap 110 fixed focus cameras. Easier to use, but when I look through the family albums now there’s a definite decline in quality from the 70s to the 80s!

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          Cheap 110 cameras were a scourge. I bought one for a trip to Germany in 1984 and shot easily two dozen cartridges, and got a bunch of poor quality images back. I regret to this day not saving up for something better.

      2. Andy Umbo Avatar
        Andy Umbo

        When I started my career, you could still buy Ansco film (advertised on the TV by Henry Fonda no less!), Of course, real “professionals”, other than wedding photographers, used “chrome” or transparency film for anything needed in color, color negative film was too “soft” and flat, and could be open to interpreting the colors. Anscochrome made a beautiful asa 500 speed transparency film, that was very grainy and pastel like, and you could buy it in 120 as well as 35mm and a few other formats. The photographers I first worked for would use it for dreamy photographs of models for ads.

        One thing tho, a lot of these E-3. E-4, and E-6 processable films sure faded fast, I shot some Anscochrome in the early 70’s and it was “gone” by the early 80’s! Kodachrome was a different process to everything else, and the colors lasted the longest, but probably next was Ektachrome processed by Kodak (they used to lacquer it!), then Ektachrome processed by your local “pro” lab. Anscochrome, Agfachrome, Surachrome, Ferraniachrome, and almost anything else, you were lucky if you looked at it a few years later and it wasn’t fading!

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          Fading was such a problem with so many consumer color films, I can see. I’ve heard that original Kodacolor negatives hold up remarkably well. As for slide film, sure seems like shooting anything but Kodachrome back in the day was a waste of money because of the fast fading.

  6. Bob Dungan Avatar
    Bob Dungan

    I just got a Anscoflex in the mail today. I need to clean it up and put it through it’s paces.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Oooh, jealousy! I’ve been eyeing those for years.

  7. pesoto74 Avatar

    I remember my parents used a Ansco Readyflash when I was very young. I tend to remember GAF better than Ansco. GAF made a 500 ASA slide film back when that seemed incredibly fast for a color film I used it a few times. GAF 500 was very grainy but had a warmth to the color that I liked. When I was young it was still considered necessary to dress up for occasions like going to church or out to eat. I was very happy as a kid when those standards were relaxed. Although that transition did cause some older people much trauma. Lately I have found myself thinking that it would have been nice if we hadn’t dropped the habit of wearing the kind of hats that people used to wear. I suppose that may be the result of thinning hair.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Readyflashes are common as pennies on eBay. Like so many 620 cameras, you can hardly give them away now. And I’ve read about that GAF 500 film somewhere — there seemed to be a lot of people who liked it.

      I’m happy not to have to wear a jacket and tie to go out for dinner. But today, going out for dinner isn’t the special event it was 40 years ago.

      And I still have my hair — not a fan of hats.

  8. Lignum Draco Avatar

    Interesting piece of nostalgia. When I look back at my parent’s old slides, yes, everyone seemed dressed up (relatively in today’s standards). And everyone had hats.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      How times change!

  9. Christopher Smith Avatar
    Christopher Smith

    I believe Haking Enterprice LTD (makers of Halina Cameras) bought the rights to the Ansco name.
    info here
    Interesting Adverts and story.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Hey, wow, thanks for that link Christopher. I used to see Ansco cameras at Walmart and such but not in the last 10 years or so, so I assumed the name finally went away. Apparently not!

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