Introduced in 1963, Kodak’s Instamatic series used the Kodapak, a.k.a. 126, film cartridge for easy loading. Open the back, drop in the cartridge, close the back, wind to the first frame. No more film spools, no more warnings to load film in subdued light. You don’t even have to rewind the film, as it stays in the cartridge. This made Instamatics wildly popular. Kodak had sold approximately one jillion of them by 1970 when they introduced the Kodak Instamatic X-15.

Kodak Instamatic X-15

This simple camera offers a 43mm fixed-focus lens, probably of a single element, masked to f/11 and mated to a leaf shutter at 1/90 sec., or 1/45 sec. when using flash. There’s nothing to set, you just point and shoot. You’d think such a camera wouldn’t cost much, but the X-15 cost $21, or about $165 today.

Kodak Instamatic X-15

Some early Instamatics took AG-1 flashbulbs, but the majority used flashcubes. Both required battery power, though. The X-15 used Magicubes instead, which operated mechanically. A little tab on the camera under the Magicube pops up, creating friction that triggers a small bit of a fulminate explosive at the bulb’s base, which burns the zirconium foil inside the bulb. Flash! With the ISO 100-200 films available to Instamatics, the flash range was four to seven feet.

Kodak Instamatic X-15

You’ll find two versions of the X-15, which differ only cosmetically. Kodak updated the logo in the lower right to use the company’s new stylized K logo, and added the word Kodak over Instamatic above the lens.

The X-15 went out of production in 1976. Kodak also offered other cameras on this basic body:

  • Hawkeye Instamatic X, 1971-78 – Only cosmetically different from the X-15, this was a promotional item not for sale.
  • Instamatic X-15F, 1976-88 – Uses battery-powered flip flashes rather than Magicubes. Kodak made this camera right up until the end of its production of Instamatics.
  • Instamatic X-25, 1971-74 – Adds a spring-loaded winder to the X-15. Wind the knob until it stops, which charges the spring. Then every time you press the shutter button, the spring winds the film.
  • Instamatic X-30, 1971-74 – Adds a CdS meter and an electronic shutter, 10 to 1/125 sec., to the X-15.
  • Instamatic X-35, 1970-76 – Adds to the X-30 a three-element 41mm f/8 Kodar lens and two focus zones, 2-6 feet and 6 feet to infinity. It uses battery-powered flashcubes rather than Magicubes. The shutter reverts to 1/45 and 1/90 sec. as on the X-15; the CdS meter controls aperture instead.
  • Instamatic X-45, 1970-74 – Adds a spring-loaded winder to the X-35.

If you like cheap and cheerful film-cartridge cameras like this, see also my review of the Kodak Instamatic 100 and Hawkeye Instamatic (here), of the Imperial Magimatic X-50 (here), the Keystone XR308 (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

This Kodak Instamatic X-15 was donated to the Jim Grey Home for Wayward Cameras by a friend. It had been her father’s. It came to me in like-new condition.

I’ve stayed away from Instamatics because 126 film has long been out of production. But now that I develop my own black-and-white film, I figured I might give this camera a go. I bought a 12-exposure cartridge of Verichrome Pan on eBay. It expired in March, 1979, and storage was unknown, so I dropped it into the X-15 and hoped for the best. I developed it in HC-110, Dilution B. 126 film is 35mm wide, so it fits right onto my standard developing reel.


The negatives were dense, suggesting that this film would have liked extra exposure to compensate for its age. But my Wolverine Super F2D digitizer had no trouble capturing images from the negatives. My flatbed scanner would have done better work, but I don’t have a scanner mask for 126 film. I’m sure someone somewhere makes one for my Canon 9000F scanner, but my Wolverine works well enough, and it’s fast and easy to use.

Bee Dubs

The X-15’s viewfinder is huge and bright, so much so that I said whoa! the first time I peered into it. I wish for viewfinders this good in more cameras! A dashed bright line marks the frame area.


I shot the whole cartridge within a short distance of my home, mostly on afternoon walks. The camera weighs next to nothing, even with film inside, and is small enough to slip into a coat pocket. I live near shopping and restaurants, and they’re easy subjects. Sadly, our new Denny’s didn’t make it.

Dead Denny's

There’s nothing to using the X-15: frame the photo, press the shutter button, and wind. The shutter button is smooth to help you avoid camera shake. The shutter fires with a hollow clack, just like every other Instamatic. The winding lever feels solid under use; stroke it twice to move to the next frame. The winder won’t let you wind too far.

Wrecks, Inc.

The X-15 delivered better results in full sun than under full clouds. That is probably partially due to the long-expired film, but even with fresh film, Instamatics like lots of light.

Truck Grille

Instamatics and their kin were generally meant to take family snapshots, and as such perform best in that medium distance range. When I photographed things far away, either they had to ride high in the frame, or I had to tilt the camera way up to center them, which would have given them a keystoned effect.

At the Mailbox

I liked the X-15. My only other experience with a 126 camera was the Imperial Magimatic X50 I had as a kid, which was terrible. That experience led me to prejudge all 126 cameras harshly. Yet the X-15 was pleasant to use, and all of the images came through with no vignetting and pretty good sharpness from corner to corner. I feel sure that if my childhood camera had been an X-15, I would have been bullish on Instamatics all along.


To see more from this camera, check out my Kodak Instamatic X-15 gallery.

For camera collectors, it’s a shame that 126 film isn’t available anymore, because there are so many Instamatics to try. The Kodak Instamatic X-15 is worth trying if you’re brave enough to use expired film. Some labs still develop 126 film; I know Dwayne’s Photo does, and they’ve always done good work for me. I might someday even try spooling some 35mm film into the spent cartridge I now have, and give this camera another go.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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28 responses to “Kodak Instamatic X-15”

  1. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    Another of the great lost film formats (like 127). My mother had a high end Instamatic with a spring wound advance, which she loved to use, but like many an Instamatic, had substandard image sharpness. As we’ve said before, minor tweaks to the cartridge would have made it a winner, and after all, who doesn’t like the square image? Actually pretty perfect for family photos.

    Unfortunately, the Instamatic became a casualty in Kodaks relentless drive to keep shaving quality from their offerings, and discover just how crappy an image would be acceptable to the American public, while raising their profit by pennies a unit, following though the 110 camera (which even precision European manufacturers had trouble getting decent pictures with, using similar sized films) culminating in the disc camera, which no one could get an acceptable image out of.

    In the end, my Mom didn’t abandon her Instamatic; easy to use, high quality, 35mm point and shoots with multiple element glass lenses, and precision autofocus and exposure, and their resultant quality prints, allowed her to get the quality images she wanted. My Mom was a hobby photographer from way back, and even she considered the 110 and disc cameras to be garbage. Kodak was so far ahead of the game with the Instamatic cartridge, if they could have just taken the time to fix the film flatness problems, and make more offerings with quality lenses, it would have had legs for many years to come!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      For most people, though, the prints were sharp enough. Maybe Kodak trained us well over the generations to accept that.

    2. Terry Avatar

      OK, Andy, but you should know that not all 126 cameras were junk, and 126 cartridges were not all bad, but the cheap drugstore processing and grocery store imitation cartridges sure did contribute to opinions like yours.
      And Mike, there is a lot of work being done to revitalize homebrew 126 cartridge reloading. Terry

      1. Andy Umbo Avatar
        Andy Umbo

        Of course, never said all Instamatics were bad, but even Kodak people say the cartridge design was “iffy” for film flatness. They just thought it would be unnoticeable in the 3.5 x 3.5 prints people were getting. If the cartridge had been fixed, I could have seen the 126 world working its way into the point and shoot world with decent lenses, auto focus, and decent auto exposure. Can you imagine a slightly bigger Olympus Stylus Epic with drop in loading?

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          I wonder how iffy the current crop of plastic 35mm point and shoot cameras are in terms of film flatness. I’m thinking the Reto Ultra Wide and Slim and the recent “Kodak” cameras (made by other companies).

  2. -Nate Avatar

    I’m old and so remember these when they first came out .

    Your pictures look very grainy, perhaps because they were low speed B&W ? .

    I love photography but was never able to frame up photos well .


    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Two reasons: the well-expired film, and the cheap scanner I used. It has the tendency to enhance grain.

      1. Andy Umbo Avatar
        Andy Umbo

        Not to mention, those not steeped in the Verichrome Pan club, might not know that even fresh Verichrome Pan, was not all that grainless! I used VP in 120 up until I couldn’t get it any more, and I can tell you it was no where near as grainless as Ilford FP-4, or APX100, and more like Tri-X than people want to admit. What is was, was a medium speed film with a beautifully very long scale, with detailed shadows and sparkly highlights, and a very clear base. The grain we have going on here, kind of looks like heat damage, as well as just way out of date….

      2. Kodachromeguy Avatar

        The grain in your examples looks like the grain in the 1974 GAF Versapan film that I used. Dense, some fog, nice tonal range, but grainy. This Versapan and Verichrome may have been similar when fresh.

  3. tbm3fan Avatar

    My first camera was an Imperial Debonair using 620 in 1960 when 6 years old. In 1967 I moved up to an Instamatic but I don’t recall it saying X-15 on the front. Looking back on those photos, all high school, I am struck by how soft the images are. In 1972 I bought my SRT-101 and the Instamatic faded away instantly. However, I do have an Instamatic today along with several cartridges of 126 film to use. I get around the soft images by using an Instamatic 500.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Soft images were a hallmark of the Instamatics…and for generations of Brownies before them. Kodak may have trained us all well to accept that!

    2. Terry Avatar

      Instamatic 500 – a GREAT camera! Terry

  4. adventurepdx Avatar

    I believe the X15-F was my first camera, given to me sometime in the very early 80’s (birthday? Christmas?) I definitely had fun with that camera, and it was very easy to use for a five year old. Now I’m sure a five year old’s first camera is borrowing their parents smartphone!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Which is far more capable than any typical Instamatic.

      1. adventurepdx Avatar


        Yet there’s something about the tactile feel of something like an Instamatic, a tool that does only one thing.

  5. Warren W Jenkins Avatar
    Warren W Jenkins

    Starting in 1975, went through a Kodak Brownie Starmite (127), a basic X-15, then a Kodak disc, finally in 1988, a Sears brand point & shoot 35mm.
    All inadequate, in 1991 bought a new CANON Sure-shot, great point & shoot that bridged the gap until first Nikon FE body and Nikkor lens in 1993.
    Still used the Canon, and later a similar Pentax point & shoot, until 2009, when I got a used digital P&S.
    In 2016, a camera shop in Chambersburg, PA., took the Pentax and all my Nikon film equipment, except for 1 50mm lens, off my hands for a nice price.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      My first camera was a Starmite II!

      There were a lot of inadequate consumer cameras in those days. Before the smart phone killed the p&s market, however, there were a lot of (relatively) inexpensive digital p&s cameras that gave surprisingly good image quality.

  6. ronian42 Avatar

    Hi Jim, nice review. I never used a 126 camera. Started with 127 and went to 35mm and a 110 pocket instamatic as my go everywhere camera. Then swiftly on to 35mm compact – my first was a Konica A4 – cracking little camera as a P & S. Have you come across the Canon Sureshot AF 7/8? This has a lovely large viewfinder as well.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Instamatics were the ultimate in simplicity: drop in the cartridge, wind, frame, shoot. Most of them, anyway; a few had advanced features and required more of the user. But the bulk were all about ease for the photographer!

  7. Marco Andrés Avatar
    Marco Andrés makes the Fakmatic, an adapter that enables the photographer to load of part of 35mm film roll in some, but not all, 126 cameras. While the x-15 was basic, some manufacturers made higher-end 126 cameras,. These cameras had controls to manually set distance [scale focus, rangefinder, slr], aperture and shutter speed. Some detected film speed from the 126 cassette while others had a control for setting the distance [scale-focus, rangefinder, slr], ISO [25 – 500] and shutter speed.The Braun Nürnberg Paxette LK is similar to the high-end « bauhaus » inspired Kodak Instamatic 500, made in Germany. The Braun also had a Schneider 2,8 lens and the same features with the exception of a top shutter speed of 1/250, rather than 500’s 1/500. The Kodak had an equivalent list price of almost 855$us at the end of 2022.

    A competing system [Minolta Autopak] spooled film from one cassette to another.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I hear that the Camerhack cartridge is confirmed to work in the X-15. I may buy one and try it.

      I knew that the 110 cartridge had a tab that some cameras could read to determine film ISO, either 100 or 400, but I didn’t know the 126 cartridge did.

    2. Marco Andrés Avatar
      Marco Andrés

      Correction: Autopak was Minolta’s response to Kodak’s Instamatic. Autopak used Instamatic (126) cartridges. In response,

      Agfa repurposed it’s « Rapid Cartridge » system to the « Rapid Film « system that spooled film from one cassette to another. Cassettes had a small tab on the outside of the cassette to identify film speed.

      Fakmatic works with some but not all 126 cameras. Some cameras create overlapping frames. The hack for that – cover the lens and make at one « blank frames» before the real one. Eduardo Pavez-Goye has a YouTube vid showing that hack.

  8. Dan Cluley Avatar
    Dan Cluley

    My folks bought an X-35 in 1974, and my grandparents bought another soon after to replace an earlier instamatic. I think the Magicubes were thought to be more reliable than the flashcubes that relied on batteries & a good connection to the camera. So most of my childhood is documented with one of these. I would describe them as typical Kodak, a surprisingly good camera if you didn’t get out of it’s comfort zone.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Magicubes were a cost savings for young me, as they cost about the same as flashcubes but I didn’t also need to buy batteries! That was a big deal on my 50-cent allowance.

  9. Terry Avatar

    Fifty cents! Your folks were RICH!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Man, I remember the day it went up to a DOLLAR. Celebrate!!

  10. Robert Avatar

    Hi Jim.
    Long time lurker here. Have enjoyed your page for years. Finally commenting after I happened to see yesterday that you made a post about the Kodak Instamatic X-15. The first camera I ever owned when I turned 9 years old in 1974. My mom bought it for me as a Birthday present. Of course she purchased the outfit that came with a 12 exposure roll and one Magicube.
    The first roll I shot came out pretty lousy. Heads cut off, off center subjects. But I learned and got better at taking pictures pretty quickly.
    I loved the feel of that camera. The loud sound of the click and the film advance lever. Even the smell of the film when you took it out the foil. I even found charm in the “Red Curtain” warning you saw in the viewfinder once you fired a flashcube or inserted a used one.
    Imagine a year later when I found out 126 film was available in 20 Exposures as well as 12! More pictures on a roll of film?!? I was in Heaven. And then finding out I could get 126 Black and White film for just 87 cents- with tax?!? Let’s just say I got to love Black and White pretty quickly!
    Due to hectic childhood circumstances, this first Kodak Instamatic did not last long. Let’s just say in my early years, I went through cameras like some people today go through smart phones.
    I was actually surprised to discover that you never used or owned this model camera until now. They were so common in the mid 70s.
    My next 126 Instamatic turned out to be that budget Magimatic X50 you had. Saw your write up on that years ago and I had to laugh on the accuracy. The shutter on that camera was horrible. So hard to press. I mastered it after awhile but between 10 and 11 years old I definitely got my share of blurry shots.
    And on my 11th Birthday in 1976, I had a friend take pictures of me with that camera only to find out when I got them back- the lens had a light leak. Of course at that young age I didn’t know the term for it. All I knew there were swirly blurry images that showed up in all the pictures- all ruined. Who knows why but the shutter mechanism had become defective and unbeknownst to me, left the lens open after photos were taken. I was crushed.
    My mom consoled me by purchasing the upgrade of the Kodak X15 to the X15F with the Flipflash. I much preferred the Magicube, to me the Flipflash was so cumbersome and bulky even though you got twice as many flashes on it. And believe it or not, sometimes two bulbs went off at the same time, lessening the availability for indoor shots.
    In a future post, I will tell you about a cool simple trick that I learned when I was 12 on how you can make double exposures with the x15 camera.
    I still find those Kodak Instamatics charming. Loved the models with the auto winders. Got to use one once.
    I learned about the Keystone 126 cameras with the built in flash when I was 12. I wanted one so bad. Never having to buy flashcubes again? I could have taken so many more pictures. But with it running over 50 dollars, it was over my mom’s budget.
    I found the picture quality from the Kodak 126 models very acceptable for the type of camera it was.
    Anyhow, I will end here, this response was long enough. I’m sure I’ll comment on some of your other camera model posts soon. Thanks for this great photo blog and take care.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thank you for delurking, Robert! That’s awesome that you had one of those Magimatic cameras too and had the same issue with it. The Kodak X-15 is so much better a camera it’s not even funny.

      My mom had a 126 camera with a built-in flash and she took hundreds and hundreds of photos with it.

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