Kodak Instamatic body types

Even though Kodak manufactured about 90 models of Instamatic cameras from 1963 to 1988, it based most of them on the same three bodies. Each body type created a series, each camera in the series offering different features.

The first Instamatic was the Instamatic 50, which ushered in the first Instamatic body type. This Instamatic 104 shows its basic style. The 104 took flashcubes; the similar 100 had a pop-up flash holder for AG-1 bulbs.

Kodak Instamatic 104

This Hawkeye Instamatic is the same camera as the Instamatic 50, just with a green body, a different face plate, and no trim around the lens barrel. It offers a hot shoe for a flash attachment.

Kodak Hawkeye Instamatic

The 300 series uses the same basic body as the 50/100 series, but adds a selenium light meter, which made a thicker face plate and a different shutter button necessary. Like the 100/104, the 300 takes AG-1 flashbulbs and the 304 takes flashcubes. The 400/404 models are the same as the 300/304, but add a spring-loaded automatic winder.

Alex Luyckx photo

Another series to use this body was the 134 and the similar 124 and 174 (and maybe others). Kodak just affixed yet another new face plate.

Phillip Pessar photo. CC-BY-2.0

The major tell for all of the cameras using this body is the back; all of them use this film door.

Kodak Instamatic 104

The second common body style is this one with its rounded corners, which makes it instantly identifiable.

Theo Panagopoulos photo; review here

The Instmatic 333-X uses the same body. Instamatics with model names that end in X all had flash systems that took Magicubes.

sourced from eBay seller aislarte

Kodak made a few other series with this same body type, such as this Instamatic 66X. Kodak made far more models using this body type than with any other body type.

Pacific Rim Camera photo

The third common body type was applied mostly to the X series, such as this X-15 (which I reviewed yesterday).

Kodak Instamatic X-15

Here’s an Instamatic X-30, which offers an electronic shutter that the X-15 doesn’t have. It clearly shows the family resemblance. You’ll find a couple non-X-series cameras that use this body, as well.

Eric Jason photo; review here

From here, I’ll show you all of the other body types I know of. But all of these body types were used on relatively few models.

I know of only three Instamatics made using this body type: the 44, 11, and the Hawkeye Instamatic II. I owned the Hawkeye model when I was a kid. It’s the cheapest-feeling Instamatic I’ve ever experienced.

Pacific Rim Camera photo

At the other end of the spectrum is the German-made Instamatics of this body type, with their fine Schneider-Kreuznach or Rodenstock lenses. I know of the 500 and the 250 that use this body.

Mike Eckman photo; review here

As far as I can tell, this body was used only on the Instamatic S-10 and S-20, which had an unusual side-mounted spring-loaded winder.

Photo sourced from Etsy seller CameraHeaven

Another uncommon body was used only on the Instamatic 25 and 26, as far as I can tell.

Photo sourced from eBay seller e.j.s.typewriters

This body was used on a few Instamatics, including this 224.

This body was used on a handful of Instamatics, including this 804.

Photo sourced from eBay seller bareber5060

Finally, arguably the creme de la creme among Instamatics is the Instamatic Reflex. Made in Germany, you could get this body in all black or with a brushed metal top plate. It offered automatic exposure, an electronic shutter, and interchangeable lenses.

Photo sourced from eBay seller vfcamerashop

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17 responses to “Kodak Instamatic body types”

  1. Lone Primate Avatar
    Lone Primate

    My family had a 104 when I was a kid. I wish I still had it. I took a great photo of the Bluenose in Halifax Harbour when I was 8 using that camera. Really wish I still had that, too!

    1. Andy Umbo Avatar
      Andy Umbo

      Wow! What a great walk through the Instamatic past! I remember my Moms fairly high end version being like the model 304 you have here, just with a big winding knob on top. I would certainly take any of the German made ones, even without a current film source, but all the ones I see on line at a reasonable price, the sellers are feigning no knowledge of whether they work or not.

      I should mention here, that the German made SLR version, has the angled front release, a feature I really loved about my first precision camera, the Praktina FX, and my second, the Praktica Super TL. If you’ve ever done one of those mind exercises of assembling your dream SLR with your favorite features, the angled front body release is high on my list! As far as I’m concerned, that release is ergonomically perfect, but must have been expensive or complicated to make, as it was never really picked up by the Japanese.

      1. Jim Grey Avatar

        I love an angled release too! I forget which camera I’ve owned that had one. So good.

        1. Andy Umbo Avatar
          Andy Umbo

          Possibly a Petri?

    2. Jim Grey Avatar

      The 104 was all a snapshooter needed back in the day!

    3. Kodachromeguy Avatar

      I bought an instamatic 500 in the mid-60s with savings and help from parents. It was well made and had a genuine Xenar lens. In the 1970s, a friend borrowed it for hiking and lost it. By then, I had moved up to a Nikkormat and did not miss the Instamatic.

  2. Peter Miller Avatar
    Peter Miller

    When the seniors took over the yearbook at my high school in 1969, one of our first goals was to buy the staff a new camera to replace the 804 type Instamatic that the Class of 1968 had bought. It was not appropriate for yearbook style pictures. We bought a Minolta SRT-101 and our quality improved dramatically. I’ve always “hated” Instamatics. But many were made in the USA for years and kept the community of Rochester, NY, healthy and vibrant for decades.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Oof, using an Instamatic for the yearbook? Good call on the SR-T!

  3. Marc Beebe Avatar

    Other than the German-made ones they all had a common factor of being not very good. This is because they were inexpensive cameras, meant to be as profitable as possible. Picture quality was not a major factor. The 127 Brownies that they replaced were arguably better (especially the older ones). But a plastic lens is a plastic lens so … (Yes I realize people buy that low quality imaging on purpose these days.)
    Of course if you got your prints on matte-finish paper you couldn’t tell the difference between an Instamatic 104 and a Zeiss Contaflex anyway. :p

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I argue that picture quality was a factor — they could have put cheap plastic lenses in them, giving lots of vignetting and softness in the corners. But many, maybe even most, Instamatics had lenses that avoided these sins. The lenses tended to be soft, but at the normal print size it didn’t matter. You probably wouldn’t like the effect when you got an enlargement. however.

      1. Andy Umbo Avatar
        Andy Umbo

        I also seem to remember a lot of weird “flashback” when using the flash, or even outdoors, a lot of weird fogginess. Very flat and pastel looking results. I wonder if the glass lenses were even single coated, as I never remember a “juicy” contrasty picture out of these.

  4. tbm3fan Avatar

    Clearly I had a 104 back in my young days. Plastic box with cheap plastic lens but I was a kid so taking a photo was magic back then for me. Now the three 700 series and three 800 series Instamatics are substantial with aluminum bodies. My German 500 is a very nice brushed metal body and has some weight to it like a true rangefinder.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I remember the magic days, too. My camera was an old Brownie Starmite II. The first few rolls I got from it just amazed me, despite my unsteady hand and the blurry images that resulted.

  5. andytree101 Avatar

    Hi Jim! My very first camera was an Ilford Sportsman 50C, 126 camera. It was awful, and produced, lets be kind, “soft” pictures, maybe passable on a bright day! BUT, at an age of less than 10, I learned to think before I pressed the button, composition, film handling, processed my first black and white film, made my first slides, recorded my first baby steps of travel and it instilled a love of photography in me. Looking at it through a different coloured pair of glasses, as a cost effective teaching aid, it may be the best thing I’ve come across in photography! Thanks for the post and the trip down memory lane! Andy

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yes, even with a crappy camera you can still learn good photographic practices!

  6. J P Avatar

    A 104 was my first camera, that I probably got some time in 1966. I think it took decent photos, but I remember that something happened to the viewfinder that made composition really hard. I don’t remember who in the family had it, but the 44 felt like a plastic toy in comparison with the 104.

    The flash cubes seemed really high tech at the time!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’ve handled the old AG-1 bulbs after they’ve been fired. The flashcubes and magicubes were terrific because you could handle them hot! The plastic case made it possible to remove a just-fired flashcube.

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