What Is an Instamatic Camera?


Instamatic cameras were a series of cameras produced by Kodak for more than two decades, starting in 1963 and ending in 1988. Kodak Instamatic cameras used either 126 or 110 cartridge film, which was easy to load, and proved popular among hobby photographers, with 50 million made in the first seven years of production.

Initial Production

  • The Hawkeye Instamatic was the first Kodak Instamatic brought to market, with production starting in 1963 and continuing until 1967. The Hawkeye Instamatic used 126 film, a cartridge type of film so simple to load that John Wasley wrote in his book "Know Your Color Photography" that "even a child could do it." The 126 film had a frame size of one inch by one inch. Several variations of the Hawkeye Instamatic started production over the next 13 years, including the Hawkeye Instamatic F (1964), the Hawkeye Instamatic R4 (1965) and the Hawkeye Instamatic X (1971).

Types of Instamatic Cameras

  • The Kodak Instamatic 100, 300 and 400, produced beginning in 1963, were the first Instamatic cameras not to carry the Hawkeye name. They were followed by the 150, 500 and 800 in 1964, and the 104, 154, 304, 404 and 804 in 1965. Other Instamatic cameras introduced in the 1960s were the 124, 134, 174, 250, 314, 324, 414, 700, 704 and 814, as well as the Kodak Instamatic S-10 and Kodak Instamatic S-20, both starting production in 1967. Kodak also produced a series of Instamatic single-lens reflex cameras, including the Kodak Instamatic Reflex f2.8 and Kodak Instmatic Reflex f1.9, both introduced in 1968. A chrome Kodak Instamatic Reflex body was produced from 1969 to 1974. Some of the models produced beginning in the 1970s included the X-15, X-25, X-35, X-45 and X-90, which were all introduced in 1970.

Original Cost

  • The Kodak Instamatic 44 was priced at $9.95 when it was introduced in 1969. The Instamatic Reflex f1.9 was the most expensive Instamatic camera, originally selling for $249.

Technological Changes

  • The Hawkeye Pocket Instamatic that started production in 1973 was the first Instamatic camera to use 110 film, which was also a cartridge but was a 16-mm film that offered 12 or 20 exposures of 13 mm by 17 mm. It was followed by the Hawkeye Pocket Instamatic III in 1974 and the Hawkeye Tele-Instamatic in 1976. These also used 110 film and Kodak produced more than 25 million of them. Starting in 1965, Kodak Instamatic Cameras were equipped with a flashbulb that enabled photographers to take four pictures before changing bulbs.

End of an Era

  • Kodak stopped making the Instamatic X-15F camera in 1988. Then, in 1998, Kodak announced that it would stop making film for 126 cameras by 2000. "Newer photographic technology---including the Advanced Photo System and some of the newer 35mm cameras---has eclipsed 126 photography, and has given 126 consumers better products to choose from," Kodak's worldwide category manager for cartridge Gregory Walker said in a press release announcing the discontinuation of 126 production.

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  • Photo Credit camera image by Aleksandr Ugorenkov from Fotolia.com
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