I recently purchased a Kodak Tourist camera at an antique shop largely because it was in excellent condition and I’ve always been interested in medium format folders.
The Kodak Tourist that I have is the version 1, which was manufactured between 1948 and 1951. The lens is a Kodak Angston 105mm f/4.5 lens in a Flash Kodamatic Shutter that goes from 1/10s to 1/200s and features a bulb and timer mode.
It’s a great camera that’s not too large (considering the size of the film), but it does bring with it some difficulties that other medium format cameras simply do not have. Specifically, here are those difficulties:
- Takes 620 film.
- No rangefinder or focusing aid.
- Heavy enough to require significant effort in not shaking the camera while shooting.
The first difficulty, takes 620 film (which is discontinued as a format), is actually not too difficult to overcome. You can purchase hand rolled 620 film directly from B&H or the Film Photography Project Store. 620 film is 120 film rolled onto a spool that is a little shorter and skinnier. As such, it’s not too hard to find, but it does cost a bit more than 120 film, even though they are the same film as you are paying for someone’s time and effort in re-rolling the film. Another option that you have is rolling 120 film onto 620 spools yourself. Once you get the 620 film, the camera takes 8 beautiful 6cm x 9cm images, which are in a 2×3 format, or the same aspect ratio of 35mm film.
The second difficulty, no rangefinder or focusing aid, is actually quite a difficulty. Because of the lack of anything to tell you how far objects are from your camera, you have to guess this yourself. Hyperfocal focusing becomes important here (where you set the focus ring to have infinity at the f/stop you desire to shoot at). On the Tourist, hyperfocal focusing at f/5.6 is 25ft to infinity, at f/8 about 18 ft to infinity, f/11 gets you 14 feet, f/16 gets you 9 feet, and f/22 gets you 7 feet. But what happens if you need to photograph something that’s 5 feet in front of you and due to light need to stop down to f/5.6? At this point, you can dial in 5 feet on the middle of the focus dial and you’ll have a small area less and slightly greater than 5 feet in focus. But what if you miscalculated the distance to your subject? There is a great chance at that point, the image will be out of focus and you are out of luck. You can see how this actually poses quite a difficulty.
The third difficulty is one that I encountered when learning to use a Minolta Autocord as well and it simply requires that you train your muscles to be able to hold the camera steady while tripping the shutter. I’ve done some work with this on the Tourist and think I’ll have better luck on my next outing.
To help address the second difficulty, I’ve purchased on eBay a Walz Rangefinder that fits into the cold shoe. If this device is in good working condition as advertised, I’ll be able to use the rangefinder to accurately measure the distance to the subject and then (as the rangefinder will be uncoupled) dial that in on the focus ring. It was difficult to find information on auxiliary rangefinders in 2019 as these days, most models are laser rangefinders. For a good source on vintage auxiliary rangefinders, please take a look at Mercury Camera’s Range Finder Roundup.
And now, as promised by the title, here are 3 shots from that first roll of 8 images on Kodak Tri-X (developed in XTol) through this camera: