Blog by Michael Raso
Most of my family memories captured between the mid-1960s and early 1970s were captured on the Kodak 126 format. Cameras were inexpensive and made shooting easy for every family member, including me. That’s my very first camera pictured above – the Keystone 125x. By the mid-70s, my Dad moved over to the 110 and SX-70 format. I followed but by 1979 I graduated to 35mm.
The film history is charted on Wikipedia. “In 1963, Kodak introduced a new film, encased in a plastic cartridge, for which they re-introduced the “126” format (originally used for the unrelated 126 roll film format from 1906 to 1949). The term “126” was intended to show that images were 26mm square, using Kodak’s common 1xx film numbering system. However the image size is actually 28 × 28 mm, but usually reduced to approximately 26.5 × 26.5 mm by masking during printing or mounting”
“Around ten million cameras were made by Kodak and other companies. However, with a few exceptions, the format was mainly used for fairly simple amateur cameras. (Makers of the few high-end models included Kodak, Minolta, Rollei, Yashica and Zeiss Ikon.) Kodak officially discontinued the format on 31 December 1999”
More history here : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/126_film
126 SHOOTERS TODAY
Today, there are still avid 126 shooters who snoop around on e-bay or load their own 126 cartridges with 35mm film. (You can jump over to our forum thread where Mark Dalzell writes about re-loads with backing paper or view Jason Muspratt’s You Tube Video)
Tony wrote, “I was given my first 126 camera, a Kodak Instamatic 33, when I was 11 or 12 in the early 1970s. As far as I remember at first we got the films developed by the local chemist, but it wasn’t long before I was processing black and white film in the school darkroom, though as I type this, I’m pretty sure B&W 126 film wasn’t particularly common, and so the 126 I shot may well have been all developed commercially. The Instamatic was a gateway camera for me, I soon moved on to 35mm which I developed myself.
I use 126 cameras now as part of my 52 cameras in 52 weeks project (now in week 180). As you know 126 film is difficult to come by, and very expired, I like the 28mm x 28mm format, and while I know it s possible to re-load 126 cartridges with 35mm film, you’re never going to get the full 126 experience, with its single perforation per frame. The results are largely dominated by the age related degeneration of the expired films, sometimes they almost look like proper Hipstamatic images!”
Phillip Pessar only recently discovered the format and wrote, “I first discovered 126 film in late 2010. I had gotten bored of shooting digital point and shoot and had purchased two Polaroid cameras at Goodwill along with expired film from Urban Outfitters.
I had so much fun shooting the Polaroids that I decided to try my hand at shooting other formats. I found APS and 110 cameras at the thrift store along with more Polaroid cameras. I decided 126 would be next. I did not have any luck finding a 126 camera so I bid on two on eBay. Both were Kodak X-15F cameras and one was like new in the box and the other was in nice shape but obviously used. I found recently expired 126 Ferrania online and ordered a couple of packs. The like new camera did not work, the film had problems advancing but the lovingly used camera worked perfectly. Now I keep an old 126 cartridge with my batteries of all types and sizes in my thrift store baggy to try out the cameras in the store. I figure if I load the cartridge and I can get it to advance then chances are the camera works.
When I first got my film back from Dwayne’s Photo it was love at first site. I loved the results, they were so much better than the 110 I was shooting and just as good or better than a lot of the APS. It is not something I can shoot frequently since the film is so hard to find but I continue to shoot it if I am lucky enough to find some. I have shot long expired 126 and the results are very interesting but I prefer to shoot recently expired film if I can find it so I can get the type of results I would have gotten if I had used the film while it was still “fresh”. I like to take vacation type snaps, I’m not very artistic and not a great photographer so my thing is to take the type of vacation type snaps someone might have taken in the 60s or 70s using the same type of camera and film. Living in South Florida there is a lot of opportunity to take these vacation snapshots.
Unfortunately, I think my days of shooting 126 are coming to an end as, unlike 110, nobody is making it anymore. Although Adox has mentioned manufacturing it I don’t expect to see it again unless Lomo decides they can market it like they have done with 110 film. Most of the film I see on eBay is too expired for me as I know it will come out mostly pink. Once you shoot a roll of pink film you don’t really need to shoot another. That is why I was so excited to find that The FPP had some B&W 126 – which was on my shooting bucket list. Just hope The Darkroom or Dwayne’s can develop it!”
EXPIRED ADOX ISOPAN 126 DISCOVERED!
Most recently Can Güçkan from Turkey contacted me regarding some 40 rolls of Agfa Isopan 126 BW film. This is the find of the year and now those 40 rolls are stocked in the Film Photography Store.
Marcos Nava from Brazil jumped at the opportunity and picked up a roll. “I shot with my Kodak Instamatic 54x and developed it using Caffenol C (16 minutes at 68 Fahrenheit). I loved the results.”
There has been chatter for a few years about the return of the 126 format with all hopeful eyes on the Lomography Company. With Lomography boldly reintroducing 110 film in 2011, most 126 shooters hope the day will come soon where once again, fresh 126 film is readily available.
In the meantime, you can try some expired Agfa Isopan 126 from The FPP Store. Please do drop us a line with your results!
Enjoy summer and shoot lots of film!!!
Producer / Host – Film Photography Podcast