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No. 4 Folding Kodak (1890)

Two years after the introduction of the revolutionary Kodak box camera, Eastman put a new important camera on the market. In July 1890 the No. 4 Folding Kodak appeared. It is the first folding camera for roll film only.

The specimen in the video is a very early model with serial number 77. The first batch of 250 No. 4 Folding Kodaks was ordered at the camera factory on October 30, 1889, so I believe this camera belongs to the first batch that was produced.


The early versions of the No. 4 Folding Kodak are typical cameras for the more well to do amateurs. In 1890 and 1891 it cost $ 50 or £ 10.38, which was a considerable sum in the early 1890's. In 1892 the price was $ 55 or £ 11.38. From 1893 on it cost $ 60 or £ 12.60.

It is well suited for tourist and amateurs on a days outing because it is:

  • relatively compact; the closed case measures 6.625 x 7.5 x 7.75 inch (17 x 19 x 20 cm)
  • easy to transport
  • when it is closed all the parts are safely tucked away in the leather satchel

It is also an amateurs camera because it is easy to use:

  • the roll holder in the back can take a spool for 48 pictures of 4 x5 inch (10 x 13 cm), so there is no trouble with heavy glass plates in holders
  • the self capping shutter is simple to operate
  • the sector plate with 4 apertures is easy to operate
  • on the side is a scale for setting the distance to the object
  • there is no ground glass to compose and focus the image on, but only a small reflex finder on the base board.

All these things are too simple for the serious amateur of that period, but just fine for the person who wanted to take a snap of a special moment or nice view.

Soon improvements began to appear. I think one of the first was the wheel on top to wind the film. My very early specimen does not have such a wheel, only a key on the roll holder. When enough film was wound for a new picture a loud click signalled that you could stop winding. Also an adapter for plate holders became available and soon the design of the camera was changed so that it could take plate holders or a roll holder. Old models could be converted. More complicated shutters were used and by 1893 the Improved model had evolved into a camera for the serious (amateur) photographer. It featured double swing back, horizontal and vertical front movement, sophisticated shutters and dropping baseboard for use with wide angle lenses. With all this it was no camera anymore for the snap shooting tourist.

The No. 4 Folding Kodak was discontinued in 1897 and a total of 3450 were made. The total of 3750 in Brian Coe's book is based on an incorrectly summed subtotal in the original production order book.

 Below an overview of all the models, based on the illustrations in the Kodak catalogs in the period 1889-1897