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No. 4 Kodak (1889)

This No. 4 is the biggest of the first series of Kodak cameras. The film holder can take spools for 48, 100 or 250 pictures of 4 x 5 inch (10 x 12,5 cm).

The film holder is located behind the plane of focus, as in all Kodaks prior to 1895. Due to this construction the camera is quite long, about 12-3/4 inch (32 cm). It was quite a large box the photographer had to carry around.

The No. 4 Kodak was nevertheless a travelers camera, as he didn't need to change the 100 or 250 exposure film often. (To change the film the photographer needed to find a dark room to do so.)

The camera was expensive, costing $ 50. For this you got the camera loaded with a 48 exposure film and a leather case. Only the more well to do could afford it. A farm laborer who earned $ 1.49 a day had to work 34 days for this amount of money. It was made from November 1889 until 1897 and 4850 cameras were produced.

Taking photos with the No. 4 Kodak was simple. One only had to:

  • pull the cord to cock the shutter
  • turn the key to wind on the film
  • set the distance
  • aim the camera
  • press the button.

If you wanted to eliminate every possible complication, you could choose a No. 2 Kodak, which had a fixed focus lens, so you didn't have to set the distance.

An interesting fact is that Arctic explorer Robert Peary used three No. 4 Kodaks on his early voyage to the north-east coast of Greenland during 1891-1892. He choose the No. 4 Kodak for its sturdy construction, ease of operation and 4 x 5 inch picture size. After the expedition one of the cameras was displayed on the 1893 Columbian Exposition. Today it is kept at the International Museum of Photography / George Eastman House in Rochester. Its serial number is 8283 and it is marked with the name 'Peary' and the letter 'B'. I have described all this, and much more about Peary's photography, in my articles 'Kodaks op de Noordpool' in 'Photohistorisch tijdschrift' nr. 2 and 4 of 1997. An English translation was published as  'Kodaks at the North Pole'  in 'Photographica World' issue 100, of 2002.



Pony ride, August 21, 1891. This photo was taken with a size 4 (4 x 5 inch) Kodak, like the No. 4 Kodak.