VPK – Vest Pocket Kodak

Vest Pocket Kodak

It seems I live in a land of coincidence! As a long time, photography enthusiast, I am occasionally given a small box or bag with the greeting that goes something like… “We’re clearing out my parents house and thought you might like this!” The text is flexible, but the well-meant intention is always the same, and always appreciated. I am sure this is something that a lot of us experience.  Sometimes it’s junk and I recycle, sometimes it’s something that I have no interest in, but is good, so try to pass it on to someone who has interest. Occasionally it’s a gem! A couple of weeks ago I was given a small box of “junk” but buried in the bottom was an un-opened roll of Ilford Selochrome 127. The very next day I spotted a one-off chance to have a short term loan of a VPK! (Kodak Vest Pocket) – What’s a photography blogger to do! 

So, film in hand I loaded the camera – It is loaded through the top, inserting both film spools at once with the film stretched between them, bit of a fiddle but not difficult. I did stick a piece of black electrical tape over the rear window, just to peal back quickly in subdued light to wind on. This felt very rough, and I wondered if I’d have severe tram lines across the film. I have to confess I didn’t even see the only control on the camera, under the lens until I had finished the roll. It seems to be badged as focus in that it mentions distance but really, I think it is a crude aperture, giving varying depths of focus.  

As for the function of the camera, it has a twisting viewfinder to aid both landscape and vertical images, but in this example was un-useable – I couldn’t see anything other than light, so I guessed. The mechanism that holds the lens panel out seems to be slightly bent, and I had to try to hold it in such a way that I corrected this as best I could. Apparently, It has the small three-blade variant of Kodak’s Ball Bearing Shutter No.0 which seemed to fire OK, and apparently the British version exclusively got a true f/6.8 lens from Italian optics maker Koristka! All in the size of something not much bigger than a phone – amazing for something just over 100 years old! My internet surfing seems to suggest this is a later model of version 1, the earlier ones did not have the autographic facility on the back – this one does, complete with stylus, which seems to suggest a date after 1915.

I found eight subjects in the back garden, the VPK makes 8 on 127, and didn’t venture further away, as the film had an expiry date of 1968! I wasn’t expecting much – as I mentioned in a previous post, I has issue with getting the film onto the spiral for processing, not helped in this case, as in getting at the film, it appeared that the backing paper had stuck itself to the film. I gave the film a good warm water pre-soak, with the hope of, if not dislodging the paper, then helping the developer get at the emulsion. Sadly, a complete failure – I ended up with a completely clear strip of acetate! It was an interesting experience, but one I’m not sure I’ll repeat again! 

If anyone needs a spare 127 reel – you know who to ask!

Another coincidence coming soon!

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