The Kodak Tourist II is one of my many thrift-store finds. Actually, it was my girlfriend Kate’s thrift store find. We’d stopped at a charity shop on the other side of town where I found an excellent condition, complete Polaroid 350 outfit, and decided to peek at the cheap camera bin (on the lookout for Color Optical Lens cameras or the Zeiss-lensed Yashica point-and-shoots of the 1980s). Kate spotted the Tourist behind some old 8mm motion picture cameras and slid it over to me.
I was excited by the prospect of owning my first actual folding camera (this one’s been waiting its turn for a roll of film and a write-up for quite a while). Once I figured out how it opened and operated, I decided it was definitely coming home with me.
It sat on the shelf for a month or more before I decided to test it. I started by candling the bellows. While I did find four tiny pinholes along the corner with the seam, they were much smaller than the holes in the bellows of the Agfa Ansco PB20 Viking or my Kodak No. 2 (coming soon). I decided to give it a test anyway. I may use some liquid electrical tape to repair them if I find a reason to use the camera for something more than the test roll.
I wasn’t disappointed. The microscopic pinholes don’t appear to have affected the images in any discernible way.
As with all my cameras, I researched its history before starting this post.
About the camera
Camera-Wiki notes that the Tourist II was produced from 1951 to 1958. The rather large folder takes 620 film and makes 8 6x9cm frames (actually about 5.8cm by 8.3cm.
The Tourist II was offered with a variety of lenses, the top end being an Anastar lens which retailed for $95. The Kodet lens was the bottom end, though. According to an ad in the July 6, 1950, Schenectady Herald, the Tourist with a Kodet lens retailed for $24.50 which is about $235 in 2012 dollars. The $95 price tag for the top end model is closer to $900 2012 money, meaning it was among the most expensive offerings Kodak had at the time.
The camera has a grey bakelite top with a simple eye-level viewfinder. The viewfinder is fairly accurate, despite some difficulty using it because of its incredibly small size (only about ¼” across). The film advance knob is aluminum, and while its diameter is generous, it’s not very tall and I found it more difficult to use than similar cameras.
The front of the camera has a small silver button that releases the door, which when pulled on, extends the bellows until it locks firmly in place. A button mounted in the door actuates the shutter at the front of the bellows through a series of levers and rods, making it extremely easy to shoot with this camera.
Of particular interest on the Tourist and Tourist II is the film door. Both ends feature a combination hinge/latch assembly that allows the door to open either direction, or be removed completely to accommodate adapter kits for 828 film and other options.
The Flash Kodon shutter has a fixed 1/50th sec. shutter speed and the Kodet Lens offers f/12.5, f/16, f/22 and f/32 apertures.
About my example
My Tourist II came in practically mind condition. It shows a small amount of wear in the enamel on the back where it’s probably rubbed against many shirts and jackets as it was carried over the years. The thin cotton webbing-style strap was still attached and in excellent shape. The shutter sounds accurate and the aperture blades move smoothly.
Inside the camera was clean and looked new. The negatives from my test roll show no evidence of light leaks and no trouble from the four minuscule pinholes I found when I candled the bellows before shooting the roll.
The bellows is pliable and otherwise in great shape. The latch/hinge mechanisms on the back operate smoothly, and the lens door and latch all seem like new.
Pros: Easy operation, very sharp for what is probably a plastic lens, relatively lightweight for such sturdy construction, big negatives make good prints.
Cons: Film advance knob difficult to use, viewfinder tiny and hard to use, rolling 120 film onto 620 spools is tedious (although it sounds like most Tourists can be adapted to accept 120 film without re-rolling).
The future: This one with probably be around for a long time and I can see myself using it for more work in the future because of its light weight and overall easy of operation.