In my bag this week No. 15: Kodak Instamatic 804, Rollei CN200

Kodak Instamatic 804
The sturdy Kodak Instamatic 804 with some commonly-seen period accoutrement — a Kodachrome 126 film cartridge and a package of Sylvania flashcubes. (Daniel J. Schneider)

Though this is the first time I’ve mentioned Kodak’s famed Instamatic line, it’s far from the first time I’ve used one. Now: The Kodak Instamatic 804, and a roll of Agfa/Rollei CN200 film.

When I was a kid I used my mom’s old Instamatic a few times — I think it was an Instamatic 104. It was a much simpler camera, the spiritual successor to Kodak’s earliest Brownies in a lot of ways.

Kodak Instamatic 804

The Instamatic 804 is a far cry from that simple box, incorporating an honest-to-goodness rangefinder and a Tessar-type lens — a 38mm f/2.8 Kodak Ektanar. It even features a shutter speed dial with a Bulb option.

The Instamatic 804 also has a mechanical auto-advance feature similar to the one found on the Kodak Motormatic 35. Instead of a knob winder, though, it has a sort of ripcord attached to a plate that fits into bottom cover. Pulling the plastic cord out a couple times charges up the winder mechanism and frames advance automatically.

Introduced in 1965, the Instamatic 804 supported then-relatively-new flash cubes — plastic boxes containing four one-shot bulbs backed by plastic reflectors which rotate after each use. Batteries are required to operate the 804’s flash, unlike later Magicubes which fired mechanically.

The viewfinder has a decidedly bluish cast and isn’t terribly bright, although the brightline frame and focus patch are both easy enough to see. The auto exposure seems to adjust the aperture, though there is a small switch marked with plus and minus signs that may function as exposure compensation. That part is still unclear.

It reportedly sold for about $125 in 1965 — the equivalent of over $900 in 2015! It’s incredibly heavy for its size so maybe Kodak was charging by the pound?

Agfa/Rollei CN200 Pro

When I first opened my trial roll of Rollei CN200 I thought immediately that it might be related to the Lomography Color Negative 100 film I tried in my Yashica A. They both feature the same soft, coarse-grained black backing paper.

After seeing results, I don’t think they are the same emulsion, but they could be related. That backing paper has me wondering if the Lomography stuff at least comes from the Agfa factory, though.

The CN200 film impressed me with its fine grain — not as fine as Kodak Ektar 100, but what is? It seems a touch on the cool side — almost a tad bluish — at first glance, too. It’s definitely not as saturated as the Lomography film or Ektar, but it’s not flat, either. Overall I’m quite pleased with the results.

I’d love to try more of it because it comes in a spiffy plastic canister that’s great for keeping light our of your exposed rolls. Sadly the price isn’t so great as to make me jump ship from Ektar or Fuji Pro 400H — at least not at my local retailers.

I tried the roll I bought in my Pentax 6×7 — it was the eighth roll through the monster SLR. I’m just starting to get the hang of it…

16th Street Mall planters
The semi-spherical planters lining Denver’s 16th Street Mall mirror the semi-spherical globes on the mall’s funky modern street lights. Flowers bloom in the blue or rusty brown orbs with careful maintenance. (Daniel J. Schneider)