At first glance, you may not be too interested in this mid-century camera. But if you look at the design, you can tell it’s mid-century, beautiful lines. But one thing that it does do, it takes excellent photos that have the feel of what we would today call a toy camera. Don’t get me wrong, when Kodak first started producing this camera they probably never thought that it would be called a “Toy Camera” by some blogger fifty-years later, but the Pony is a basic snapshot camera, the evolution of the box camera. I have to say; I was surprised by this camera. Big thanks to Dave McCullagh, my father-in-law, for this beauty. There is a bit of family history with this camera, as it was purchased by my Father-in-Law’s parents (my wife’s grandparents) in 1958 and served as the family camera for many years.
- Make: Kodak
- Model: Pony 135 Model C
- Type: Point and Shoot
- Format: 135 (35mm) 36x24mm
- Lens: Fixed, Kodak Anaston Lens 44mm ƒ/3.5
- Year of Manufacture: 1955-1958
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a magic camera, it’s pretty basic even for point-and-shoot cameras, but it holds a certain charm over the box cameras of the day. You have full exposure control on this camera and focus controls as well. But don’t expect any help from the camera aside from some hints on the lens and shutter assembly based on lighting conditions and several classic Kodak film stocks. But if you use Sunny-16 or an external meter you’ll be good to go. But the one thing that surprised me the most was basic shooting operation of the camera. I had a small sense of dread when I first looked at the camera; there was a wider lock-out switch. Something I’ve had trouble with in the past, and a separate shutter cock. And yet, the operation of this camera is smooth because everything is well laid out it all works and makes sense. And with the position of the viewfinder composing on this camera is simple. But let’s talk about my favourite feature of this camera, the lens. While the Kodak Anaston lens is not exactly top of the line relying on the triplet design it produces a unique image, that you often pay hundreds for from Lomography. You can see heavy vinette distortion around the corners of the image. While subtile at f/16 and f/11, you see it clearly even at f/8, I’d love to see what it looks like at f/5.6 and lower!
I touched on the focus earlier, and it is my primary concern for this camera, being manual focus, and it is a point-and-shoot you have no easy way of setting the focus. And when I say manual focus, I mean, manual focus. The camera doesn’t even have zone icons, just straight up distances in feet. So you have to either use an external rangefinder (like what I used in a few cases) or be excellent at judging distances. Of course, if you’re close and shoot at f/11 or higher, you don’t have to worry. The one thing I did notice was that on this camera the focus helical is pretty loose and I’m sure the thing slipped on a few shots causing me to lose focus. The second major issue I have with the camera is rewinding the film. While shooting is a smooth operation, rewinding, not so much, the rewind release is a much smaller button that seems also recessed in the top plate, and you have to keep it depressed while turning the knob. The knob itself cannot constantly be turned as it is blocked on the one side by the viewfinder hump and cannot be pulled up to avoid it. So what usually is a quick procedure, often takes a lot longer than it should. The final thing is not so much a major issue, but more of an annoyance and that’s frame spacing. I’ll probably just chalk it up to age, but there were a few frames that had a separation no more than a razor’s edge between them. This makes cutting and scanning a bit of an issue.
The Pony is a solid camera if you look at it from a toy camera perspective rather than one for everyday use in today’s film photography world. But I will leave you with one note of caution. If you are looking at picking up a Kodak Pony be careful of the model you get, as Kodak had several. You will want to get a Pony 135 model as they take the standard 35mm film, there are also Pony 828 models that take a small roll film like what you’d find in 120/220/620 cameras which are the same height as 35mm but operate differently. You can hack the camera to take 35mm, but you’d need to salvage some backing paper to make it work properly. Frankly it’s best to just stick to traditional 35mm, it makes for a cheap, easy to shoot toy camera, in fact I might even shoot mine again for world toy camera day.
All Photos Taken On Queenston Heights, Queenston, Ontario, Canada
Kodak Pony 135 Model C – Kodak Anaston Lens 44mm ƒ/3.5 – Efke KB100 @ ASA-100 – Kodak HC-110 Dil. B 5:30 2 20C