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Best Cameras from the 20s

By Dillon Wallace

The ball drop into 2020 is about to come crashing down.

And every new year, or in this case new decade, is a perfect time for reflection. 
So, with recollection in mind, let’s throw it back to another 20’s era, the 1920s, to figure out what the best cameras were for capturing the happenings during the roaring decade. 


The Vest Pocket Autographic Kodak

Everyone has the notion that old tech is bulky and cumbersome, and in most cases they aren’t wrong. But this camera was as sleek as they came back in the day. The vest pocket camera wasn’t something you carried, but you wore … like a watch. Or, at least that’s how they marketed it. “A camera that will really go in your vest pocket.” You know, when the majority of people actually wore vests. Classic.


Kodak Anastigmat f.7.7 and Autographic Kodak Jr.

Marketed as superior cameras with superior lenses, the Anastigmat and Autographic were the collaborative creative efforts of professional lens makers and camera makers. The collaboration was a quality result ready to aim, shoot and capture, “superiorly.”



The motion picture era may have been in its diaper days back in the 20s, but that didn’t stop camera manufacturers for marketing the growing popularity of cinemas. Created in 1923, the Cine-Kodak was the first 16mm camera released. Smaller film meant cheaper film and that was a welcomed concept.


Bell & Howell Filmo Movie Camera Color 

Released in 1923, the first Filmo camera would go on to instill a series of models throughout the next several decades, building upon the same basic body. It was also the first spring motor-driven 16mm camera, but could be hand-cranked as well..


Kodak’s Graflex

Back in the early camera days of yore, Eastman Kodak cameras were the epitome of quality. However, that’s not to say there weren’t other camera companies, even if the technology was still new. Folmer & Schwing was a camera brand that was eventually bought by Kodak and then sold again by Kodak (in 1926), but not before it had a chance to release the Graflex camera. It was a boxy shaped camera (weren’t they all?), but it replaced the SLR swinging mirror in favor of an external viewfinder. The result gave the Graflex a much lighter heft to make shooting less cumbersome.


Kodak Brownie camera

While most early cameras were for professional and amateur use, due to the new yet expensive technology involved, the Kodak Brownie was the everyday person’s affordable answer. In fact, they were marketed heavily to children in an attempt to popularize photography with the youth. They were also popular with soldiers going to war, and many iconic war photos were snapped on Brownie cameras. Invented by Frank A. Brownell, the Brownie is responsible for introducing the “snapshot” to the masses. That’s a lot of history for one camera.


Junior Special Ruby Reflex

Thornton Pickard’s Ruby Reflex camera was released in the early 1920s. A product of England, the camera was advertised as being simple in construction yet very reliable. It’s biggest differentiator was its unit focal-plane shutter which allowed the shooter to snap at various speeds. It may not have been
“burst mode”  photography, but it got the job done.


The 1920s were the infancy of the camera, but that didn’t stop the decade from having its fair share of shutter-snapping milestones and breakthroughs. And if you’re lucky enough to be in possession of some photos or film reels from the roaring decade (or after), it’s time you made sure those memories get safely preserved for another 100 years. Digitize your old film and photos today and keep history alive!

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