What’s in a name? The Kodak Story

Until the early 1900s photography was not simply a case of taking pictures. Anyone wanting to be a photographer needed not only to be an artist but a chemist too! Kodak was the first company to produce equipment that could be used by anyone, and paved the way for photographers to focus on their subject, rather than on complex preparation and development processes.

The genius behind the Kodak camera was George Eastman, who invented the first Kodak camera, which was exhibited in 1888 and became an overnight success. The camera was quite small and weighed close to 7 kg (far lighter than other cameras at that time). It had no viewfinder or film counter and was sold with a paper-based film of 100 exposures. The 60 degree wide angle lens could capture in sharp focus anything from a metre away, but had a circular mask in front of the film, to hide poor definition on the edges.

Adverts claimed that to using the camera was as easy as “setting the shutter, pressing the exposure button, and winding the film on”. When your film was used, the entire camera was sent for processing, and returned with a new film installed, hence the famous advertising slogan “You press the button, we do the rest!”

A second version of the Kodak camera followed, using transparent celluloid film for the first time. Although praised for its simplicity, according to the Photographic News Almanac of 1891,it was not fool-proof. A photographic dealer recalled how he sold his first camera to a customer going on a round-the-world trip. The customer returned months later to have the film developed, but alas, the result was metres of clear film with a very dense spot at one end of it – the film had not ever been wound on.

The name “Kodak” was no accident. George Eastman, whose favourite letter was “k”, tried out endless combinations of letters that made words starting and ending with “k” until he came up with the answer: Kodak!



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