Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Magnificent Medalist II

Over the years, the Eastman Kodak Co. has produced some wonderful cameras. On the balance, they have also designed hundreds of somewhat crappy cameras, intended as cheap and reliable, if quite ordinary picture-takers. So, for every few dozen Brownies, Starflashes, Instamatics, and Disk Cameras, there is one meaningful camera. You can count on fingers, the number of remarkable US-made Kodak cameras that were produced.
what once was
I recently acquired one of them from the estate of my departed friend, George O'Neal. This camera, the Kodak Medalist II, is a metal-bodied medium format rangefinder camera that makes 6x9cm negatives on 620 film.

6x9 wonder

The Medalist II was produced by Kodak from 1946 to 1953, and was intended as a "pro" camera. There are a additional backs that can be used with the camera, allowing one to do close-ups using the backs and sheet film. The shutter ranges from B to 1/400 sec., plenty fast enough for most uses. The Medalist II also has a flash-synch using the Kodak post and not a PC connector (which is unfortunate). The lens turns out with a large helical that when fully retracted, locks the shutter release. The film automatically stops and the shutter cocked when the film is advanced via the winder (but you need to use the read window to start at 1). The rangefinder window is somewhat puny, but it does work, and there is also a dial readout on the top deck of the camera to show the distance and depth of field. The 100mm f 3.5 Ektar lens is highly-regarded and the out-of focus areas are smooth.

I took the camera out yesterday to give it a try in the conservatory at Matthaei Botanical Gardens. As it was my first time with this camera, I didn't expect every image to stand out, and for the most part, I am very happy with the camera. I look forward to giving it more of a workout soon.

Medalist Rocks!

A later image made on Kodak Gold 200 (620) from the UK:
Old Pontiac sign, Chelsea


Anonymous said...

sweet looking camera & you've gotten some fantastic images with it already - I'm sure George would be happy to see it in your hands!

Unknown said...

That camera is a real gem. Yes it is big, heavy, and kind of clunky,b ut the lens is fantastic and build quality is second to none. It is also easily modified, by a competent technician, to accept 120 film making it easier and more economical to use. The flash sync is the old ASA standard type and an adapter for the now standard PC connector can be had from Paramount Cords

Sam Wethern said...

I'm curious about your experience with the Medalist over the past year. I have a Medalist II that I acquired through my great aunt's estate - but I have not yet tried it out. In the early 70s I did my own developing but have not used a film camera in more than 10 years. Does anyone sell 620 film and do processing? Any information you might provide I would appreciate. Thanks. Sam Wethern - Atlanta

mfophotos said...

Sam -- You will need to respool 120 onto 620 spools -- there are sites online for how to do that. I think there are manuals available online. It's not an easy camera to love, as the viewfinder is really tiny.

Kathy Hunt said...

Too funny! I was just reading up on some different cameras, did a web search for the Medalist and the first thing that comes up is your blog. Glad to see you have one and have actually used it.