Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Kodak Master Photoguide - Filmtastic Resource!

When I got my first SLR, an Exa IIa, in 1973, I was eager to learn as much as I could about photography.  I don't recall what books I may have looked at in high school, but I did buy a current (at the time) Kodak Master Photoguide.  That little black pocket-sized ringbound book served me well for years, and I still have it tucked away somewhere.  For the longest time, it was my only photographic resource. When I think about it,  never had a light meter, and the Exa IIa had a very limited range of shutter speeds.  The Master Photoguide was my source for exposures, flash photography, and Kodak film information. 

My most recent example of the Master Photoguide dates from 1981, and I don't know how much later they were produced, but I would assume that they stopped making them by the late 1990s.  Back in the day, it was (and still is) a good thing to have in your camera bag.  If you are new to manual film cameras, the Master Photoguide is an easy way to have a lot of information at hand. 

There were subtle changes in the Master Photoguide over the years, as camera and film technology changed.  I like the older ones that actually had the filter gels in the page.  That makes them useful for seeing how a filter changes how the image looks to your eye.  The guide also has the "filter factor" chart to adjust your exposure for a given filter.  If you have a meterless camera such as a Nikon F with a plain prism, a Kodak Retina IIa, or a Yashica A TLR, the guide is quite handy. 

To me, the genius of the guide is that all of the subjects are located by the tabs at the edge of the page.  A quick looks takes you right to the appropriate topic.  Secondly, the guide has the essential information that a photographer needs without the fluff that may be found in a much larger book.

1966 version with color gels
 While a lot of old Kodak publications can be found online as  PDF files, the Master Photoguides have wheels inside that you move to get the appropriate exposure, as in the daylight exposure dial.  That makes the real thing all the more desirable.The durable covers and binding will give you years of service, and my old beat-up guide is 45 years old!

I did a brief look online, and the Master Photoguides now sell for more than they did when new.  They are often most encountered in old camera bags and thrift shops, so keep your eyes open for the various editions.  The most recent one has a silvery cover, and is easily identified. 
the tabs are very handy.
The daylight exposure guide looks suspiciously like it is based on Sunny-16.  Yes, it is!


Jim Grey said...

Outstanding! I'll be on the lookout for one.

Anthony Paul said...

Thanks for every other informative blog. The place
else may just I am getting that kind of information written in such a perfect way.
Keep it up. please have look on 2 way pet camera

Unknown said...

Hi, Mark.

Thank you for sharing this! I'm a writer for Lomography Online Magazine and I would like to write a feature about the Kodak Master Photoguide. May I have your permission to cite you as a source for the article?

You may reach me at if you have questions about the feature. Hope to hear from you soon. Thank you so much!

All the best,

Stefania said...

Hi Mark! Thank you for this interesting article!
So do you have different editions of the booklet? Do they have substantial differencies?

Unknown said...

I own a 1973 edition of the Master Photoguide. It is not as colorful
as your example but I have to agree just having the daylight
exposure guide is worth packing it in my camera bag.

Mark O'Brien said...

I finally found my 1973 version of the photoguide, which I have had since 1974. 44 years! That alone amazes me that i have had it that long. A little worn, for sure, but it still does what it is supposed to do.