The Kodak Starflash Camera Outfit And Why We Need It Now

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Once upon a time I sent away to the Hudson’s Bay Company for a Kodak camera kit. Hudson’s Bay defines the location and Kodak kit defines the era. The fact that it was a light blue-grey further narrows the date. If I tell you any more you’ll be able to tell me what I had for lunch on the third Wednesday in September.

The camera arrived in a yellow and red box with a roll of 127 film and four blue flash bulbs. They were the M2 size. There was also an instruction booklet that was surprisingly detailed for such a simple-looking camera. It had a page devoted to a guarantee that was couched in strict legal terms – quite unnecessary as I generally never sued anyone in those days. Teenagers rarely did…

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Well, the camera got used and used and used, and the films were sent to camera shops, drugstores, and lots of other places  for development…and I still have a few prints from those days. When I have the courage to investigate old boxes I may even find a 127 Verichrome Pan negative to scan.

The point of this nostalgia is the memory of the fact that I could send off $ 15 and get a Starfish kit that started me going as soon as the box opened. We need this today for the digital youngsters. The trouble is, we need to reduce the complexity of the system, and that means more complexity…

The closest that I ever saw to a digital Starflash kit was a Nikon Coolpix S33 camera of about 3 years ago. It was a point and shoot designed with a 3 x zoom lens and a waterproof body. There was a tiny flash tube in the design. Only two buttons on the top – one for still shots and one for video. I daresay it shot only JPEG at a modest resolution. The point is that it could be supplied to ANYONE of any age and as long as it had power and a card, a picture or video clip would ensue.

They played a little to the kid market with special effects and trick add-ons but you could elect to just see the regular picture. The cameras came in several colours – all of them bright.

If Nikon had put it in a cardboard tray box with a small SD card and an instruction book, they would have sold a motza – I suspect they still do at the big discount stores. If there were some way to bundle it with a really cheap tablet to display the results you would have more people snapping than ever before.

Kodak knew they were firing at a mass market, and when they did they hit it fair and square. Now the big names need to do the same to keep that market interested.

Note: as ancillary memory, the Christmas kits of cameras, film, and flash that were put out in the Kodak Instamatic and Agfa Rapid days – the late 1960’s  – always sold very well for people who wanted a package deal. The downstream processing was understood and need not concern the customer. They just wanted an all-in-one gift to go. In the Wizard photo days we cleared cases of them right up until 5:00 on December 24th.

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