Rochester N.Y. December 2001

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A Brief History of Kodak Roll Film Numbers

The earliest Kodak roll films were made for specific cameras and were listed by the camera name. For example: The year 1900 Kodak Condensed Price List stated under:

Eastman's Transparent Film, Light Proof Kodak Cartridges: Roll Film, 6 Exposures, 2 1/4 x 3 1/4 inches, for the No.1 Folding Pocket Kodak Roll Film for the No, 1 Panorama Kodak, 3 exposures,

As more cameras were introduced using the same film size, the listings of camera names became cumbersome, particularly with the limited space on film cartons.

In 1912 or 1913, it was decided to  bring more system to the film size problem and assign numbers to each film. First listing was in the Condensed Price List of 1914, which gave the cameras by name with their corresponding film number. In 1919 the camera listing was deleted and the film was listed only by number.

Starting with No. 101, the numbers, seemed to have been assigned in the order in which the film was introduced to the market. For example:

             101 (3 1/2" x 3 1/2") was originally produced for the No. 2 Bullet camera, announced in 1895

             102 (1 1/2" x 2") for the Pocket Kodak was also announced in 1895

             115 (7" x 5) for the No 5 Cartridge Kodak Camera announced in 1898

             120 (2 1/4 x 3 1/4) for No. 2 Brownie announced in 1901

             130 for the 2C Autographic cameras, introduced in 1916
             (Note: McKeown lists this cameràs introduction as 1923)

There were also 5 roll films for Graflex Roll Film Holders numbered 50, 51, 52, 53, and 54. These numbers were also arbitrarv except that each higher number indicated a larger picture size. Example: No. 50 is 2 1/4" x 3 1/4" , No. 54 is 5"x 7"

Graflex films were spooled emulsign and black side of the backing paper out. This may not seem reasonable but the only source found stated this arrangement.

In the early 1930's two new films were being considered similar to 120 and 116, but on a smaller spool.

These became 620 and 616. The "20" and "16" were retained because of their association with 2 1/4" x 3 1/4" and 3-1/4" x 4-1/4" picture sizes.

The number 6 was picked because of the number of exposures. However, in January 1932, as a depression bonus, most of the popular size roll films, such as 620 and 616 were increased to 8 exposures.

When 620 and 616 were reintroduced in February 1932 the number 6 no longer applied to the number of exposures but were retained to avoid customer confusion. When 35mm film "magazines" were introduced in 1934, they were originally called 131.

Someone suggested using 135 rather than 131 because it was 35mm fllm. At the same time it was decided to number the film for the Contax camera and reloads for the Leica permanent cassette. Since they were 35mm films, the numbers 235 and 435 were selected.

When the Bantam camera program was under consideration a distinctive number was wanted for the film because this was a new program. The numbers 828 were selected because the film was 8 exposures and 28mm wide.

Highlights in Early "SpecialFilm" Announcements

June 1, 1933
Kodak SS Film for the Leica Camera introduced

July 14 1933
Kodak Panatomic Film introduced for Leica

December 1934
Current films are introduced in new daylight loading "Magazines" for the new Retina camera, made by Kodak AG in Germany

New films, scheduled to be called 131, are changed to 135 to indicate 35mm wide.

Reloads for the Contax are called 235 Reloads for Leica permanent cassette are called 435

April 1935
Daylight loading film magazines introduced for Leica and Contax
F 235 36 ex for Contax
SS-135 (Super Sensitive) 36 exposures for Contax
SS-435 30 ex for Leica

Bantam Program director, Mr. Case ,wanted a distinctive film size, close to, but not 35mm. 828 size fllm created. Produces 28 x 40mm size picture on 8 exposure roll. Original Bantam produced 1935-38. The Bantam Special produced 1936-40. became a classic.

The Instamatic camera introduced. Numbers 128 selected to indicate picture size 26mm sq

Footnote: While it is relatively certain that Kodak was the first to produce the prototype of what would become today's standard 35mm film holder, it is vague as to where the idea came or how the various names were derived. Names over the years have included "magazine", "cassette", and less frequently, "retort". One definition of a "retort" is a container which can be removed and replaced. George Eastman advertised his early cameras as "cartridge loading", a term that would return withi the Kodak Instamatic,when it was advertised as having "cartridge loading".

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