News flash: Kodak’s Instamatics

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) — The easy-load Kodak Instamatic 126, the world’s most popular camera in the 1960s, still captures the memories for some folks somewhere.
Not for much longer.
Eastman Kodak Co., which sold 50 million of the cameras from 1963 through 1970 and 20 million more beyond that, said Wednesday it will stop manufacturing 126-size film cartridges on New Year’s Eve 1999.
Scott Sims, owner of Scott’s Photo specialty store in Rochester, said he carried the cartridges long after customers had dwindled down to a precious few.
“Around the first of the year, somebody came in and bought everything I had,” he said. “It was an easy way to get rid of it.”
Far less than 1 percent of the $16 billion photo giant’s film sales are in the 126 format, and that portion has been shrinking at a rate of 30 percent a year for some time. When the production line stops, the film will be available only as long as supplies last.
The Instamatic practically replaced old box cameras. Early versions, featuring a flash cube, sold for under $20 and some dealers offered rebates to customers who turned in their old Brownies.
They sold so well that Kodak quit making 35mm cameras, which at the time were upper-end camera models. The company did not reenter that market until 1986 when low-priced, 35mm snapshot cameras had taken off.
For amateurs who never got used to threading film into a camera, the Instamatic was foolproof. The plastic cartridges easily snapped in place and lifted out without the need to touch any film.
The square frame allowed shutterbugs to hold the camera either vertically or horizontally with no change in the 28mm-by-28mm picture ratio. Ease of use appears to have encouraged owners to take more pictures — the average owner used eight rolls of film a year, double that of other camera users.
Kodak stopped making the cameras in the mid-1980s in the United States and in the early 1990s in Latin America.
Employees on the 126-format film production line will likely be switched to other film-making jobs, and no layoffs are anticipated, Blamphin said.