It’s like 2 cameras in one! The Kodak Tele-Instamatic 608 Reviewed

 

608Box
How can you not dig that groovy 70’s packaging?

Gen X-ers may remember the ads Michael Landon did for Kodak’s Pocket Instant Cameras in the late 70’s in which he said the Kodak Tele-Instamatic was like having 2 cameras in one, and in the heyday of fixed lens compact cameras, he wasn’t far off base. The Tele-Instamatic 608 is a 110 format camera with a fixed focus, 25mm f/11 Meniscus lens and a slide mechanism that slides another lens in front of it to bring the focal length to 43mm and narrows the field of view in the viewfinder to correspond (although it does not magnify the viewfinder image). The lens selector can be left on either “NORM” or “TELE” depending on user preference, which was a nice touch. The camera features drop in film loading, an attached sliding lens cover, nylon wrist strap and it is fully mechanical so it never needs batteries but it has a flash connection for either an 8 flash bar or a reusable flash powered by 2 AA batteries. Like most Kodak cameras, the Tele-Instamatic came with some little stick on gold letters so you that could monogram your camera. When it was released in the late 1975 it retailed for under $35.

 

 

608InBox
Not bad for around 2 bucks!

I found one of these little cameras at a second hand shop, in the original box with film and flash bar for around $2. Some quick research told me that expired 110 film sells on e-Bay for around $2 per roll and new 110 film is available from Lomography for $5-6 per roll. I later found several sources for 110 film developing including Lomography and the Darkroom for about $17-$20 per roll and most excitingly, Fuji Labs via my local Wal-Mart for about $10-$12 per roll and their price includes prints!

 

I loaded up my camera with some expired-in-1981 Kodacolor II film from e-Bay on a trip to Georgia to see what this camera could do. The film drops right in the back and advances by a thumb actuated slide on the right side with that familiar “schick-schick” of Kodak 110 cameras. Once loaded, you simply advance the film until the window on the back of the camera shows “1”, point and shoot! The camera is plastic and lightweight but does not feel cheap. The viewfinder is bright and clear and has centering marks but no frame lines or other data displayed. The shutter reliably fires with a quiet “click”.

 

608WithFilmI took most shots with the camera set to 25mm only switching to 43mm once. The camera was extremely easy to use and functioned reliably each time. Since it’s not much bigger than the film it shoots, it fits easily in a pocket, so I carried it with me as a second camera on our trip to Helen, Ga. The point and shoot ease with which it takes photos was a nice departure from my usual full manual shooting style allowing me to focus exclusively on framing each photo I took and the 12 shot limit of my roll of Kodacolor made me slow down and consider each shot before I put it to film. I found that its compact size and quiet shutter worked perfectly for street shooting, as well.

Overall this is a fun little camera that can be had in great shape for next to nothing. Film for it is available again from the good folks at Lomography, and there are services who will develop. If you want to develop your own 110 shots, there are developing reels and negative holders for scanners available from a few suppliers.

 

Blank608RollSo how about the photos? I wish I knew, the expired Kodak film came back from Fuji Labs blank. I have read this is an all-too-common occurrence with expired 110 cartridges; I was disappointed but my local Wal-Mart did not charge me for the little blank coil returned to me in a 35 mm canister. Will I shoot it again? Yes, but since I have so many other 110 camera options, it may be a while.

 

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