126 Instamatic film: A few rolls are available again!
A proper cartridge is essential to reload film for your 126 camera.
Solaris FG200-24 126 Instamatic film, stored properly but long outdated.
NOTE: I will not be able to ship your order until the end of the first week in June. You can pre-order now to reserve your film. Your payment will not be processed until the order is shipped.
Limited supply: please do not order more than three.
We also have a small supply of 35mm unperforated film available. These are 100 foot rolls, enough to reload a 126 cartridge many times. You will need to use a punch (in the dark) to add indexing holes to these films — see the illustration below — if you want your camera to advance from frame to frame correctly. The backing paper already has holes which you can use for positioning.
You can find an introduction to reloading 126 cartridges here.
These are IS0 160 color print films, on spools, of the type formerly used by school photo studios in long-roll cameras. They are processed in standard C-41 chemistry.
The Konica SR-G160 is dated 1999, and will show unbalanced colors and loss of image contrast. Use it strictly for experiments.
The Konica PRO 160 is dated 2005 and has been stored cold, but not frozen. It is unlikely to give truly excellent images, but should be useful for expressive photography, and will remind you of what the best films looked like in the 1970's.
The information below is being left on-line for reference purposes.
After ten years of providing 126 Instamatic film to the world, our supply has finally come to an end.
That's all, folks!
It's price during the years it was manufactured was $94.50, equivalent to roughly $700 in 2010 (check the math here).
In mint condition these cameras have been selling recently on eBay for less than $10 up to $20. It fits easily in a coat pocket.
Note: although Ferrania ended production of 126 in April, 2007, we bought most of that last production run, and expect to be able to provide you with 126 film into 2011.
In 1980, when 126 was at the height of its popularity, the K-Mart discount chain sold Kodacolor VR 200 (126-24) for $3.19. At most non-discount stores, supermarkets, drugstores, and camera stores, it was closer to $3.75, which is roughly $9.75-$9.85 in 2010 dollars (check the math here). So even though it is now a niche product, imported at considerable shipping expense from high-cost Europe (not low-cost China), we are still able to offer it at only about a dollar more than its original retail cost.
Note: you can reload 126 cartridges using ordinary 35mm film, if you're patient and have a darkroom or dark bag. For reloading tips: Click on this link, and locate the "intro, step 2, step 2" etc. icons at the top of the page. The author, Bruce Miller, is a true friend of frugal photography and richly deserves our thanks.
For best results, reload your cartridges with unperforated 35mm film, and manually punch an indexing hole for each frame using a small hand punch, the kind sold at scrapbooking stores. You can locate the positions for the holes easily, because your backing paper has matching holes in the correct positions.
Unperforated 35mm film in 100' rolls shows up on eBay fairly regularly.
Processing is available for this film. Click here.
Your Instamatic camera is not obsolete.
About Solaris Instamatic film
Ferrania was the last factory anywhere in the world to manufacture 126 Instamatic-format film. Production ended in April, 2007, but later in 2007 one further run was processed. In July of 2008, the president of Ferrania announced to its unions that all photographic film production would cease at the end of December, 2008 (read the article here).
We expect to have Ferrania 126 films on hand for you to buy through 2010 and into 2011, barring any unforeseen increase in demand. By that time, some entrepreneur will undoubtedly be making 126 again. It continues to be a valuable and valued format for people who want to use the very good 126 cameras that are out there, and for pinhole photographers.
Click here to see samples of this film in use.
Solaris FG Plus is considerably advanced over that company's former products, and has substantially improved granular properties, color fidelity, and exposure latitude. When correctly exposed and processed it gives images that meet the most exacting, professional standards of quality.
Sophisticated 126 Instamatic format cameras have a mechanical "sensor" that detects a notch in the film cartridge body, and automatically sets the camera's exposure system to the film speed being used. Solaris 126 film is rated ISO 200, and is particularly well suited to high-quality photography using sophisticated cameras like the Kodak Instamatic Reflex, Instamatic X-90, and Instamatic 500, the Voigtländer Bessa, Rollei A26 and the Minolta Autopak cameras, Ricoh and Konica rangefinder cameras, and the Yashica Ez-Matic and Ez-Matic Electronic. These kinds of cameras "sense" cartridges from ISO 50 or 80 to ISO 800, and expose Solaris 126 film accurately.
Solaris film's good exposure latitude means it can be expected to also give excellent results in inexpensive 126 snapshot cameras.
Finding a processing service for 126 Instamatic film
Try your local independent labs. Get out the Yellow Pages and call nearby independent labs who have been in business at least since the mid-1990's. It's possible they have what it takes.
Try Blue Moon in Portland, Dwayne's in Kansas, or
Wolfe's (click here).
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A number of exceptional cameras were made to use 126 Instamatic film. Among them are the Kodak Instamatic X-90 (top left), the Minolta AutoPak 550 (top right), the Yashica Ez-Matic Electronic (bottom left), and the Kodak Instamatic 500 (bottom right).
|The 126 film cartridge was introduced by Kodak
as the "Kodapak" in 1963, along with a set
of "Instamatic" cameras to use it with. It was invented to solve what Kodak felt were
the three most inhibiting problems for amateur
The new format coincided with advances in film chemistry that saw new color print and slide emulsions becoming available. The first Kodapak films were Kodacolor X for color prints, Kodachrome X and Ektachrome X for color slides, and the very popular Verichrome Pan for black and white photos, which at the time were significantly less expensive than color.
For the first time, color prints, slides, and black and white could all be exposed at approximately the same speed in simple cameras.
By pre-loading the film into a light-tight plastic cartridge, Kodak effectively eliminated handling film altogether. Drop the cartridge into the camera, and then take it out for processing — no more takeup spools to thread, no more risk of accidental exposure to light. By printing frame numbers onto the film's paper backing, Kodak made the cartridges useful in inexpensive cameras that did not have frame-counting mechanisms. And through an ingenious system of perforations on the film edge and an indexing pin on the camera body, the film automatically and accurately framed itself, advancing only far enough to position the next frame, and no farther.
The format was wildly successful. Reliable estimates of the number of 126 Instamatic type cameras manufactured between 1963 and the 1990's are in the tens of millions. Every major 35mm camera manufacturer except Nikon produced cameras that used the KodaPak cartridge, and some of them sold spectacular numbers of them.
The Kodak Instamatic 500, an expensive, premium-quality camera made in Germany with a Gossen meter and Schneider-Kreutznach Xenar lens, selling for $94.50 in 1963 (equivalent to something like $600 today), is reported to have sold more than a half-million units. Minolta's superbly-engineered AutoPak camera models sold more than a quarter-million units each. Agfa, Fuji, 3M, Ansco, and a host of smaller manufacturers all produced films packaged in the Kodapak cartridge.
Many factors contributed to the decline of the Instamatic camera, primarily the dramatic fall in price and increase in sophistication of Japanese 35mm "point and shoot" cameras with high-quality zoom lenses and autofocus systems. These innovative cameras used ordinary 35mm cassettes. Motorized film advance and rewind, DX speed encoding, and sophisticated exposure control made the 126 Instamatic (and 110 Pocket Instamatic) cartridges superfluous.
Kodak stopped production of 126 cartridges at the end 1999, and most other film manufacturers discontinued them at about the same time. At that time, Kodak's 126 film production amounted to less than 1/3 of 1% of their total annual output, and was dropping 30% per year. Kodak's expressed wish was that Instamatic users would switch to APS, but most of them probably switched to 35mm or recyclable "single-use" cameras.
The last manufacturer, Ferrania SpA in Italy, ended production of 126 in 2007.
Many inexpensive snapshot cameras from the 1960's through the 80's used 126 Instamatic film. They crowd the shelves and bargain bins of thrift shops the world over, dusty and unloved. It must be admitted that few of them would be a worthwhile camera for everyday use today, some definitely are.
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126 Instamatic cartridges originally gave either 12 or 24 28mm square images per roll, but due to the cropping effects of photofinishers' printing equipment and slide mounts, it is the central 26mm square portion of the negative that is printed.
It is possible to salvage empty 126 plastic shells and backing paper, and reload them. However, for most Instamatic cameras to operate properly, the film must have an approximately 4mm wide and 2mm high rectangular perforation in the top margin to mark the starting position of each frame. Without that perforation, the frame-advance mechanism cannot tell when to stop. Correctly sized and spaced perforations are difficult for the casual reloader to make.
Exposure and Processing:
Solaris 126 film is rated by the manufacturer at ISO 200 / 24 DIN. Our tests resulted in correct exposure at the rated speed when processed in standard C-41 chemistry by a one-hour lab.
126 film is 35mm wide, so it can easily be processed by any lab, or in any home darkroom, that is equipped for processing 35mm color film. Few photo labs, however, are equipped for printing the square 126 images, so most either crop the image rectangular, or deliver square images on 3x5 or 4x6 rectangular paper.
You can also take the film to your local photofinisher and ask for "develop only", and then scan the negatives using a scanner at 1,200 dpi or greater, and print your own images on an inkjet printer.
For the more sophisticated 126 Instamatic cameras which permit full exposure control, these are our suggested exposure values:
|Lighting conditions||shutter speed||aperture|
|Bright outdoor light||1/200||f16|
Be sure to familiarize yourself with these policies:
The Frugal Photographer merchandise warranty
How to return goods that are unsatisfactory
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