Disc cameras

Why would you want your photographic negatives arranged on a little wheel? Seems to make no sense now but in its time, the idea was both ingenious and practical.

Back in the days before digital, getting a spool of film into a camera was a dark art. If you didn’t line up your sprockets correctly, the film wouldn’t align. If you accidentally allowed light to fall onto the wrong piece of the film, your pictures would fail.

A flat disc, which came in a light-proof plastic cartridge was much, much easier to load and unload. You simply dropped it into the camera. Then out again. When you took a photo, the disc rotated automatically.

Light-proof and foolproof.

Also, as the film rotated on its disc instead of over a spool, the cartridge could be very thin. Cameras could therefore be lighter and more compact: good for carting about. Kodak launched its disc camera in 1982 with the usual fanfare that this was The Future.

Disc cameras were not a lasting success, however. Because the negatives were so tiny — 10mm by 8mm — photo finishers had to enlarge the image hugely for a standard-sized print. That often resulted in the prints being grainy and fuzzy. Disappointing, too.

Kodak stopped producing disc cameras in 1988, so they had a very short shelf-life.

If, like me, you have a wheel of negatives from a disc camera, you may be out of luck. There are very few places that still process such film any more.

The Future is now firmly in The Past.


An aside of note: The 1983 Minolta Disc-7 camera had a convex mirror on its front which you could use to check the composition of your perfect self-portrait. It also had a bendable, telescoping carrying strap, for taking that important portrait, too.

Yes, disc cameras invented the selfie stick. Back in 1983.

So although The Future is in The Past, The Past was also ahead of its time.

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