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Kodak EK4 Instant Camera

Manufactured between 1976 and 1978 by Eastman Kodak Co. The EK4 and it’s motorized cousin, the EK6, were introduced when Kodak entered the instant film market. It a vertically oriented body with a folded optical path using internal mirrors. It has a 137mm f/11 lens that has it’s focusing marked in both zones and feet/meters. It used a Flipflash on the top and used a “J pack” 6V battery to power the auto exposure system. A hand crank to eject the photos and you watched them develop in front of you similar to the Polaroid SX-70—however, the Kodak instant film (later called “Colorburst”) was of a rectangular format instead of square.


So, this is the camera that eventually led to the largest patent infringement lawsuit and judgment in history. Despite what anyone says, the Kodak system was good—very good. Good enough to take about 30% of Polaroid’s market almost overnight. So, the same year it was introduced, Polaroid brought a patent infringement lawsuit against Kodak. It weaved through the courts for years and finally on September 13th, 1985, Polaroid finally prevailed and Kodak had to remove all the film and cameras from the market immediately and compensate Polaroid and consumers. (See: www.patents.com/apl/kodak1.pdf#search="kodak instant camera patent infringe" ) The $925 million judgment is still the largest patent infringement award to date. Although Polaroid eventually won the lawsuit, weak management and the explosive growth of digital cameras finally did them in. In 2001, Polaroid filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The Polaroid brand is now owned by a Minnesota-based holding company. And Kodak? They embraced digital early (actually, Kodak is credited with the very first digital camera prototype made in the 1970’s), and after a rocky time themselves seem to be back on a long term track…


Note: In the Kodak settlement, owners of the instant cameras were required that you sent in the front name plate (peeled off the camera) to obtain either coupons for non-instant Kodak cameras or one share of Kodak stock—you can decide which was the better deal. But to a collector, a camera without it’s nameplate is worthless, so if you have one laying around that way, it’s time to let go—there will never be film for it, it takes up too much space....just throw it away…


See also: www.rwhirled.com/landlist/nonland.htm


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Taken on September 10, 2006