Built-in flash and flash attachments for cameras are so commonplace now that we don’t really give it much thought. But today’s featured vintage camera ad reminds us of a time when using flash meant slapping one of these little explosive contraptions called Flashcubes on a Kodak Instamatic camera. So, if you’re ready, let’s step back into the Swinging Sixties and see it in action!
The groovy commercial above, as with many of the previous vintage camera ads we’ve shared, came from r/vintageads on Reddit. It takes us back to Kodak’s foray into early flash photography, which is actually interesting and innovative since the company built on the single-use flashbulb to come up with a device that can be used four times, as demonstrated in the commercial. Four full-powered flashes in one tiny cube, designed to be a fitting companion for the Instamatic camera and make it the life of the party.
For the curious, Light Stalking shared about the Flashcube and how it worked. Prior to this contraption, photographers used flash powder, flash lamps, and then flash bulbs to produce artificial lighting. Working almost similarly as the flash bulbs, the Flashcubes are detonated by a tiny explosive charge powered by an electrical charge from the batteries to produce a bright flash of light. Each bulb is filled with zirconium wool in a high pressure seal as the combustible material, and at the base is a powder-filled primer cap. A tiny hammer linked to the shutter release strikes the base of the bulb and sets off the charge in the primer, which in turn fires the charge that ignites the combustible zirconium wool and produces the high-intensity flash.
The key feature of this contraption is that it has four flash bulbs arranged in a cube and 90 degrees to each other. Each bulb is also fitted with its own mini reflector. The flashcube is attached to the camera through a socket, very similar to the hotshoe we’re more familiar with.
The Flashcube is connected to the film advance mechanism which rotated the flash along at 90 degrees as the film was advanced. This brings the next bulb to the front, ready to light up the next shot. Once you’re done with all the bulbs, slap on a new Flashcube and you’re ready to go.
If the Kodak Instamatic cameras interest the vintage camera collector in you, we found an untested Kodak Instamatic 124 in good condition and in its original box, along with the instruction book, along with 15 flashcubes, that you can grab for $12.99.
Screenshot image from the video