Same chips, different gravy, as Eastman Kodak introduce 616 film.

Kodak Six-16

Since acquiring and using an early folding Kodak Retina 118, I have grown much fonder of pre-war cameras in general. They tend to be more stylish and usually less expensive to purchase. These two elements greatly attract me! Another important aspect of pre-war designs is innovation; new ideas and mould breaking models abound.

Why is the Six-16 a Landmark Camera?

1: The first camera to use 616 film.
2: Beautiful Art Deco design.

The User Experience

Honey, I shrunk the spool!

Kodak were never short of new ideas, or of acquiring companies with new ideas. In this case, they took the old 116 film format and shrank the spool and end flanges in order to produce smaller and therefore lighter and more portable cameras. 616 film is exactly the same as 116. It just comes in slimmer rolls.

Right side of the Kodak Six-16.

At the same time, Kodak also introduced 620 film. You probably know already where this is going, but 620 film is the same as 120 film we still use today. Once again, Kodak shrank the spool.

Both formats were introduced simultaneously in 1932 alongside the first cameras to use the film; the Kodak Six-16 featured here, and the Kodak Six-20.

Kodak Six-16 folded.

Art Deco high water mark

These cameras were nearly identical in design, with the Six-16 being distinctly larger, but by no means was it a large camera. It is a striking camera from the Art Deco design era. It is the very epitome of Art Deco, with its octagonal face plate and red highlights, intricate chrome struts plus angled body with nickel and black enamel sides. Even the film advance winder is octagonal. The camera received admiring glances and comments when I was out and about with it.

Front of the Kodak Six-16 showing aperture tab and exposure guide.

Using 120 film in a 616 camera

Of course, a camera can be a looker, but a dog in use. How did the Six-16 perform? Well, before I could answer that question, I had to overcome one fact; 616 is obsolete. The last cameras were made in the late 1940’s and the film itself ceased production in 1984. Fortunately, there are clever folk out there who enable the joy of vintage photography. One such person is eBay seller 3dprints01 who sells a 120 to 616 Film Spool Adapter Kit that enables readily available 120 film to be used in 616 cameras. One of these adapters is placed on each end of the film roll and receiving spool; 4 in all. It’s that simple. Problem solved.

Art Deco beauty of the Kodak Six-16.

6 frames if you are careful

With film loaded I was able to try out the camera and I have to say it is very enjoyable to use. It is possible to get 6 panoramic photographs of a size around 4¼ x 2½ inches (11 x 6cm) if you are precise about film advance. I settled for 5 exposures at frame numbers 3, 6, 9, 12 and 15.

Kodak Six-16 shutter speed selector

Film loading was interesting, with the film bays being hinged and drawn out of the film back for loading. This was a new experience for me, but it wasn’t difficult to load film this way. With 100 ISO film loaded I was able to use the useful exposure guide located at the bottom of the octagonal face. No meter required. The aperture lever is directly underneath it. The widest aperture setting is f/6.3 on the 126mm focusable Anastigmat lens. Focus is controlled by a small ring right at the front of the lens, with distances marked in feet.

Left hand side of the Kodak Six-16.


The Kodak Six-16 has self-erecting bellows, which speeds up the readying of the camera. It can be held horizontally or vertically at waist level, with framing made via a hinged brilliant finder which can be swung to either orientation. Brilliant finders can be tricky for framing. The frame shape and coverage does not represent the actual frame of the exposure. They are also prone to reflections obscuring your view, not unlike smart phone screens.

Kodak Six-16 from above.

Limited exposure options

Shutter speeds on the Kodak Six-16 are quite limited, the fastest being 1/100th second, so you need a steady hand if you dip below to the other options of 1/50th, 1/25th and 1/10th. The alternative is to put the camera on a tripod and use the B or T setting using the slider top front of the camera face to select speed.

Limitations aside, the camera compensates with its beauty and ease of use and half-decent image quality. Resolution in the middle of the lens is fine and some understandable blurring the further from there you look. I have no beef with this Kodak though. I have grown very fond of it.

Kodak Six-16 with film door open.

Photographs taken with the Kodak Six-16

These images were taken with Fomapan 100 and developed in XTOL. I guessed pretty well with the framing. Perhaps the images are overexposed slightly. The lens is not shot on character.

Further Reading:

Art Deco Cameras
Camera Collector Pages