James's Camera Collection: Ansco Readyflash

Ansco Readyflash USA Box cameras
Ansco Readiflash camera
Film type: Roll film size 620
Approx. dates of manufacture: 1953
Approx. original price: $14
Approx. street value: very low

This is one of the first few cameras I ever bought. I know the first three, but I get hazy after that. This would be between four and ten, I'm sure. I know I had it when I was in the fifth grade. We were having a party or somesuch and I'd brought it in. I had two shots left, and someone suggested a class photo. We got all the boys together and someone took the shot. Then we got all the girls together and—the flash didn't pop. I was 10 years old and girls were icky, so I didn't care.

Some time later the prints came back from the store. The shot with the flash was hideously overexposed, but the shot with the girls came out great. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised at how good the image came out considering this is a crappy piece of tin.

A few things that make this camera unusual: first is the permanent plastic handle on the side. It's bendable but it's normally out like that. Second is that it's a bottom-loader: there's a metal lever on the bottom that you turn, and the film chamber drops downward and out. You have to be careful not to accently catch it with your fingers while you're handling the camera or you'll spoil everything.

The flash is a detachable push-on type. It's got a metal clip and two prong which make the electrical connection; takes two AA batteries on the back. It's one of those things that makes you wonder how far we've come; in the early 50s, flash units like this attached to cameras via these two prongs, which was very simple and sturdy, but you pretty much had to use the manufacturer's flash to fit the camera.

In the late 50s and 60s you got accessory flash units which were more generic, and they connected to the camera via all sorts of different attachments, and you had to figure out what you had and how to make it connect. In the late 60s and 70s you had the dreaded PC connector, which as standard but tended to connect as securely as towing a trailer with Scotch tape. Then in the 80s, up through now, you got dedicated flash units; you pretty much have to buy the manufacturer's propriety flash unit to fit onto your camera.

That's progress for you.

Camera manual: Orphan Cameras.com

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