James's Camera Collection: Traid Corp. Fotron III

Traid Corp. Fotron III USA Cartridge
Fotron III camera
Film type: 828 Cartridge (proprietary)
Approx. dates of manufacture: 1962 to 1971
Approx. original price: $140 to $500!!!
Approx. street value: None

This is it, folks. If you polled most collectors for their lists of the worst cameras ever made, this would be in the Top 3, if not the overall winner. And I'm not talking about bad the way plastic Kodak Brownies are bad—those were designed to be as inexpensive and as basic as possible. This thing was actually meant to be a decent camera.

You know the old saw about how a camel is a horse designed by a committee? This is a camera designed by a committee. It's as if the marketing department wrote down a list of features they wanted in a camera, and then handed it to engineers who had never seen a camera before; and this is what they got back.

The result isn't something bad like a Pho-Tak is bad, this thing is bad on a Wagnerian opera scale. This thing could fire-bomb Dresden.

There are three(!) versions of this beast. The first and second have three focus buttons and just say Fotron on them; the first is gray-bodied, the second is black and has a revised frame-counter. The last version is the Fotron III: it only has two focus-range buttons instead of three; the flash bezel is plain whereas the earlier versions had beads (just like the beads around the lens). That's my version.

This is often found with its original case and all of its accessories. You know why? Because they were never used.

Michael Cleveland gently chided me about my comments,

It certainly is an ugly and ungainly beast, but it was also innovative. It offered the first built-in electronic flash, so far as I know the first built-in electric film advance, with the first built-in rechargeable batteries for flash and motor, and the film cartridge system predated the Instamatic. The pushbutton scale focus was also a new idea. Maybe the most interesting part of its history is the way it was sold. It was offered exclusively by door-to-door salesmen who were supposed to sell it for about $150 (there was a lot of film processing included in the price), but they tended to profile their customers and ask what they thought they could get, so prices as high as $300 were common and I have heard of sales up to $700, so it is considered the greatest photographic scam of all time, which is unfortunate because in spite of all that ugly, it has a certain historical merit.

This is my website so I get the last word. Okay, I'll give you all that. I think the thing that really bothers me most is the camera's size: it's as big as a Polaroid 420, but at least with those old Polaroids you got a big image; this runs on 828 film, which is about the same as 35mm and 126 Instamatic. It's ridiculous.

The wikipedia entry says that they were marketed to women—I don't understand how they sold in numbers. The women I grew up with always wanted cameras that could be easily tucked into a purse. Put this in a purse and there's no room for anything else.

Camera manual: Orphan Cameras.com

Wikipedia: Fotron

©opyright by James Ollinger. All Rights Reserved.