Camera Museum - Projectors
Camera Museum - Projectors

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[1950s Slide Show]

WELCOME TO THE PROJECTOR SECTION OF THE CAMERA MUSEUM. Still images can be viewed as prints. They can also be viewed as projected images, however, using positive transparencies. This was done well over 100 years ago. For example, the award winning children's book, Snowflake Bentley, by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and Mary Azarian (Houghton Mifflin (1998)), describes Bentley, an avid photographer of snowflakes in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as giving slide shows to his neighbors with a lantern projector. I believe these were with large glass plates and likely a negative image. My oldest projector, a Viopticon, was introduced in about 1912. It works by either a carbon arc ignited by AC current or by kerosene. Instead of large format slides, it used medium format slides of 2.25" x 2.75" and was the smallest projector at the time. This format was actually a "miniature" format at the time. Color 35mm slides began by 1936 using Kodak's Kodachrome. Vacation slide shows were a mainstay of households in the 1950s and 1960s as shown in the photo above at my grandparents from the early to mid 1950s. My brother and sister are in the photo, but it was slightly before my time. Kodak Carosel projectors were among the best known projectors from their introduction in 1961 until manufacture ceased in October 2004. While a casualty of digital cameras and LCD projectors, a 40+ year run for a technology is pretty impressive today. Film movies were, of course, always viewed with projectors. Today, most amateur and many professional movies are on video and viewed on a television or LCD or other digital projector. Many movie theaters are also switching to digital projectors.

I have many still projectors including my Viopticon, my grandfather's 1950s projector, an original Carousel Model 500 projector, my original Kodak Carousel Model 650 projector which my parents bought for me in about 1978, several other Carousel projectors acquired at garage sales, and a Dell digital projector using DLP technology. I also have several film projectors. While no longer available new to my knowledge, still and movie projectors are still relatively common in the garage sale market. Even I often pass on them as too bulky for my ever bulging garage! The projector section of the museum is new as of November 2008. It is starting with my very cool Viopticon. Projectors will be added as time allows. Movie projectors are in the Movie Camera section of the museum. Enjoy!

Viopticon (Larger Image) Introduced in 1912, the Viopticon projected medium format slides of 2.25" x 2.75". While a "medium" format today, this was prior to the introduction of 35mm slides in 1936 and considered a "miniature" format at the time. The Viopticon operates by inserting two carbon rods in the back of the machine. These are ignited with an AC transformer. As a portable power alternative, it also comes with a canister for kerosene. When the kerosene is used there is a parabolic dish also used. I'm not sure if the carbon rods are used when the kerosene is used. The Viopticon was made by the "Victor Animatograph Co., Davenport, Iowa, U.S.A. I believe it says Model "III." It says it is patented May 27, 1913. The company was originally called "New Victor Animato-Graph Co." in 1910 with the name changed to the "Victor Animatograph Co.," the name on my Viopticon, in 1915. (Samuel G. Rose, "Alexander M. Victor, Motion Picture Pioneer," Journal of the SMPTE 72 (August 1963, pp. 614-621)", posted at Mine must have therefore been made on or after 1915. I do not know how long they were made. It has a serial no. of 4842. There is a small shaded sight window in the back to view the electric arc. There also is what appears to be a heat shield ring in the area where the light is generated. Ahead of this area are two condenser lenses. There is then a snout (my term). At the back of the snout is an area where the wood slide loading mechanism is placed. The brass 7 inch focal length lens is placed in the front of the snout. The lens has rack and pinion focusing. The aperture is not listed on the lens. The lens diameter in front appears to be about 1.5" and in the back about 2". Using the 1.5" diameter, the aperture would be 7"/1.5" or about 4.67. If the 2" diameter is to be used, the aperture would be 7"/2" = 3.5, a more typical aperture number.
[Viopticon Rear View]
[Viopticon Electrical Transformer]
[Viopticon Kerosene Canister and parabolic mirror]
Rear View
Rear View
Rear View

The company was headed by Alexander F. Victor. As explained at Samuel G. Rose, "Alexander M. Victor, Motion Picture Pioneer," Journal of the SMPTE 72 (August 1963, pp. 614-621)", posted at, Victor developed many innovations in motion picture projectors, especially for documentary subjects. That article states about the Viopticon:

The Viopticon, the first truly portable stereopticon, introduced in 1912, used a single-glass slide, with an outside measurement of 21 by 21 in., mounted in an embossed pressboard frame. No cover glass was used, the emulsion side being coated with a flint-hard collodion base coating which resisted scratches. It was practically unbreakable and very light in weight. This slide was the forerunner of the 35mm, 2 by 2-in. slides used today. A library of slide sets was created with several religious, educational and fraternal "illustrated lectures." Slides supplied were black-and-white or hand-colored and in either Viopticon or standard 3 1/4 by 4 in. sizes.
The light source, designed by Alexander F. Victor, is described as "a 5-ampere self-centering arc, using two cored 6-mm carbons, individually handled . . .. This first truly portable electric arc for portable projectors or stereopticons produced a concentrated and intense source of illumination." (Id.) It was used on the Viopticon and several other projectors.

The Viopticon is also described in the right column of page 317 of the 1913 "Wilson's Photographic Magazine" at Google Books. A photo of a Viopticon similar to mine is shown at Northern Illinois University.

My Viopticon was purchased in La Mesa, CA on 11-16-08 for $75 (the asking price) from an ad on Craigslist. It comes complete in the box with both the electrical connections and the kerosene canister. My seller, acquired it decades ago as a boy from the original owner in payment for some work he did for the original owner. The original owner was apparently a family friend and a member of the same church. The original owner had used the projector for missionary work he did at an earlier time. The projector is in nice shape especially for likely being 90+ years old. My seller indicated he had turned it on successfully using electricity. He did not try it with kerosene. Also, the tubes for the kerosene are deteriorated. The lens is in good condition with a little internal dust. The condenser lenses are in decent shape with some internal dust and perhaps some slight mold. My seller indicated he painted the snout with flat black paint and polished the brass on the lens. The rack and pinion focusing appears to work well. I have not tried either power source myself. It comes with several carbon rods. The box is in fair condition. My seller stated he had taken the black paper which covered the box off since it was badly deteriorated. It also came with nearly 500 slides of varying scenes including religious art, black and white landscapes and people, and hand-colored landscapes. Looking at several of the slides, they appear to be in generally good condition with some dust and minor scratches. A truly terrific piece of photographic history!


[Kodaslide Model 2]
(Large Image)
Kodaslide Model 2, introduced in 1939, along with slides mounted in 2" x 2" cardboard mounts, according to Photographic Resource Center at Boston University - Timeline of Color Photography. That site states the Model 2 was intended for home use. Made in USA. (Tag Image.) The Kodaslide Model 1 was introduced two years earlier in 1937 and was the first projector for showing 2" x 2" glass mounted slides. The fascinating timeline states the last Kodak slide projector was made October 22, 2004 and was donated to the Smithsonian Institution. Kodak introduced Kodachrome color transparency film in 1936 with an ISO of 10. Agfa introduced a color transparency film the same year. Announced on network news programs, Kodachrome was discontinued on June 22, 2009, just three days before I am writing this. (See It was the standard used for photos in magazines like National Geographic for decades. (See, e.g., "KODACHROME: First Great Color Film Remembered in Photos," National Geographic News, June 25, 2009. Kodachrome's use declined when Fuji introduced its Velvia slide film and later with the rise of digital photography. (See, generally, Kodachrome - Wikipedia.) Kodak still makes Ektachrome transparency film. Ektachrome is much easier to process than Kodachrome and can be done in small photo labs and even at home. My Kodaslide Model 2 was purchased at a Kensington area of San Diego garage sale on 6-13-09 for $5. It is in good cosmetic with case. The chrome lens is quite stylish. I have not tried to operate the projector since the cord is in poor condition with some exposed wiring. There is also mold on the lens. I cleaned the exposed front and rear elements with isopropyl alcohol. The mold appears to be primarily on the inner portion of the front element. The condenser lens also appears to have mold. The design of the projector is very similar to the Model 2A below with similar focusing. The Model 2 can only use a 100 Watt bulb, however.
[Kodaslide Model 2A]
(Large Image, In case)
Kodaslide Model 2A (circa 1948) Date is from parts manual date at and from a February 1948 advertisement in Popular Science magazine. Lens unscrews at base of body and fits in case. (See image with lens removed.) Lens consists of two tubes, one of which screws in or out of the other to focus. Uses 100 or 150 Watt bulb. Comes with single slide changer. Made in USA. (Tag Image.) Metal construction. Price in the Montgomery Ward 1949 Photographic Catalog was $47.50 plus $15 for the case for a total of $62.50. $62.50 in 1949 is equal to $561.60 in 2009 dollars, about the cost of a moderate LCD projector today. (For example, an Epson EX30 LCD projector with 2200 lumens and SVGA native resolution is about $525 at as I write this in June 2009.) Purchased at a Kensington area of San Diego garage sale on 6-13-09 for $5. In good cosmetic and working condition with case.
[Kodak Cavalcade 500 Projector]
(Large Image, Back)
Kodak Cavalcade 500 Projector (1958) Introduced the same year as the Kodak 300 projector below, the Cavalcade 500 was over twice the price. The Cavalcade projector had a list price of $149.50 and sold in the 1959 Sears Camera Catalog for $119.60 - the same buying power as $900 in 2010. In contrast, the Model 300 sold for only $51.60 in 1959 Sears Camera Catalog. Additional features in the Cavalcade model included the ability to switch from 500 watt to 300 watt illumination, an automatic timer at 4, 8 or 16 second intervals, remote control cord, wheel allowing manual changing of slides either forwards or backwards, ability to remove and insert slides without removing the slide tray and a 5 inch f2.8 Ektanon lens. The slide tray ran underneath the lens as can be seen in the photo. Made in Rochester, New York. Like the Kodak 300 projector below, you can begin to see the design elements of the Kodak Carousel projectors taking shape. Introduced in 1961, and continuing in production until 2004, the Carousel projectors had circular slide trays with the slides gravity feed into the projection chamber. The May 1958 Popular Science on Google Books has a two page ad about the Cavalcade 500. (Go back one page to see pictures.) I purchased my Cavalcade 500 at a church rummage sale in La Mesa, CA on May 15, 2010 for $10. It is in excellent working and cosmetic condition and includes the manual and original box. Kodak has several publications about the history of their slide projectors including: The Evolution of Kodak Ektagraphic Slide Projectors (pdf), A History of [Kodak] Slide Projectors (pdf), and Kodak Product History - U.S. Slide Projectors.
[Kodak 300 Projector]
(Large Image, With Cover)
Kodak 300 Projector, Model I (1958) listed as new in the 1958 Sears Camera Catalog, including new small 300 watt projection lamp and new 4-inch f3.5 Kodak Ektanon projection lens. Used 36 compartment slide magazines. The price in the 1958 Sears Camera Catalog was $61.27 with the Readymatic changer. $61.27 in 1958 is equal to about $450 in 2009 dollars. In 1961 Kodak introduced the Kodak Carousel 550 projector that used new 80 or 140 circular slide trays. The Carousel line would continue until Kodak discontinued the making slide projectors in October 2004. The end of Kodak slide projectors was the result of the surge of digital cameras, computers and digital LCD and DLP projectors. The Kodak 300 projector shows the evolutionary design change towards the Carousel projector including a low profile design and a lens that retracts into the body and fits later Carousel projectors. The Kodak 300 projector was made in Rochester, New York, USA. It came in two colors according to the code on the inside of the cover - turquoise 147917 and black 147918. The projector itself is largely metal construction. The cover is plastic. Mine was purchased at a local garage sale in March 2009 for $4. It is in very good operating and cosmetic condition.
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