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Kodak Signet 80 - lost and forgotten American rangefinder classic !
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Oct 26, 2019 17:25:06   #
imagemeister Loc: mid east Florida coast
 
Backround: I have been collecting/using cameras since 1977 and have attended about 100 camera trade shows in the 80's and 90's. Recently I came across the Kodak Signet 80 on ebay - I had never seen nor even heard of the Signet 80 !! - so I became very intrigued - and noticed the extremely cheap prices they were seemingly going for and after some research, realized this may be the best camera I never heard of.

There were several cameras in the Signet series starting with the highly regarded quasi-military Signet 35 of 1951. The Signet 80 of 1958 was Kodak's last attempt at an interchangeable lens rangefinder system camera (35mm) after 1941's revolutionary EKTRA (now a very expensive collectible). The Signet 80 may be the poor man's Ektra ?

TIMELINE: In 1954 Leica introduced the groundbreaking/classic M3. In 1957 Nikon introduced the SP, Kodak AG the Retina IIIC and Asahi introduced the ground breaking classic Asahi-Pentax 35 SLR - but it was probably the Argus C44 that inspired Kodak to get moving on something to compete ! In 1958 Canon released the Canon VI. Also in 1958, trying to compete with Kodak AG and Argus with it's own American made camera, Kodak released the Signet 80 system consisting of the body with 50mm, and optional 35 and 90mm lenses and matching VF. Suffice it to say, as in most offerings by Kodak, there were several interesting design implementations in the 80.

The cost in 1958 for the basic camera was $129 - that is about $1500 in today's money - so it was a hard sell and alas did not sell well and was discontinued in 1961! The lenses were about $750 each in today's money.

A few of the highlights of the features: 1/4 to 1/250 leaf shutter with electronic flash sync at all speeds. The large RF/VF are in a single window with high contrast - tho the RF base is somewhat small. It has a built in uncoupled Gossen selenium cell meter. The film advance is a unique double stroke enclosed push lever. The fit and finish of the lenses is extremely high quality. Any questions - I would be glad to answer.

So, now I have the Signet 80 with 50 and 90mm lenses and VF - and I like it ! - still looking for the 35mm - anyone out there have one for sale ??

..

Shown with the 90mm f4 and VF
Shown with the 90mm f4 and VF...
(Download)

Double-page spread from National Geographic magazine
Double-page spread from National Geographic magazi...
(Download)

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Oct 26, 2019 18:15:08   #
rjaywallace Loc: Wisconsin
 
Very cool camera!

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Oct 26, 2019 18:20:09   #
GoofyNewfie Loc: Kansas City
 
Interesting find, Larry.
I’ve heard of the Signet but never familiar with anything about them.
Thanks for posting!
Are you going to try it out sometime?

Reply
 
 
Oct 26, 2019 18:29:29   #
imagemeister Loc: mid east Florida coast
 
rjaywallace wrote:
Very cool camera!


Thanks for the visit and comment !

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Oct 26, 2019 18:32:59   #
imagemeister Loc: mid east Florida coast
 
GoofyNewfie wrote:
Interesting find, Larry.
I’ve heard of the Signet but never familiar with anything about them.
Thanks for posting!
Are you going to try it out sometime?


Yes, I had heard/seen many of the Signets - but never this one ! And, Yes I will probably be trying some film - the temptation is great !

I love it when I find things that I have never seen before.
.

Reply
Oct 26, 2019 23:23:20   #
AndyH Loc: Massachusetts and New Hampshire
 
I had one, back in the 70s. The lenses are very good, and the viewfinder gorgeous, but the 1/250 top shutter speed made it a non-starter for me. Very good build quality, although the film advance is reported to be troublesome - use it carefully, especially now that it's sixty years old!

Although this may have been the last hurrah of Kodak US production, I'm still very happy with my Retina IIIc with 35 and 85 Schneider lenses from the Stuttgart factory. All Retinas are unsung heroes, and Signets are completely forgotten ones.

Andy

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Oct 27, 2019 09:48:06   #
Architect1776 Loc: In my mind
 
imagemeister wrote:
Backround: I have been collecting/using cameras since 1977 and have attended about 100 camera trade shows in the 80's and 90's. Recently I came across the Kodak Signet 80 on ebay - I had never seen nor even heard of the Signet 80 !! - so I became very intrigued - and noticed the extremely cheap prices they were seemingly going for and after some research, realized this may be the best camera I never heard of.

There were several cameras in the Signet series starting with the highly regarded quasi-military Signet 35 of 1951. The Signet 80 of 1958 was Kodak's last attempt at an interchangeable lens rangefinder system camera (35mm) after 1941's revolutionary EKTRA (now a very expensive collectible). The Signet 80 may be the poor man's Ektra ?

TIMELINE: In 1954 Leica introduced the groundbreaking/classic M3. In 1957 Nikon introduced the SP, Kodak AG the Retina IIIC and Asahi introduced the ground breaking classic Asahi-Pentax 35 SLR - but it was probably the Argus C44 that inspired Kodak to get moving on something to compete ! In 1958 Canon released the Canon VI. Also in 1958, trying to compete with Kodak AG and Argus with it's own American made camera, Kodak released the Signet 80 system consisting of the body with 50mm, and optional 35 and 90mm lenses and matching VF. Suffice it to say, as in most offerings by Kodak, there were several interesting design implementations in the 80.

The cost in 1958 for the basic camera was $129 - that is about $1500 in today's money - so it was a hard sell and alas did not sell well and was discontinued in 1961! The lenses were about $750 each in today's money.

A few of the highlights of the features: 1/4 to 1/250 leaf shutter with electronic flash sync at all speeds. The large RF/VF are in a single window with high contrast - tho the RF base is somewhat small. It has a built in uncoupled Gossen selenium cell meter. The film advance is a unique double stroke enclosed push lever. The fit and finish of the lenses is extremely high quality. Any questions - I would be glad to answer.

So, now I have the Signet 80 with 50 and 90mm lenses and VF - and I like it ! - still looking for the 35mm - anyone out there have one for sale ??

..
Backround: I have been collecting/using cameras si... (show quote)



Reply
 
 
Oct 27, 2019 10:04:11   #
imagemeister Loc: mid east Florida coast
 
AndyH wrote:
I had one, back in the 70s. The lenses are very good, and the viewfinder gorgeous, but the 1/250 top shutter speed made it a non-starter for me. Very good build quality, although the film advance is reported to be troublesome - use it carefully, especially now that it's sixty years old!

Although this may have been the last hurrah of Kodak US production, I'm still very happy with my Retina IIIc with 35 and 85 Schneider lenses from the Stuttgart factory. All Retinas are unsung heroes, and Signets are completely forgotten ones.

Andy
I had one, back in the 70s. The lenses are very go... (show quote)


Thanks for stopping by - it is good to find some one who has used one of these !

Reply
Oct 27, 2019 11:03:31   #
greigfla
 
Received one as my major Christmas present in 1962. I was 17 and my father -- not a rich man -- had been delighted to find it for me as a marked-down close-out at a famous Cleveland department store. I was surprised and appreciative, but secretly disappointed as I had wanted one of those "new" Japanese SLR's. The Kodak took beautiful, sharp pictures; and the rangefinder made for easy focusing, but I did find the EV system of exposure somewhat confusing, compared to my old lightmeter. The next year, with my own money from a new job, I replaced the Signet 80 with a Yashica SLR. Dim view through pre-set lenses made for tough focusing. And the pictures were not nearly as sharp as with my by-then-gone Kodak. How could this be? Isn't the Latest Thing always the best thing? My biggest Christmas present in 1962 was being taught by my father the true answer to that question.

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Oct 27, 2019 11:10:14   #
imagemeister Loc: mid east Florida coast
 
greigfla wrote:
Received one as my major Christmas present in 1962. I was 17 and my father -- not a rich man -- had been delighted to find it for me as a marked-down close-out at a famous Cleveland department store. I was surprised and appreciative, but secretly disappointed as I had wanted one of those "new" Japanese SLR's. The Kodak took beautiful, sharp pictures; and the rangefinder made for easy focusing, but I did find the EV system of exposure somewhat confusing, compared to my old lightmeter. The next year, with my own money from a new job, I replaced the Signet 80 with a Yashica SLR. Dim view through pre-set lenses made for tough focusing. And the pictures were not nearly as sharp as with my by-then-gone Kodak. How could this be? Isn't the Latest Thing always the best thing? My biggest Christmas present in 1962 was being taught by my father the true answer to that question.
Received one as my major Christmas present in 1962... (show quote)


.....yes, back in the '50's with most of the innovations coming from Japan and Germany, with relation to cameras, AMERICAN was a bad word ! 8-(
.

Reply
Oct 27, 2019 12:56:25   #
Bill P
 
There was a day when Kodak made some remarkably good MF cameras.

Reply
 
 
Oct 27, 2019 12:59:40   #
Blair Shaw Jr Loc: Dunnellon,Florida
 
imagemeister wrote:
Backround: I have been collecting/using cameras since 1977 and have attended about 100 camera trade shows in the 80's and 90's. Recently I came across the Kodak Signet 80 on ebay - I had never seen nor even heard of the Signet 80 !! - so I became very intrigued - and noticed the extremely cheap prices they were seemingly going for and after some research, realized this may be the best camera I never heard of.

There were several cameras in the Signet series starting with the highly regarded quasi-military Signet 35 of 1951. The Signet 80 of 1958 was Kodak's last attempt at an interchangeable lens rangefinder system camera (35mm) after 1941's revolutionary EKTRA (now a very expensive collectible). The Signet 80 may be the poor man's Ektra ?

TIMELINE: In 1954 Leica introduced the groundbreaking/classic M3. In 1957 Nikon introduced the SP, Kodak AG the Retina IIIC and Asahi introduced the ground breaking classic Asahi-Pentax 35 SLR - but it was probably the Argus C44 that inspired Kodak to get moving on something to compete ! In 1958 Canon released the Canon VI. Also in 1958, trying to compete with Kodak AG and Argus with it's own American made camera, Kodak released the Signet 80 system consisting of the body with 50mm, and optional 35 and 90mm lenses and matching VF. Suffice it to say, as in most offerings by Kodak, there were several interesting design implementations in the 80.

The cost in 1958 for the basic camera was $129 - that is about $1500 in today's money - so it was a hard sell and alas did not sell well and was discontinued in 1961! The lenses were about $750 each in today's money.

A few of the highlights of the features: 1/4 to 1/250 leaf shutter with electronic flash sync at all speeds. The large RF/VF are in a single window with high contrast - tho the RF base is somewhat small. It has a built in uncoupled Gossen selenium cell meter. The film advance is a unique double stroke enclosed push lever. The fit and finish of the lenses is extremely high quality. Any questions - I would be glad to answer.

So, now I have the Signet 80 with 50 and 90mm lenses and VF - and I like it ! - still looking for the 35mm - anyone out there have one for sale ??

..
Backround: I have been collecting/using cameras si... (show quote)


WOW....that is so gorgeous looking after all these years.....lucky you man ! I love old cameras.

Reply
Oct 27, 2019 14:44:34   #
AndyH Loc: Massachusetts and New Hampshire
 
imagemeister wrote:
Thanks for stopping by - it is good to find some one who has used one of these !


I wish I still had mine!
Andy

Reply
Oct 27, 2019 17:25:01   #
revhen Loc: By the beautiful Hudson
 
Mine was the Olympus 35 SP rangefinder. Bought new in 1970 at $80 for Europe trip. Took great pictures on the late, lamented Kodachrome. Sold it not long ago for $110. Thought I got a great deal. Now see many on eBay for over $200! "One never knows, do one." (Fats Waller)

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Oct 27, 2019 18:30:49   #
Goldyrock
 
I had a Retina IIIc that I received as a birthday gift when I was 13. Had it until my ex-wife cleaned out my apt. Lost a Carousel projector, and several Minolta SLR's. I bought another IIIc, that I keep in a cabinet. They were built like tanks.

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