In the wake of the success of the simplified loading systems ( 126 Instamatic and 110 Pocket ), Kodak wanted to continue the development of simple systems and miniaturized proposing, in 1982 The new system Disc. This new system is proposed as a successor in particular to the 110 and tried to improve the salient elements with a new type of failure-proof loading cartridge and producing miniaturized negative.
After a promising start with large sales volumes the Disc did not, however, meet the expected success and after various vicissitudes was finally retired in 1999, although production of dedicated cameras had already interrupted several years before. Factors that decreed the initial success were those imagined by Kodak and exposed above while what later discouraged users was mainly the quality of the image due to the failure by most of the laboratories to adapt to the required standards for a successful outcome of the images (e.g. special enlarging lens equipment sold by Kodak).
The heart of the system is the disc of sensitive material, which is presented as a rigid film with a thickness comparable to that of large format films, circular in shape, inserted around a hard plastic perforated in the center .
The plastic disc shows the numbers stamped on the frame and acts as a physical connection to the camera; the disc contains 15 negative images sized 8.5 x 10 mm (8 x 11 mm or according to some standard), then comparable to Minox negative and smaller than the standard 110. Advancement of the film is made by 24°-wide rotations, until the last shot after which the feed system of the camera is blocked. The disc is contained in a plastic rectangular light-tight cartridge which can fit in the camera in one only direction and labeled with film informations and barcodes for automatic identification in new processing machinery. Labeling also reported a number that indicates the “generation” of the emulsion: the number can vary from 1 to 8 and represents many production intervals ranging from February 1982 to January 1998.
Once processed, disc was sent back to customer with small prints made with specific and advanced equipment; in particular, given the small size of the negative, Kodak had developed a specific system with six lenses for negative magnification which was adopted by a few laboratories due to very high costs.
Cameras and film
The new format obviously led to the development of a new set of dedicated cameras, very small in size and very thin; the majority of these were completely automatic, in the aim of simplification, without providing any user interaction apart shooting; lens was generally good brightness (f / 2,8) with standard focal length of 12.5 mm. The first cameras were produced only by Kodak (particularly successful model was the Disc 4000) while over the years other manufacturers entered the market with their camera models, including Fujifilm and Minolta.
Given the final destination of the system to unskilled photographers only C41 color films were manufactured: most common were Kodacolor HR and VR and Kodak Gold, while minor production came from Fujifilm and Konica. Of special interest is the fact that for a long time Kodak used the Disc format as a “laboratory” for the release of emulsions which were manufactured and tested to the public on Disc before being released for the larger sizes.
Using the Kodak Disc today
There are no chances to use the Kodak Disc nowadays: the film has long been discontinued and no manufacturer has continued production after Kodak, so the most recent were produced in 1999; there are not even any chances to refill your existing Disc cassette with new film because of the rather complex project.
Given the cheapness of these cameras now it could, however, happen the opportunity to take one of the last remaining films and try to develop them with homemade process: the procedure is not complex as the cartridge is easy to open by pressure and the processing, as mentioned, is the standard C41. Problems arise, however, when scanning / printing and can be bypassed only with homemade solutions.