The Kodak Chevron was a followon to the very successful Medalist that had been introduced in 1941 and updated to a II version in 1948. The Medalist had been successful as a military camera and was also highly respected by civilian photographers for its fine optics and sturdy construction. In contrast, the Chevron was a disappointment to Kodak in sales and to users in use and was produced for only three years. It was nearly as heavy as the Medalist and nearly an inch wider, but produced only a 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 image where the Medalist made a 2 1/4 x 3 1/4 negative. The reasons for this shift have probably faded with the people that designed the camera, but we may be able to guess at them:

  • The Medalist's larger format required a double helical focusing mount that was probably more expensive to manufacture than the single helical mount used on the Chevron, acceptable because of its shorter lens.
  • The automatic shutter cocking with winding of the Medalist required a considerably more complex shutter assembly. The Chevron returned to manual shutter cocking.
  • The Medalist shutter is mounted in a heavy brass casting, an entirely different assembly than the normal Supermatic #2/Flash Supermatic; the Chevron shutter is a conventional Synchro-Rapid 800 mounted on the front of a helical tube.
  • The four element Ektar of the Chevron was probably considerably cheaper to manufacture than the five element, larger Ektar on the Medalist.
  • The optics of the Chevron's viewfinder were clearly a step back in size and brightness, and probably cheaper to manufacture

The Chevron did have a theoretically more advanced shutter--the Synchro-Rapid 800--Kodak's attempt to break the 1/400th-1/500th leaf shutter barrier established by Compurs and Supermatics. Alas, the Synchro-Rapid turned out to be unreliable, so this was not an improvement, despite Kodak's good intentions.


The Chevron's four element Ektar is a variation on a standard Tessar design with the rear positive element next to the stop. The helical lens mount rides on ball-bearings, a point that Kodak made in its promotional and technical literature. I don't know if the Medalist used ball bearings, but the Chevron's focusing action is very smooth and less damped than the Medalist's. The "turning radius" from 3 ft to for the Medalist is less than a quarter turn; this same measure for the Chevron is over three-quarter turns. This ball bearing race was used on both the Chevron and the Kodak Signet and Kodak claimed that this design increased rangefinder accuracy and repeatability holding lateral play to .001 inch, irrespective of temperature variations. Incidentally, the Signet was a business success for Kodak and enjoyed an excellent reputation among users, replacing the klunky Kodak 35 series , with an excellent 44mm Ektar lens in a very compact body.


The extra width of the Chevron body, when compared to the Medalist's, is due to the film cavities being placed more to the sides and a greater distance from the film gate, whereas the Medalist's film cavities were cleverly positioned closer to the lens mount so that the Medalist's film path routes the film backwards a bit before transversing the film gate. This would seem to put greater reverse curl on the film, but I am only guessing at that. An objective measure of film flatness on the two cameras would be interesting. This different film cavity placement makes the Medalist body about 3/8 inch deeper than the Chevron's. These different dimensional differences between the two cameras would have been controlled by the difference in focal length of the lenses, since the Medalist's is an inch longer. The Chevron has a reasonably good film transport system, with an early form of rapid film advance, an improvement over the Medalist's knob-wind, and it shared the Medalist's frame indicator system that is driven by a toothed roller next to the supply spool. Like the Kodak Ektra, the Chevron's rapid film advance is done with the left, not the right thumb, but in the Chevron's case the shutter release is operated with the right forefinger. Both rollers before and following the film gate are well machined, with good bearing surfaces and do a reasonable job of keeping film flat in the film gate. The pressure plate on my Chevron is still flatly sprung after 50 years. The back is fully removable to accommodate the 828 conversion kit, though the Chevron lacks the groundglass back and 6x9 sheet filmholder accessory of the Medalist.

The Chevron followed the Medalist and Ektra design of placing the rangefinder window very close to the viewfinder window, since Kodak still subscribed, at least for larger format cameras, to the idea that a magnified split image rangefinder was superior to a superimposed rangefinder/viewfinder combination, which by definition required the rangefinder and viewfinder images to be of a consistent magnification. The contemporaneous Signet with only a 44mm lens used a superimposed rangefinder/viewfinder.

To the end, Kodak medium format cameras used 620 spools, rather than 120 spools, though the film stock is identical. Like the Tourist, the Chevron could use an adapter kit to allow use of 828 film, though the Chevron's 78mm Ektar was closer to the normal length for this format than the ~100mm Anastigmats and Anastigmat Specials, used on Tourists, which were twice the length of the normal 828 lens. The 828 format was dying in 1953. For reasons that are not clear, the short roll miniature that might have been attractive for amateur photographers who might find 8 exposures preferable to 20, never caught on. In retrospect, the Chevron 828 feature looks like imposing one failure on another failure.

Because of the smaller numbers made relative to the Medalist, the Chevron commands about twice the price on the current used market, though most photographers would choose the Medalist for its image quality and reliability. The Medalist was a tour de force at its introduction in 1941, and because of the state of camera production in Europe and Japan in the postwar years, the Medalist held its own against the competition. By 1953, the warmed over design of the Chevron had little to recommend it against European competition. The Chevron was the last precision rollfilm camera that Kodak marketed and the last it manufactured in the U. S. Tourist II cameras with f /4.5 Anaston and Anastars ceased production in 1953, though Tourist IIs with f /12.5 Kodets and f /6.3 Anastons were in production until 1958.

While I have an operating Chevron, it is one of my least favorite Kodak rollfilm cameras. Apart from my prejudice against the 6x6 format, my most pointed complaint about the Chevron is its circa-1940s dark finder, which for me provides no inspiration during composition. And the Chevron, like the Medalist, has no accessory shoe to hold a supplemental finder. The camera is bulky in addition to being heavy and produces a relatively small negative, particularly if the subject requires a rectangular orientation, which is more likely to be a usable are of 6 x 4.5. While the first three cameras below do not have rangefinders, they produce larger negatives with a lens nearly as good as the Chevron's Ektar and are more compact to carry.

  • Kodak Senior f /4.5 Anastigmatic Special, 2 1/4 x 3 1/4
  • Kodak Monitor f /4.5 Anastigmatic Special, 2 1/4 x 3 1/4
  • Kodak Tourist II f /4.5 Anastar, 2 1/4 x 3 1/4
  • Kodak Chevron f /3.5 Ektar, 2 1/4 x 2 1/4
  • Kodak Medalist II f /3.5 Ektar, 2 1/4 x 3 1/4

1 lb 5 oz
2 lb
2 lb 4 oz
2 lb 12 oz
2 lb, 14 oz

  1948 and 1953 are years that vie for designation as the hinge point of Kodak's Golden Years. Kodak ended production of Ektras and Bantam Specials in 1948 and the Tourist replaced the Monitor, arguably a step downward. However, Wide Field Ektars were introduced in 1948 and between 1946 and 1948, Kodak completed its conversion to coated lenses. By 1953, Kodak had ended production of Tourists with semiprofessional lenses, the Medalist, and the folding Bantam series. Kodak continued to support the precision miniature market with the European-produced Retinas into the 1960s, but the end of the Golden Years came when production of the Chevron ended in 1956, though it could be argued that this could extend to 1958, when the last Signet 35 was produced.    

10/14/2007 4:59