The Kodak Medalist was an unusual design for a medium format camera when it was introduced in 1941. Most rollfilm cameras of this vintage were folders, similar to the Kodak Tourist shown in this site. The Medalist, however, was a rigid cast-aluminum body design with a unique double helical lens tube in place of the conventional cloth bellows. This design was stronger, protected internal mechanisms better and was nearly as compact when the lens was retracted. The Medalist was used extensively during WWII by the American services.

Like other Kodaks designed to use 2.5 inch roll film, it was spooled on 620 spools, which had the same film width as 120, but with a smaller spool core and thinner flanges. Film is advanced with a conventional knob, and while there is a red window on the camera back to view the numbers on the backing paper, this is only necessary to index the first frame; then a small knob on the camera's top is set to start the auto frame measuring feature. Winding the film cocks the shutter. Intentional double exposures can be made by cocking the shutter manually again with a lever to the right of the finder window.

The Medalist has an unusually bright finder , for this period with its rear window just above the viewing window for the split image rangefinder. This attempted to combine the best attributes of the magnified rangefinder and the minified viewfinder. Focusing is done by turning the large knurled ring in the middle of the lens tube. While we take this focusing action as intuitive now, it was limited to a few 35mm models then. The Medalist I also had a smaller knurled wheel on the front of the body at the bottom left of the lens that also could be used for focusing. This location was used on the Medalist II for a recessed bayonet synch terminal. The viewfinder is parallax corrected. Film is loaded and advanced to frame 1 using the ruby window to index the backing paper; a film counter on the top of the camera is set to "1"; when the film is advanced, it will automatically lock the winding mechanism at the next frame.

Lacking interchangeable lenses, the Medalist could not be considered a true system camera, but medium format rangefinder cameras with interchangeable lenses were at best rare in 1941. The Medalist was offered with a fair number of accessories. The most unusual feature--the back design--allowed use of rollfilm, sheet film packs and cut sheet holders. The back can be opened from either side or removed completely. An auxiliary ground glass back can be fitted to allow critical focusing and, when this is in place, 6x9 film packs or 6x9 sheet film holders can be used. While this arrangement did not have the flexibility of the Ektra for film interchangability, it did allow for direct focusing when doing closeup work. The Kodak Precision and Flurolite enlargers were designed so that their enlarging heads were removable, presenting a platform and accessories that could be used with the Medalist and other highend Kodak cameras for copy work. We may be inclined to discount such features now, but before thermal and xerographic copying was made readily available in the early 60s, microfilming was an important way of preserving personal and business documents.

The lens on the Medalist is a 5-element coated f/3.5 Ektar of a Heliar design by F. E. Altman that is sharp, even by today's standards. The Ektar for the Medalist I had inner air-glass surfaces coated. The Ektar for the Medalist II was Lumenized, a superior hard single-coating process developed by Kodak that employed magnesium fluoride that reduced inner reflections and increased lens speed when using reversal films. The Medalist I had an unsynchronized Supermatic #2 shutter, replaced in the Medalist II with a Flash Supermatic shutter, with the same speed range. In most other respects, the models were functionally equivalent. Lenses for cheaper Kodak lines were usually purchased from other lens makers, but the Ektars were the result of a corporate program in the 30s to develop new internal research and manufacturing processes that would make cameras like the Ektra and Medalist world leaders. Here is more information about Kodak Ektar lenses, or see offsite links at . The Medalist I was produced from 1941 to 1948; the Medalist II, from 1946 to 1953, when it was replaced by the Chevron, a slightly larger design with a problematic Synchro Rapid shutter and a smaller 6x6 format. Some of the Medalists produced during the war had black anodized lens tubes. I've understood this difference was at least partly because anodized aluminum is not as suceptible as raw aluminum is to saltwater corrosion and Medalists were used extensively in the U. S. Navy. The black lens tube may also have reduced flare in the viewfinder.

Because the design of the 100mm Ektar on the Medalist was so successful and because so many of these were produced, it is not uncommon to find the occassional unmounted Medalist lens/shutter at auction or camera shows. Before you get carried away, as I did, with visions of this lens mounted on your Graphic 23 or a view camera, consider that it is not a typical lens/shutter design for this period. In the linked window , you can see that the shutter/lens assembly is mounted on a large brass ring that fits in the helical focusing tube of the camera. The shutter is cocked by a lever on the back of the camera driving a linkage that rotates the shutter cocking plate on the rear of the shutter. Shutter remounting and building a linkage to cock the shutter, even for mounting on a bellows camera for groundglass focusing, would be a significant project for a skilled photo machinist, since most of the shutter mechanism must be removed. Mounting this lens for use on a camera with a helical mount coupled to a rangefinder would involve shimming the Supermatic shutter for accurate focusing. If you are interested in this lens formula, consider the similar 105mm f /3.7 Ektar . You can also mount the Medalist lens groups in the standard #2 Supermatic or the larger of the Flash Supermatic shutters, but for critical use this mounting should be checked to assure that the front and back groups are accurately spaced on the shutter you are using.

  The Medalist is often described as a large, heavy camera. For storage, the double helical tube retreats into the body, for a total depth of 3.75 inches; fully extended it is 5 inches deep. The comparison below is perhaps a bit unfair, since the Nikon has BTL metering, but by 1965 standards could the Medalist be considered large and heavy? Considering that the Medalist produced a 6x9cm negative, it was compact when compared to 2x3 press cameras, though a different shape is not really larger than 6x9 folders, like the Monitor or Tourist.    

  ##Medalist II

5.5w x 4.4h x 4.8d @ Inf
2 lbs, 14 ounces

image area 5400 sq mm  
  ##Nikon F Photomic
##w/1.4 Nikkor
5.75w x 4.0h x 4.25d @ Inf
2 lbs, 14 ounces
image area 864 sq mm  

Lens data
Owner's Manual
Associated images

04/28/2011 0:49