Camera in a Radio

Front view of the radio. The dial on the right is a lens cap …

Was this meant to be a cool means to take candid pictures, or just handy when entertaining during the swinging sixties?

Way back in 1996, when Jim Matthew was a member of the Brownie Group, he read an article in the group’s magazine. A member of the group was trying to identify a simple camera he had acquired which carried no makers name or model data. From the inside of the camera he believed it to be a Kodak, possibly a Brownie. Eventually another member suggested it might be an Instamatic from a radio but provided no details of the model or maker.

About three years later whilst searching for cameras at a big collectors/dealers fair in Bievres France, Jim chanced on a stall selling a load of low end equipment. This was perfect hunting ground and rummaging in the pile he came upon this example and snapped it up very, very cheaply.

The back of the radio – with the camera back opened …

Later he managed to learn the item was a General Electric G822 with a built in Instamatic 100 camera, which had a 43mm meniscus f/11 lens and a mechanical curtain shutter that operated at two speeds, 1/90s for snapshots under sufficient outdoor light conditions and 1/40s for shots with flash that was automatically activated when lifting a compartment for disposable bulbs of the AG-1 type. It included storage space for 4 bulbs.

Made in 1964 by General Electric London, the unit received Medium and Long Wave stations and especially Radio Luxemburg. Made of plastic it has a socket for car aerials and ran on 9 volt batteries. Using film in a 126 format chassis, it generates 28mm x 28mm photographs. The original retail price was 17 Pounds 3 shillings and 6 pence. That was quite pricey in those days. That would be around £350 in today’s money! Maybe a little too costly or perhaps too far ahead of its time, the model was not a great commercial success and was discontinued in 1966.

(Author – Julian Jackson)

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