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Remember vintage flashcubes? Here’s how these old-school camera add-ons worked

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Old-school tech flash cubes for vintage cameras

Flash cubes: The new flash bulb has four sides

Austin American Stateman (Austin, Texas) July 23, 1968

Sylvania Electric and the Eastman Kodak Company have joined forces to bring about a minor revolution in flash photography. Sylvania has perfected a new four-sided flash bulb and Kodak has modified eight of its cameras to accommodate it.

The new bulb, called a flash cube, offers the camera user some of the advantages of electronic flash without the usual heavy cash outlay. For sequence shots, you can squeeze off four flash shots in five seconds — or just as fast as you can depress the shutter release. Since the flashcube advances automatically, there is no need to wait between shots. This is faster than with many electronic units which need a delay for recycling between shots.

Four flash shots in five seconds is mighty fast. In addition to this, four shots should prove adequate for most sequence situations. If not, a second flashcube can be inserted with very little time lag and then you are set for another four flash shots.

According to Sylvania, a flashcube can be popped in and out of its socket more easily than a conventional flashbulb, and the electrical contact is said to be better. Another obvious advantage of the flashcube is the need to carry fewer bulbs. Three of the little four-sided cubes will take care of a 12-exposure roll of film.

Kodak adapted six of its popular Instamatic cameras and two 35mm models for the new flashcubes. The cameras range from simple aim-and-shoot models to fully automatic rangefinder cameras.

1968 Kodak Instamatic camera with flash cube

On top of each camera modified to accept the flash cubes is a round socket that accepts the flashcube base. After each exposure the socket rotates either automatically or as the film is advanced, turning the flashcube into position for the next picture.

After four flash exposures, the used flashcube is ejected by depressing a release button and the camera is ready for the next flashcube to be inserted.

Two miniature batteries provide the power for the flashcubes and positive electrical connection is said to be ensured by a self-cleaning action on the flashcube contacts.

The Instamatic cameras use Kodapak Cartridges in the 126 size. The cartridge, as in other Instamatic cameras, simply is dropped into the camera and the camera back closed. The cartridges are designed so that it is impossible to load them incorrectly.

After the last exposure, drop the cartridge out of the camera and insert a new one. Press the flashcube ejection button, insert a new flashcube, and you’re back in business.

The flashcubes can be used indoors and outdoors, when needed for fill-in light, with all daylight-balanced color films and black and white. No flash is required in normal daylight situations.


Now you can take four flash pictures without changing bulbs!

Sep 17, 1965 Kodak Instamatic - Vintage flashcubes from Birthday cake


Vintage flashcubes from 1965: Newest Kodak Instamatic Cameras let you…

Drop in the film… pop on a flashcube… flash, flash, flash, flash! …and never even touch a flash bulb!

The big news in Kodak INSTAMATIC Cameras is… flashcube. This ingenious invention is a jewel-like cube that comes with four full-power flashbulbs sealed inside.

Pop a flashcube onto one of the newest KODAK INSTAMATIC Cameras and you’re ready to take four flash pictures without changing bulbs! From this moment on — no more fussing with ordinary one-shot bulbs. Now you’re always ready for the next shot. Now you’ll get the fleeting expressions that were easy to miss before.

Flash right over to your Kodak dealer and see the newest KODAK INSTAMATIC Cameras with flashcube!

Sep 17, 1965 - Vintage flashcubes and retro cameras - Kodak


 

Vintage flashcubes: Now take 4 pictures without changing bulbs – Sylvania Blue Dot Flashcube, a revolution in flash picture taking (1965)

Flashcube photography is here! Now flash picture-taking is more convenient, more fun than ever before — with the new Sylvania Blue Dot Flashcube.

Sealed inside each new Sylvania Blue Dot Flashcube are 4 full-power flashbulbs and 4 tiny reflectors.

Vintage flash cubes from 1970

Kodak has designed a whole new line of easy-to-use Instamatic cameras to accept these Flashcubes. All you do is pop on a Sylvania Blue Dot Flashcube, and shoot.

You can take 4 flash pictures with one Cube. After a picture is taken, the Cube is automatically rotated to the next bulb. Instantly. This lets you take all 4 in as little as 5 seconds to get picture sequences that used to get away.

And when you’ve used up a Flashcube, it pops out of your new Kodak Instamatic camera barely warm to the touch, What a convenience not to fumble around changing bulbs when good pictures are happening. With the Sylvania Blue Dot Flashcube, you’re always ready for the next shot. In black and white, or color.

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When we say “a revolution in flash picture-taking,” we mean it. A revolution in simplicity. A revolution in convenience. A revolution that lets you get those priceless pictures that used to get away.

Remember, only Sylvania makes the Blue Dot Flash-Cube. Ask about Flashcube photography at your nearby photo counter today.

LIFE Oct 15, 1965 Flash cubes - tech cameras


Only the newest Kodak Instamatic Cameras take four flash pictures with one flashcube!

Sep 17, 1965 Flash cubes cameras - Kodak Instamatic

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Vintage flashcubes: Flashbulbs that fire themselves

Popular Mechanics Aug 1970 - How vintage flashcubes work

MAGICUBE: Flash That Works Without Batteries

With this lamp that fires like a cartridge, you can cut your share of the 100 million photos lost to flash failure every year

By James Holt

You won’t have the usual excuse for missing the great flash shot you almost had if you use this new, mechanically fired, four-shot flashcube.

Sylvania, its developer, claims a fantastic 99.7 percent reliability, for there are no batteries to run down or corrode and no electrical contacts to get dirty. Eastman Kodak has designed a new series of Instamatic X cameras to accept the Magicube.

Here’s how it works. Each lamp in the four-flash Magicube is ignited by its own torsion-spring system mounted on the base of the cube. This new design is one of the keys to Magicube’s trouble-free performance.

One side of the torsion spring at the base of the lamp is formed into a latch, which drops over the viewfinder to warn you of bad bulbs. The other side of the spring is a striker. When cocked, the striker is held by the latch.

Because all of the operating forces are within the spring, the energy needed to produce your flash will not noticeably be reduced with age.

The substance that ignites the flash is similar to that used on the ends of the lead wires in an electrically fired lamp.

Located in a metal tube that is hermetically sealed to the lamp, it is fired when the torsion spring strikes the metal tube (like the powder in a cartridge when struck by the firing pin). In turn, it ignites the flash-producing zirconium in the flash lamp.


How vintage flashcubes work: Diagram

Vintage flashcubes from Popular Science Sep 1970 Magicube flash cube

When a Magicube is inserted in the camera (1), a probe automatically extends into the cube (2) and feels for the torsion spring (3). If it is there, a fresh lamp is ready for shooting. If it is not, this warning drops into the viewfinder: “Stop — Bad Bulb.”

As the shutter release is depressed (4), the cocking lever releases (5) and drives the probe up to trip the flash-lamp spring (6). The spring impacts the metal tube, igniting the substance which, in turn, fires the zirconium. With the spring gone, the warning signal drops into sight in the viewfinder (7).

As you advance film for the next picture (8), the cube rotates clockwise one step (9). Simultaneously, the probe reaches up into the cube to sense whether the lamp now in position is new or used. Winding the film also cocks the shutter and resets the cocking lever (10).

Slightly larger than Sylvania’s Flashcube, Magicube’s light output is the same, but gives you a more uniform edge-to-edge picture exposure.

Vintage flashcubes from 1965 - Kodak photos

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“When you decide to shoot wild Indians, you can’t afford to miss” (vintage ad for flash cubes from 1966)

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1966 ad for GE photo flash cubes - Shoot wild Indians

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