View Full Version : Kodak Commercial B

Mike Chini
10-Jul-2005, 14:07
Hello all-

I have an opportunity to purchase an affordable 8x10 Commercial B (magnesium) and was wondering if anyone has any experience with this camera or any advice regarding purchasing one. As with any 8x10, I'm concerned with the 'refurbishability' of such a model. I also wonder how much use a 65 year old camera can have left in it! The description of it is excellent, however and it seems to be in great shape. I'm definitely very close to saying yes.

Thanks in advance for any advice...


Vick Vickery
10-Jul-2005, 14:27
DON'T SMOKE AROUND IT...MAGNESIUM BURNS LIKE CRAZY AND BURNS VERY HOT!!! But it is very lightweight and will make a good all-metal camera that weighs alot less than a steel or even aluminum counterpart. If its in good shape and at a good price go for it (or give the seller my address)...I doubt that you'll be disapointed. Many of us have some cameras that are still in use after 65 years or even much more! Heck, alot of Graphic press camera is pushing that now.

Donald Qualls
10-Jul-2005, 14:48
Okay, that's just silly. You can't possibly ignite magnesium with a cigarette -- it's hard to do with a match, even when the magnesium is in the form of fine wire or ribbon, and impossible with the coal of a cigarette.

Yes, if your car ever catches fire with the camera inside, it's possible the magnesium camera frame could ignite -- but even then, it's not very likely; magnesium has to be heated white hot to ignite and most car fires don't get that hot (and never mind how much gasoline is burning).

Go enjoy your magnesium camera. Just be careful about impacts -- magnesium is more brittle than either steel or aluminum.

mark blackman
11-Jul-2005, 04:26
you can easily ignite magnesium with a bunsen burner in a thin strip, it's about the only part of school chemistry lessons I remember. Once alight, it's hard to put out as it'll burn without oxygen. As a powder, it will heat and ignite if made damp. I doubt if you could sell a consumer item made of this metal nowadays!

Neal Wydra
11-Jul-2005, 05:17
Do not fear magnesium cameras. VW Bug engines were made from it for years.

mark blackman
11-Jul-2005, 06:14
Are sure, Neal? Or where they made of an alloy containing magnesium? The pure metal would appear to be unsatisfactory as a petrol engine block, although I'm aware magnesium alloy wheels that are sometimes available.

Brian Ellis
11-Jul-2005, 06:37
I owned one of these briefly (it was in bad condition and I returned it to the seller) and presently own the 2D, which is basically the same camera in wood. I think the Commercial is a very nice camera for general landscape, portrait, or other work that doesn't require extensive movements. I definitely would have kept mine except for its bad condition and I've liked the 2D in the limited time I've owned it.

Apart from overall condition which obviously is critical, you should check on the accessories that come with it. Kodak made three accessories, a sliding tripod block, a rear base extension board, and a front tilt mechanism. For me the extension board was critical because I like to use longer lenses. Without it the bellows only extends to something like 17 inches, with it the bellows extends to about 28-30 inches. Without the extension you can't use normal lenses longer than roughly 350 mm. But if you can live with that approximate limit then you wouldn't need the extension board.

The sliding tripod block isn't a necessity, you can get by without it, but it's nice to have. Without it the camera is very front-heavy when mounted on a tripod. For the type work the camera is best suited for I don't think the front tilt accessory is a necessity (a good thing because I don't think I've ever seen one for sale). The camera does have limited back tilt.

As long as you recognize that the type of work you can do will be somewhat limited I'd recommend the camera. They are well built, reasonably light for an 8x10 camera, the movements are geared and precise, if it's in good condition everything should operate smoothly, and the price is typically low for a metal 8x10 camera ($250-$500 range depending on accessories and condition). At that price range and especially with the extension and tripod block I think they're a very good value for an 8x10 camera.

Kerry Thalman wrote an excellent article about these cameras in View Camera magazine. Sorry I don't have the issue date but it was within the last couple years and would be well worth reading if you haven't already seen it and have access to back issues of the magazine..

Ernest Purdum
11-Jul-2005, 07:44
This reminds me of an incident in Los Angeles. I was listening to the car radio when it told me that a magnesium bar had dropped out of a truck and a major freeway was shut down. I contemplated finding a phone and telling the Highway Patrol to go pick it up, but decided somebody else soon would. The freeway was shut down for about six hours until a contractor was found to dispose of it.

I am very aware of the spectacular flammability of magnesium. I used to use Kodak's flash sheets, a sintered magnesium product. I also was in the room when a student spent several minutes grinding away on a bar of magnesium. Nothing happened. Another boy touched a drill point to the grinding wheel and lit off the dust. The result was perhaps 1/2000 sec. at f16. The second boy wasn't burned, but he certainly was surprised.

Besides VW bug parts, many other items for which weight is important have been made of magnesium (alloys). In aircraft, of course, magnesium's light weight has often been employed. It would be used more were it not for other characteristics having nothing to do with flammability. In powder or an extremely thin form, it has to be handled with due regard for its flammability. In other shapes it is no hazard at all.

Brian C. Miller
11-Jul-2005, 08:28
And now for something completely different:

Vick is absolutely right, you can't use this camera to do things like Adams' Black Sun. The intense heat on the negative will cause the whole camera to explode! Fact is, Steve Jobs' company, Next Computers, went out of business because of all the lawsuits stemming from the magnesium cases catching on fire during intense CAD and image processing operations. The whole computer would burn right through the floor!


While I was in the Army I had a personal experience with magnesium. The poles used to hold up the cammoflage were made from magnesium. Well, I was assigned to burn barrel duty. You can tell where this is going, can't you? :-) After four or five loads, I noticed flame coming out of the end of the hollow pole I was using to stir the fire. Yes, the pole caught on fire, but only the six-inch tip burned off. And no matter how hard I tried after that, I couldn't get the rest of the pole to burn.

Don Sparks
11-Jul-2005, 08:48
We have used magnsium thermal dies in our company for years. There is no fire hazard with magnesium in solid form....Just be careful with the powder or shavings if you cut it with a saw, they could possibly ignite under the right conditions. We have to saw our dies sometimes and have never had a problem.