There is one curious "plastic fantastic" on my shelf: The Kodak Deko Pionier, some guys here named it "the communist Kodak". It was produced in 1950 by VEB Kodak Film Factory, Köpenick Berlin and was offered in black and red. Others say it was produced 1947 in the russian occupied zone. "VEB" means in the communist linguistic usage: " a company owned by the peolpe". "Pionier" is a common name to East German products at this time ( to show the pioneering spirit ), even for tractors and ships. The picture format is ca. 1.6x1.2 inch on Kodak Dekopanfilm 127 ( i`ve never seen one ). It is a very simple bakelite camera with 1:11 lens made for beginners. Maybe there is a Kodak collector, who could shed light on the history of this camera, or the Kodak factory behind the iron curtain.
All I can tell you about the Koepenick-Berlin factory is that in 1927 or 1928 (sources disagree), Kodak acquired Glanzfilm AG, a film manufacturing concern in Koepenick-Berlin. In 1931, when Kodak bought the Nagel Works, the two concerns were merged to form Kodak AG, with the former Glanzfilm plant making film, and the former Nagel plant making the Retina series of cameras. According to Kodak's history site, the Glanzfilm plant was "lost" to the division of Germany in 1945. What was done with that plant during the period after 1945, I can't find any references to, but in 1992, Treuhandanstalt, the German privatization agency, returned the plant to Kodak ownnership. Hope you find out more about the camera itself - it's really an interesting piece!
Post by Just Plain Curt on Nov 17, 2009 20:36:00 GMT -5
One reason you may not find any info on it is that McKeown's lists this as the Pionier DEKO. Circa 1955 for 16 exposures (3x4cm) on 127 film. Made in former Kodak plant in Berlin-Kopenick. Available in blue, red, or black bakelite. Very uncommon outside the former East Germany. Not much info there either but a starting place for research. Great looking little camera, a real bakelite gem. Kurt Tauber www.kameramuseum has a photo of one, Kodakcollector.com has three listed and there is one on eBay Germany listed for 85,00 Euro. Rare and neat little camera.
Your Pionier had me searching back through old jounalistic notebooks because it rang a distant bell.
As usual back then I didn't make a careful note of my sources (very lax of me!) but acording to the notes I have, the Pionier Deko was made from 1947 to about 1950 in what used to be the Kodak film plant in Köpenick-Berlin which Kodak bought from a nearly bankrupt company called Glanzfilm around 1927. In 1931/32 after Kodak bought the former Kamerawerk Dr. August Nagel in Stuttgart the two factories became Kodak AG.
The Köpernick factory was badly damaged during the wartime fighting in Berlin but was rebuilt and became - wait for it - Kodak AG VEB Köpenick-Berlin. VEB stands for Volkseigener Betrieb, or Peoples' Factory, the east-German communist name for nationalisation. A little strange that they kept the Kodak name.
The little Pionier Deko took 16 pictures on 127 size roll film and was an attempt to produce a simple camera for use in schools but it wasn't a success. I don't have a note of how many were made but they were available in either black or red. Once source said there was also a blue version but this is thought to be very rare.
After the Pionier Deko was dropped the factory carried on its main business of film and chemical production and at one time was either taken over or subcontracted to make Orwo's Röntgenfilme or X-ray film.
After the reunification of east and west Germany in 1990 the somewhat notorious Treuhandanstalt organisation started privatising former VEBs and handed the plant back to Kodak AG in Stuttgart in, I think, 1992. I don't know what is produced there now.
Not many Pionier Dekos seem to have survived. What did are quite sought after by German Kodak collectors. Some time ago I saw a black one on German ebay with a starting bid of 80 Euros, which I think is around $120 US. That's an awful lot for a simple plastic camera. I didn't follow it up so I don't know if it sold.
Sorry I can't quote any concrete sources for this info - to the best of my recollection the bulk of it came from chatting one evening with another industrial journalist, a German chap based in Dresden, at one of the exhibitions in Germany I covered in the mid 1970s, so it has to come under the heading of unconfirmed secondary sources. Journalists usually call this "according to normally reliable sources" which looks better in print than "hearsay while chatting in a hotel bar".
Have many thanks for your helpfully comments. I found a "Kodak Taschenbuch" ( Kodak Pocketbook ), 420 pages, published in 1956 by an eastern germany VEB-publishing company. The second chapter is titled: A visit at the filmfactory Köpenick. The stages of production of films and photographic paper, supplemented by some engineering drawings , is described therein. That must have been a large factory: 120.000m2 and over 1.000 employees. In 1956 this factory produced only films and papers, no cameras mentioned. At the midsection of this book i found the "Kodak Deko Pionier", described as the cheapest, most handy and blindingly easy to handle camera of the DDR-production. It takes 16 exposures in picture size 3x4cm ( Kodak Dekopan-F film is recommended ). Cit.: This camera is characterized by economical film usage ( whatever that means ). Here are some pictures, copied from the book, of the "petit eastern block bakelite wonder" and the mysterious films.
There's so much we don't know about how things were actually done in the DDR. Ihagee had its special status that was respected in turn by the third reich, the Soviet occupation forces and the the DDR. On the other hand Zeiss at Jena was a German owned company that was subject to local law, meaning it became a VEB in the DDR. The Kodak works in Berlin were presumably the same, owned by German Kodak, and also became a VEB, and as PeterW describes were transferred back to German Kodak. The Deko leaflet posted by Photax shows that photographers in the DDR had the luxury of Kodak film, but with their own emulsion names like Dekopan U etc.
I found a early black model of the Deko Pionier last week. The box is stamped with 0049, I dont know if this is the serial number, or maybe the date of maufacture. An interesting detail from the packaging: Manufactured by Kodak AG film factory Koepenick under administration. Kodak AG means, that Kodak still was a stock company then ( and not a publicly owned company ). Here are some pics:
So not VEB but in Verwaltung, same as Ihagee. A point to research - possibly also taken over by the Nazi government earlier in the war, like Ihagee was. There is also the anomalous situation where some American owned companies received royalties from German war production. All part of the Verwaltung service.
Mik, the economical film usage you mentioned refers to the 16 exposures instead of the usual eight. A common argument in most places in the 50s and 60s, while roll film was still popular.
The Dufa cameras are obviously inspired by the design of Fritz Kaftanski. The Pyonir is the smaller version of the Dufa FIT. The FIT again looks like the MIOM Photax-models. All the former communist states named many of their products "Pionier, or Pyonier...", even rockets, radios, tractors and so on. Czechoslovakia produced a lot of different bakelite cameras in the 1950`s and 1960`s, some are hard to identify. I have a few of them Here is the Pyonier and the FIT: