The Kodak Super Six-20 is accepted as being the first camera with automatic exposure, introduced by Kodak in 1938.


Exposure was controlled by a mechanical linkage from a selenium light meter to the aperture control. Pressing the shutter release first locked the meter needle, and moved a lever controlling the aperture up to the needle, before firing the shutter. Adjusting the speed control moved a cover over more or less of the photocell[1]. The film was advanced by a lever which also opened the red window cover and cocked the shutter, which "guards against double-exposures and blanks"[2].

The folding clam-shell design was by Joseph Mihalyi and styled by Walter Dorwin Teague. This incorporated crank winding and a coupled rangefinder[3].

The Super Six-20 was not a great success due to its enormously high price - $225 USD[4] (app. $3,200 USD in 2007), much more than a contemporary Leica - and a reputation for unreliability. Kodak employees had nicknamed it "the boomerang" for its regular returns for service[3]. It was withdrawn in 1944; production estimates vary between 714 and 725 being made; 719 is the most common guess.


  • Manufacturer: Kodak
  • Country of Origin: USA
  • Introduced: August 1938[3]
  • Withdrawn: August 1944
  • Lens: Kodak Anastigmat Special 100mm f/3.5, focus 4ft-infinity
  • Shutter: Compur, 8 speeds up to 1/200; shutter priority auto from 1/25-1/200, slower speeds available manually
  • Film: 620, frame size 2¼ x 3¼ inches, 6x9cm


  1. Coe, Brian, Cameras, from Daguerreotypes to Instant Pictures, p223, Nordbok, 1978
  2. 1938 Kodak ad
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Coe, Brian, Kodak Cameras, the First Hundred Years, Hove Foto Books, 1988
  4. Kodak's History of Kodak Cameras



A auto-exposure patent pre-dates the release of this camera; US Patent 2,058,562 was granted in 1935 to Gustav Bucky and Albert Einstein! This covers a different, possibly impractical system using neutral-density filters to control light. The Super Six-20 remains the first auto-exposure camera to go on sale.

In spite of the commercial failure of the Super Six-20, the "trap-needle" (Electric-Eye, "EE") system of auto-exposure eventually became popular from the late 1950s, until it was replaced by electronic systems in the 1970s.