These three Special Kodak cameras belonged to the top of the line Kodak amateur cameras of the pre World War One years. They have a high quality lens and shutter and are finished with very fine leather and nickeled fittings.
The buyer could choose between several lenses:
Zeiss Kodak Anastigmat f/6.3
Bausch & Lomb Zeiss Tessar Series IIb f/6.3
Cooke Anastigmat Series IIIa f/6.5
UK variations offered a couple of other high quality lenses. There was only one shutter available in the US models: the Bausch & Lomb Compound. UK variations could be had with a Koilos shutter also.
The No. 1A Special Kodak took pictures of 2 1/2 x 4 1/4 inch (6,3 x 10,8 cm) and was available from April 1912 to 1914. With the Zeiss Kodak Anastigmat it cost $ 50 and with the other two lenses it cost $ 63.
The No. 3 Special Kodak took pictures of 3 1/4 x 4 1/4 inch (8,3 x 10,8 cm) and was available from April 1911 to 1914. With the Zeiss Kodak Anastigmat it cost $ 52 and with either of the other two lenses it cost $ 65.
The No. 3A Special Kodak took pictures of 3 1/4 x 5 1/2 inch (8,3 x 14 cm) and was available from April 1910 to 1914. With the Zeiss Kodak Anastigmat it cost $ 65, with the Bauxh & Lomb Zeiss Tessar it cost $ 81 and with the Cooke Anastigmat it cost $ 74.
During 1914 the Autographic feature was introduced on a number of Kodak cameras. This enabled the photographer to make a short note on the film when it was still in the camera. In June 1914 the No. 3A became available with the Autographic feature. The No. 1A and No. 3 followed in September 1914. The No. 1A is the rarest of the Special Kodaks with only about 1600 cameras made. About 5000 were made of the No. 3 and 18,246 of the No. 3A.
The Special Kodaks primarily are roll film cameras, but they could be converted to take glass plates as well as a roll of film. The standard back, as can be seen in the video, was replaced by a combination back. When used with film the leather covered panel stayed in the back, like is shown below. Through the red window one could read the numbers on the back of the film. When used with glass plates, the panel was removed and a ground glass or double glass plate holder could be inserted.
The usual way to focus these cameras was to pull out the lens panel over the rail on the bed until a pointer reached the correct distance indication on a little scale on the bed. But if glass plate holders were used, the scale didn't show the correct settings anymore. So you could flip open the top plate of the scale to reveal a second scale. That one showed the correct settings for glass plates.