I have devised a categorization of cameras, based on their price and possibilities, which also tells us something about the users of these cameras.
After analysing as much old Kodak advertisements as I could find, I discovered that most sales arguments had to do with 1. price and / or quality of finish, or 2. technical possibilities or ease of use.
To my surprise sometimes these arguments were combined in an unexpected way: cheap cameras with lots of technical refinements or expensive cameras that were very simple to use. Trying to understand all this, I finally came up with a matrix which has 'price' on one axis and 'technique' on the other axis.
The scale of the 'price' axis goes from cheap to expensive and the scale of the 'technique' axis goes from 'easy to use' to 'lots of technical possibilities'. To keep things simple I only use four squares, each one being a combination of the two axes. So all the combinations are:
1: cheap and easy to use.
2: expensive and easy to use.
3: cheap and with lots of technical possibilities.
4: expensive with lots of technical possibilities.
top left: No. 2 Falcon Kodak
top right: No. 4 Kodak
bottom left: No. 5 Folding Kodet
bottom right: No. 6 Folding Kodak Improved
Most cameras fit quite well into one of these squares, but of course my categorization is only a simple model to explain a more complex reality. Certainly there are cameras that don't fit snuggly into one of the cells, but until now the categorization did help me to understand why certain cameras exist at all and for what kind of user they were intended.
Speaking of users: each of the four squares corresponds with a type of user. These are:
1: lower income (or not inclined to spend much on a camera) and merely interested in taking snapshots.
2: higher income and just interested in taking snaps.
3: lower income and willing to master technical aspects of photography.
4: higher income and willing to master technical aspects of photography.
A nice example of category 3 is Montana amateur photographer Evelyn Cameron, who used a No. 5 Folding Kodet to photograph pioneer life in Montana around 1900. She could not afford a more expensive instrument but also wanted to produce high quality photographs. She sometimes climbed steep rocks to take closeup pictures of birds nest, not sparing herself nor her camera. The resulting pictures are beautiful, but the not so robust No. 5 Folding Kodet was worn to rags in ten years time.