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  Irwin Corporation History

The Irwin Corporation was based in New York, New york. They produced a style of 127 roll film cameras shaped similar to a sardine can. When talking about the history of the Irwin Corporation, it is sometimes difficult distinguishing fiction from fact. Legend has it that an American sailor and amateur photographer named Irwin created a camera out of a sardine can during a brief layover in Douarnenez, France, in 1934. After his discharge, Mr. Irwin supposedly moved to Chicago, where he teamed with local gangsters to illegally transport sardines from France to the United States to manufacture his Kandor cameras. An entertaining story to be sure, but it is likely nothing more than that.

What is known is that a company by the name of Irwin Corporation began manufacturing 127 roll film metal cameras that resembled sardine tins, economically priced at $2.98. But its headquarters were in New York, not Chicago, at 27 W. 20th Street. Its product lines included TLRs (Irwin Reflex, Dual Reflex, and Super Tri-Reflex), and its unique "sardine" cameras that included Kandor (Kandor, Kandor Jr., Kandor Candid, Kandor Deluxe Candid, Kandor Komet), Lark, and the Sunbeam Minicam.

After World War II, Irwin manufactured a line of 16mm movie cameras known as the Imperial, a black metal camera equipped with a 1:4,5 1 inch lens and fitted with front knobs to adjust lighting. At a cost of $11, Irwin found a large postwar market of families eager to preserve vacations onto celluloid. However, users complained that the 16mm film would frequently get stuck in the metal magazine, which required opening the camera, removing the magazine, and forcibly nudging the film movement with a toothpick. But, as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. During this period and into the 50's the company also produced and marketed children's toys to some success.

Photo Courtesy of Guy Lordat - © All Rights Reserved

Irwin Corporation later became part of Superior Products Mfg. Corp. in Lynn, Massachusetts that sold an Irwin line for $112.50. At some point, the firm moved to Minnesota, and ceased operations several years ago, However, the Irwin 'sardine' tradition lives on through the Lomography-distributed La Sardina, a 35mm camera that does not contain sardines, but does include several user-friendly features for the amateur. La Sardina, which currently comes in many fashionable designs, has a wide-angle lens, rewind dial and a switch for multiple exposures. The two settings increases the ease of focus, and its bulb can be set to achieve long and nighttime exposures. There is also the optional “Fritz the Blitz” flash attachment. While the Irwin Corporation may no longer exist, the vintage sardine camera it created remains alive and well.

CLICK HERE for a list and detailed information on Irwin Cameras.

2014 An Online Vault of the Most Awesome Cameras Ever Made (URL:

2009 California Here We Come by Clifton J. Noble Sr. (New York: iUniverse, Inc.), p. 8.

2014 Irwin Kandor Jr (URL:

2017 The Irwin Corporation, New York, USA (URL:

2000 Home Movies: A History of American Industry, 1897-1979 by Alan Kattelle (Nashua, NH: Transition Pub), p. 386.

2017 The New La Sardina Dresses for Your La Sardina Camera & Flash DIY Edition (URL:

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2018-01-15 11:20:20

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