Now, even though I just posted that my plans for my photolife are changing, I still have a few cameras with films inside. So I will be posting more reviews for now, but they will slowly die off.
One of the reasons for the change is because of cameras like this…I hate this camera. In fact I can honestly say I haven’t tried a coronet I do like. So this will be the last one I put a film in. I do have a few more, but due to my new plans for the future, I will not be wasting film in them.
My dislike of this camera is based purely on the viewfinder. I couldn’t see a bloody thing. It was clean enough, but you have to look through it at a specific angle to see anything. I rarely hit that sweet spot. So my test roll shot results were based purely on luck. I don’t think photography should be down to luck.
The one good thing about this 1950s camera is that it can take 620 or 120 film. That is handy, as I didn’t have to respool the film before loading it. Side loading by the way. To be honest, I also kind of liked the ratchety wind on mechanism. It clicked as you turned the knob, but a clicky knob can’t save it in my eyes.
The days I used the D-20 were dull so there was no need to use the built in filter for bright days. Oh I have to say, the plastic strap was equally annoying. It never quite went straight and was uncomfortable around my neck.
Not my favourite results. The one on the bottom, the field, was supposed to be of a cow, but I couldn’t see it in the viewfinder.
This was my favourite looking Brownie from the job lot I acquired, but it soon became my least favourite one that I have tried so far. Firstly loading it was a little annoying, the back is attached to the front, you have to swing it up and over. Why Kodak, why??
That makes this the earlier version of the UK model of which there were two versions; the earlier (1934-37) had this connection. You can see on the front there are a number of levers to change the aperture and distance. The default distance is landscape and you have to hold the other choices in place. The speed for regular shots is probably about 1/50th, but given the age of the camera, it is not guaranteed. This example only had one issue I could see or not see. The portrait viewfinder was black and I couldn’t use it to frame anything.
As I have now tried a few Brownies without too much trouble, I loaded it up with Fomapan without too much checking for issues. Then I took it to London on a birthday trip with my sister. The very first place we went to was the Rapha shop in Soho. I was holding the camera and the shop assistant spotted it straight away…”Is that, is that a Brownie???” and then we started chatting. I also had a Spiderman camera with me too. I did see a hint of jealously, well, who wouldn’t want a Spiderman camera.
Anyway, to make a long story short, he very nicely posed for a photo. As soon as I got home I developed the film and oh the disappointment.
Actually, the guy did very well as I had the camera on bulb as we were inside. But on the whole the results were disappointing. Lots of fogging. Where was the light coming from? These cameras are usually a solid box?? I turned the lights off and got a torch.
Bloody corners! I looked inside.
There does seem to be rusted areas, nothing too major, but enough to let light in. I tried painting the insides with thick black paint..it didn’t work, I could still see the light coming through. So I figured the camera was knackered anyway and it is mine…Hello old used Marvel comics. This bad camera deserved a bad guy makeover.
And then I tried it again…..
Much better, with just a lens aberration from the sun in one shot. Oh and the scratching 😦 Framing was tricky on portrait shots due to the mirror issues so I decided to try and fix it. It would be good practice.
In the manual it mentions how to take the front off to clean the camera so that is where I started…and then the next disappointment. The damn screws would not come off. I tried soaking them in WD40, nothing would move them.
In then end I drilled them out, just so I could see the inside of the camera. The mirrors are free hanging and the portrait one was flat against the back. I bent it back to a good position, though how it moved flat in the first place I have no idea.
Oh and there weren’t just the screws on the outside, there were three holding the lens/shutter box in place too. They were on the inside of the camera, remember the swinging back. That didn’t help. And then there were two tiny screws on the actual lens mechanism to open that in order to clean the glass. I managed to remove everything and not break anything. Then I started putting it back together. I figured I would glue the front plate on as it hadn’t been removed for 80 years so it probably wouldn’t be removed again. Once all back together I would finish decorating the rest of the camera.
But…next disappointment…the shutter mechanism no longer worked properly. It kept getting stuck on something. I took it apart twice, but it never really worked again once placed inside the brownie box. Well that was fun, not.
So, this was not my favourite Brownie experience. Funnily enough though, if this was my only Brownie I think I would have taken much more care. But when you have so many of something they seem to lose their value. It is something I will have to think about in the future and force myself to take more care.
I was given this 1962 camera by a reader who found it for £5. Apparently it was in a bit of a state with some potential light leaks so he filled the holes with light seal foam.
Actually, I really like the look of this camera, even with the foam around the viewfinder 🙂
As you can see there are choices of aperture at the bottom of the lens. When set to the flash mode the shutter speed is 1/30th and you change the aperture dependent on the distance of the subject. The bulb setting only allows the use of the f5.6 aperture. In auto mode speed is set at 1/70th and the camera chooses the aperture based on the available light. And talking of available light, there is an indicator in the viewfinder. It shows red until the shutter button is pressed and then changes to green if there is enough light. On this example the shutter will fire even if the indicator remains red, the website I referred to said it would not. Without another camera to compare I don’t know if mine is correct or broken. Amazingly I found a pdf manual here. That does not mention a transport lock though it does talk about a shutter indicator next to the rewind button. The camera will fire if the indicator shows red.
The camera feels sturdier than the modern fantastic plastics and even the older toy cameras such as the Fuji Pet. This does not look or act like a toy camera even with the plastic body.
Another difference is the size of the negative, though it takes 120 film the negative produced is 4×4. That means you get 16 shots per roll.
I loaded my example with Fomapan 100 and took it to Hebden Bridge and finished the roll while on a course at Doncaster Racecourse. I was there two days and didn’t see a single horse.
I set the camera to 200asa, but on some shots the red light stayed up so I decided to push develop it to 400asa.
For the most part I set the zone to mountain, except for the wall which I took to try a closer focusing choice. I love the look of these photos. There are only 14 instead of 16 as I didn’t realise it was a 4×4 camera so stopped at 15. I have never used a 4×4 before and thought the number 16 must be wrong. The other missed shot was a where I wound the film on without taking a shot. There is no film stop but neither is there the scope to take double exposures.
I do like the camera, but I decided to send it back to the previous owner. After researching I found it was quite rare and could fetch prices much higher than £5, plus it worked really well. The previous owner should get the chance to benefit from his efforts.
I tried again with the Kodak Brownie No2. I got a fat roll again. But I did get a few unfogged shots. I tried a double exposure and a shot inside on bulb this time.
I used Kosmo Foto 120 this time and I really like the look of the film. For the inside shot I set the camera on a table, closed the aperture to f32 and used a 34 second exposure on bulb. It definitely came out better than my pinhole camera.
Let’s go back in time 100 years, what kind of camera would a regular, everyday person be using? Probably this one, the Box Brownie. This camera was in use around 1901-1935. There were five different models and was the first camera EVER to use 120 film. Mine seems to be model F which is from the very end of the production cycle.
I have found the balcony at the top of my stairs makes a perfect light box for taking photos of cameras. Well I like it anyway, and it was free 🙂
I became interested in trying this camera after reading this great review. When I saw the photos Jim obtained I wanted to try one and kept looking on eBay for a decent example. They really do vary in prices, of course I wanted a very cheap one and eventually I got this. As you can see it is pretty good condition. It was light tight and the lens was clean. The viewfinders were not and I did have trouble framing my images.
There are two pull out tabs on the top. One changes the speed between roughly 1/50th to Bulb. The other tab lets you choose between three apertures f/11, f/22, and f/32. By the way, that link is also a fantastic review. Anyway, I kept both of my tabs pushed down as it was sunny and I was outside. The other choices are for inside or cloudy, which I might experiment with another time with the aid of a tripod as there is mount on the bottom.
I tried to load mine while waiting for my car to go through its MOT. As such I was sat on an uncomfortable chair with no surface spaces. I found it a bit tricky to load as the tension of the roll kept becoming loose. I ended up fogging the first frame. Basically I had the opposite experience to Jim.
I then got bored of waiting for the retest and decided to take a bus to Leeds and get some films developed. I waited for those by watching the Wimbledon women’s final on the Millennium Square big screen. Well, that only took an hour to finish, so back to pick up the photos then back to pick up the car. It was a day of waiting and filling in time. Also during that time I managed to finish the roll of film inside the Brownie. As it takes 6×9 images, you get 8 shots to a roll. So finishing it really didn’t take long. I was worried about camera shake so for a couple of shots I placed the camera on a wall and a bench. But looking at the other images I didn’t need to be worried, they were fine. Next time I won’t bother with that.
So what do photos from a 90ish year old camera look like…
I have no idea why I didn’t turn the camera to landscape view, there is a viewfinder on both sides. Maybe because it was the cleaner of the two viewfinders. Again, I will try landscape next time.
So for next time the list goes 1. Try landscape view 2. Try a different aperture 3. Try a tripod and bulb mode
I would say try colour, but I want to keep costs down and I don’t have any C41 chemicals yet. I think it would be too unpredictable for slide film.
I don’t feel these are the best photos I have ever taken, but there is potential. I may add some more photos later when I have tried it again. BUT what a camera, what a piece of history. I would compare this camera to the Barnack for its contribution to the photographic industry. For the first time a regular person like you and me could take photos out and about without too much hassle.
UPDATE: After reading Jim’s comment about cleaning it. I decided to have a look and it is indeed easy. Basically the front is just held on with two pressure points and can be prised off with a well placed screwdriver. So while watching the Tour de France highlight I did take the front off and used a standard lens cleaner to wipe the lenses and mirrors. In the end I decided to tackle it as the camera has lasted 90 years, it would surely last me giving it a quick clean.
I also gave the front and back of the actual lens a quick, gentle clean by using the bulb mode. The cleaning wipe came out very dirty after touching the mirrors, but was surprisingly clean after the lens. There was clearly 90 years of dust in the viewfinder. I just hope I didn’t scratch the actual lens. I will load it again with film and take some more shots…when the rain stops.
I have already tried this camera, but I gave that away ages ago and found this one for $3. There is a BC version which means black corners indicating more vignette. As you can see from my example photos the original camera already has quite a lot of vignetting.
I was quite excited to try this camera again as every 120 Holga I have tried has had pleasing results. I didn’t really give this one a chance when I first tried it as, but my opinion of fantastic plastics has chanced since then.
As I was going to London for the 100 heroines exhibition, I decided to take some time to try this camera in an area I have not visited before. I did a search for places to see if you have already seen the top tourist spots and Shoreditch came up as a choice. For fun I thought I would try to capture the graffiti around the area with a black and white film. I loaded a Fomapan 100 with the intention of push processing it to 400. I thought it would have a different look to it and show off the vignetting.
I absolutely loved my day in Shoreditch, an area I had not even thought to visit before. Everywhere I looked there was something else to see. Using the Holga was easy and the resulting photos are by far favourite series of photos that I have completed recently. I have already put another film in the camera, a colour one this time. Where shall I take it?
I got this Fujipet really cheap as the back lens of the viewfinder was loose and rattling around in the funky bullet looking thing on top. Once I got it back to my house I undid the two screws holding the viewfinder on, but it took me a lot longer to get the metal ring off. I must have yanked it for a good ten minutes, but I didn’t give up. Finally, with the ring removed the front glass popped off. To reattach the back lens I used a strip of a post-it as I wanted a glue that was not strong, but strong enough. I attached the strip to the tiny piece of glass and put superglue on the viewfinder part where it should fit. It worked like a dream, the lens stayed in place and the post-it strip released easily….and then the problems started.
Have you ever seen CSI, where they use superglue to reveal fingerprints? I have, but I conveniently forgot. I put the viewfinder together again almost immediately. Have you also read that Japan is having an unprecedented heatwave right now? Combine a small enclosed space, heat, superglue and what do you have…cyanoacrylate. I slowly watched the viewfinder glass I had just reattached get covered in a white film. Then stupidly I decided to see if I could still see through it…up goes the camera to my eye…and holy crap!!!! Lesson quickly learned. My eye started to sting and burn. And then my brain switched on and I rinsed my eye. Once pain-free I quickly removed the pieces of the viewfinder and chose another glue. This glue was much thicker and harder to handle. I made a complete mess of it, especially as I decided to put glue on the front glass too. The front didn’t need glue, the metal ring holding it in place. Durh. I could take the front off and clean it, but I was done with the whole thing. At the end of the day, the actual camera lens was clear and the viewfinder was clear enough to see through.
So here is the camera, with a crappy front viewfinder.
This version was known as the Thunderbird in Japan. According to this site, I have the 1959 red version. I have seen a few of these around. I didn’t think they were so rare, but apparently, they are. This site has lots of technical details and instructions on how to use it. Though it is pretty straightforward, select an aperture, press 1 to cock the shutter, then press 2 to release the shutter. You can wind on if you like or take multiple exposures.
Like the other Fujipet I have, it worked really well. It doesn’t have all the attachments of a Diana F+, but it has its own charm. I tried another film a bit later, a very expired Svema. Only a few came out, but it was fun to use.
Keep or sell: I want to keep it, but due to the current situation and “taking time out” my collection is being decimated. I sold this one too.
I just this minute applied for and learnt how to link products for Amazon on my site. As my stats show I have more viewers in America than anywhere else, I have linked both the Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk sites.
So, on the “Stuff” page you can find links to 35mm and 120mm film searches on Amazon…like these.
If you want to buy some film, then buy it through these Amazon links and I will get a little money too. It’s a win-win (mainly for me) 🙂