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.
I have been working a lot the past few weeks, preparing for the lack of funds over the winter break. That combined with the rain and the short days does not make for many opportunities to use cameras like this one. I liked the look of this camera from the start. As a bonus it was easy to take apart and clean. Just undo the screw at the front and the mirrors are accessible.
For me, the best thing about this camera was the “Made in England” proudly displayed on the front. Searching for information on the camera proved a little fruitless, there isn’t much. I found nothing but photos of this version, with very little test attached. A very similar camera has more written about it, stating it was on sale around 1955. The company has a bit more information to be found. This site says it was based in Birmingham and originally called Standard Cameras Ltd, they also made Coronet cameras. Any other information you need has to be garnered by looking at the photos.
* There is a closeup and distance setting on the lens barrel. * There is a green filter option, accessed with a slider on the side, to be used with foliage to make the shades more natural and dark green leaves lighter. * There are two large, bright viewfinders for portrait or landscape shots. * There is no tripod mount or cable release which is unfortunate as the shutter speed is probably around 1/40th-1/50th * The aperture is set, probably to f11 * There is a bulb setting, again there is no tripod or cable release to make using this function more effective. * The camera accepts 120 or 620 film. I used 120 but I found the film hard to advance so I think the 620 roll would be a better fit. * The film is placed in the camera opposite to regular box cameras. You insert on the bottom and transfer to the top. * There are two hooks to keep the camera closed. On my version they would slip off and leave the camera prone to opening slightly. It would be better to tape those down while using it.
I can’t think of anything else. So here are my test shots taken around Victoria Tower, Huddersfield. I went to this location as it was a lovely but cold sunny day, and we haven’t had a lot of those recently. This place would be a bit tricky to get to on a bad winter’s day as it is really exposed.
When I developed the film I was excited to see the results. On the negative, the images looked clear, sharp and contrasty. But on scanning, you can see a few soft spots on them. The focusing drifts throughout the shots. The last one was a timed shot taken inside of my father reading as the rain came back. I held the camera on a sturdy book for about 30 seconds, with the near setting activated, though I don’t think a tripod would have helped with the softness of the focus.
Though I do still like the look of the camera, I doubt I will use it again. The images are too soft and the winder was too stiff.
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.
This is my favourite Brownie so far. It was produced from 1958-1960 so had a very small production run compared to the others. Just look at it…
This brownie has so many things going for it that distinguish it from the other Brownies I have tried.
It is very easy to clean the viewfinders and mirrors, just pop off the front.
The said viewfinders are nice and big, and once cleaned, very bright.
It has a choice of three speeds which are stated on the camera, no guessing. The choices are 1/40th 1/80th and B. With a set f11 aperture.
The 1/80th speed is quicker than most Brownies which are usually around 1/50th.
There is a built in close-up lens for subjects 5-10ft away.
There is a built in filter for brighter days or faster films.
Both of those filters are labeled on the pull out tabs.
There is a guide to settings on the camera. Though it is for Kodak film from the time. It is useful to know Tri-X is rated 200 ISO, Veri-Pan is 125 ISO and Pan X 32 ISO.
The skin is good quality and can be glued back in place unlike the paper-ish covered versions.
You can take multiple exposures.
There is a flash slot if you happen to have a flash and bulbs.
It is Brown, it really is a ‘Brownie’ hence the ’emphatic’ use of quotation marks.
It uses 620 film so I respooled a roll of Fomapan. Which I have to say is turning all my chemicals bright blue, I wonder if the dye affects the potency of the developer etc. Anyway, I took the camera to my local town when I went to find a pair of wellies. There has been a lot of rain lately, lots of places in Yorkshire are flooded. So I thought wellies might be useful. Unfortunately, there was only one shop selling them and no wide ones, I have fat calves…due to a motorbike accident honest 😦 All that is beside the point. Here is my test roll.
Dark, contrasty and moody, just as I like them.
I used the close up filter on the lettered flag stones. I am just over five foot tall, so I put the camera on my head and used the closeup filter.
This Brownie is one of the few I have decided to keep from the box of 60+ I gained recently. My decision was based on the fact I could take the front off and clean the lens, mirrors, and viewfinders. That made it very easy to use. Also, this version has a close-up lens built-in. Although, close up, means between 3-7 feet so not really close. The only thing I didn’t like was the lack of a tripod socket. With the long exposures of Brownies, there is always chance of camera shake. I find this especially true in regards to the button press versions. On the plus, there was a flash attachments and I do have the flash, but alas no bulbs.
I put in a roll of respooled Fomapan 100 and went on a short walk to use the 8 shots of 6×9.
I loved using this camera, it was simple and just worked. There is surprisingly very little camera shake and it is sharper than any toy camera I have tried. I like the look of the resulting photos. If you are looking for a brownie, then this one is a reliable choice. As mentioned it is easy to clean and very well built. Of course being about 75 years old makes that all depend on previous owners….oh what it might have seen.
Yesterday I was browsing Facebook Market place and noticed and advert for what looked like 6 box brownies. They were £30, unfortunately I didn’t take a screenshot, but the cameras in the photo were the basic box brownie type. I thought, well that is a bit much for 6 cheapo brownies. But out of interest I decided to read the description instead of just skimming passed it. Holy Moly, this wasn’t for 6 cameras, that photo was a taster. This listing was for over 60 cameras!
I couldn’t resist that so I sent a message and arranged to pick them up the next day, and not a minute too soon. Once I got to the location I found the cameras in a number of boxes in a garage. Later, looking through them I found a few were a bit damp, the bags were on the cusp of starting to get moldy.
I brought them into my house and started going through them. In all there totaled 67 cameras, nearly all different. Of those 3 didn’t seem to be working, but might be fixable and 5 were beyond help and were not worth fixing. Lots of them took 620 film which I have never tried and is not really available, but luckily many had an empty spool inside. So for the spools alone, it was worth the drive.
Once I had made a list and sorted them, I picked out 4 to give a quick clean and to retrieve the spools. One of those had a 120 spool jammed inside which proved to me it wouldn’t really work. Now I have a 620 spool in my hand I can see the diameter is a little smaller than 120 so they turn smoothly. I have previously opened a brownie and cleaned it so I had a tiny bit of experience on that front.
I had no experience respooling 120 film onto 620 spools so I watched this video.
I didn’t roll it onto a 620 then roll it onto another 620. I just unrolled it loose then respooled it onto the 620, it worked fine.
Then I loaded it into one of the cameras I had cleaned.
Not the sexiest choice, but it was now clean and it worked smoothly. I will try it out sometime in the next couple of weeks.
And here is a list of all the cameras in the lot.
Kodak Brownies (I just don’t want to write this loads of times) Six-20 Model C No.2 – 116 Cresta Six-20 Popular Six-20 Junior Portrait No.2 Popular Flash B Flash 20 C (four examples) 127 (three examples) Cresta 3 (Three examples) Six-20 Target Brownies with no other information (Six examples, one with a built in filter, one blue) Six-20 Model D (4 examples) Flash II (Two examples each with a flash attachment, one 4 version, one 5 version) Duaflex Modern No.2 44A Reflex 20 Bullet Starmite Flashmite
Kodak Hawkeyes Cartridge Model B (two examples) No.2 Model C Mod B B Portrait Star
Extra – Kodak Flash holder Model II in box
Coronet Popular twelve (two examples) Twelve 20 Every D-20 Conway Conway Popular Cadet
Other Makes Balda Frontbox Ensign E-29 (two examples, one blue – takes 129 film which is unavailable) Ensign Ful-Vue Ernemann 6×9 Box Brownie Type Camera **this could be the star piece, rarer**
Folding cameras – not working, might be fixable Kershaw Penguin Eight 20 Kodak Folding Brownie Six 20 Balda Baldanette
I definitely will not be film testing all of these. I will choose a few examples to compare and might think about an exhibition in the future. Otherwise they are going to be stuck in boxes and bags for a long time.
And if you got all the way to the end of this list and post…One camera, an unsalvageable Kodak had a 127 film roll inside. It looked in fairly good condition so I tried to develop it. In the end….there was no film, it was just the backing paper. I could use it to respool some 35mm onto it as there are a number of those kind of cameras in the lot.
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.