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 120mm 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.