Friday, August 6, 2010

Brownie Doing A Heck Of A job

Sorry to bring up a memory of an incompetent former president, but that title fits this post. These images were shot using a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye camera with a reversed lens. The Brownie Hawkeye camera was a popular snapshot camera manufactured in the 1950’s. I had one which I kept in my office at work as a knick knack, but after reading online about reversing the lens, I brought it home to play with over the summer.

Reversing the lens was easy, it just involved removing a couple of screws, flipping the plastic meniscus lens, then reassembling the camera. Doing this restricts the range of focus from about 3-10 feet in front of the camera.

The resulting photos taken with these reversed-lens cameras have a sharp center and increasingly diffuse focus closer to the edge of the image. It’s a really appealing look that works well, depending on the subjects shot.

Unfortunately, shooting with the Brownie Hawkeye camera is kind of a pain in the butt. Brownie Hawkeye cameras were made to hold 620 size film, a Kodak proprietary film format which is no longer manufactured. Luckily, 120 size film, which is still widely manufactured, is basically the same size as 620 film. The main difference is the size of the film spool, which is wider in 120 film. Of course, Kodak knew this, and designed the body of the Brownie Hawkeye camera so that 120 spools barely fit into it, forcing their customers to buy 620 film.

The camera I own had a 620 spool in it, which I use as a take-up spool (A 120 spool will not work for this). With only one 620 spool, however, I have to use use a 120 spool to hold the unexposed film. These spools fit so tightly in the camera that they don’t rotate properly when advancing film. This makes advancing film really difficult. It’s very hard to turn the film advance knob. In two out of the three rolls I’ve shot, the paper film backing ripped while loading the film into the camera, forcing me to open the camera in a film changing bag and repair it with package sealing tape. I also cannot get the camera to advance past 11 shots, leaving a blank frame of film at the end of the roll.

When it works however, the result is interesting shots. They look a little like shots made with a Lensbaby, but have a more organic, handmade feel.

If anyone knows where I can pick up a few 620 size film reels cheaply, let me know.


Anonymous said...

B&H Photo has re-spooled 120 film for this camera.

Tyler Hewitt said...

Thanks! I actually bought a few 620 spools on Ebay and respool my own film to use in this camera.