I have frequently seen little box cameras in vintage stores in the past and brushed them off as more ornamental dust collectors than cameras. Their unique shape, size and overall look was interesting but I could not fathom how a decent photo could be taken through their rust rimmed lenses. On top of the general state of decay on the ones I had seen, they usually used Kodak’s old proprietary 620 film.
At some point, I either read or heard on a podcast about rerolling 120 film onto 620 spools. A quick search pulled up plenty of YouTube videos on respooling and watching one of these videos got my brain thinking back to the Brownie cameras.
I picked up a Kodak 620 Box Brownie C camera for USD 14 and four 620 spools for USD 7 from EBay. This camera was manufactured somewhere between 1946 and 1953. The camera looked to be in good condition with a clear lens, mirrors and intact red window in the rear. I was surprised at the simplicity of the camera. It’s a small metal box, 2 mirrors, a lens and a spring. There’s not a lot that can go wrong in the box.
There are no adjustments, it’s a true point & shoot camera. This version of the Box Brownie only has one aperture at approximately f/11, shutter speed somewhere around 1/50th, no ISO adjustment and no focus.
I respooled a roll of Fomopan 400 onto the 620 rolls inside of my dark change bag and then loaded the camera.
Shooting the Brownie was more fun than expected. It fits easily into the hand and the vertical and horizontal viewfinders are quirky but easy to see through and compose photos. A roll of film will get you eight 6×9 images. From my eight photos here are the best five. I was surprised at the clarity of the old lens. The camera needs about 2.5 to 3 meters for good focus and you’ll have no idea if it is in focus by looking through the small mirrored viewfinders.
Although a few of the images were out of focus and I accidentally double-exposed one frame, they came out better than expected and I really enjoyed shooting with the Kodak Six-20 ‘Brownie’ C. I think I’m going to respool a few more rolls.
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