Kodak Six-20 'Brownie' C
5 frames with...

5 Frames with a Kodak Six-20 ‘Brownie’ C – By Dale Rogers

June 10, 2020

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. 

Thanks,

Dale Rogers

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15 Comments

  • Reply
    Rock
    June 10, 2020 at 11:22 am

    Very nice. This is my kind of photography. I use folders from this age, but definitely on the look for a box at some point. It’s amazing how many times accidental double frames tend to work! Was it easy to respool in the changing bag or hard work?

    • Reply
      Dale Rogers
      June 10, 2020 at 2:14 pm

      Thank you very much. Respooling the 120 was very easy. I watched a YouTube video from the Film Photography Project that explained the process very well. Cheers!

  • Reply
    Abe Fettig
    June 10, 2020 at 2:06 pm

    Love those photos with the stairs! Beautiful work.

  • Reply
    Kate Johnson
    June 10, 2020 at 4:42 pm

    Beautiful! And these older cameras can be surprising. I’ve been captured by Pre-1940 Folding Cameras. If well cared for these cameras can be great!

  • Reply
    Scott Gitlin
    June 10, 2020 at 6:18 pm

    They are challenging to use – some versions have more features. They are available in 120 format which saves respooling time. Most have the 2 shutter settings N and Bulb. For some, the shutter lever returns to its “start” position. In others, like the “Brownie No. 2 Hawkeye Model B” and the “Brownie No. 2 F,” the shutter lever remains in its last position. So pressing the shutter down takes a picture, lifting the shutter up takes the next picture. Some, like the Brownie No. 2 F have multiple aperture settings. On the 2 cameras I mentioned, the viewfinders are ridiculously small and the best you can do is manage to get the boundaries inside your frame. Some better box cameras even included focusing and a slide in filter.

  • Reply
    tbm3fan
    June 10, 2020 at 6:54 pm

    Double exposures and 120/620 film seem to go together whether a box or a folder. You take a picture, move on or momentarily loose your train of thought, then wonder did I roll on or not. Now you will either waste a frame or get a double exposure. A true conundrum. I like to use my Kodak Brownie No.2 which uses 120 film and has three apertures for more film choices. By the way I still make a double exposure now and then so even knowing better doesn’t save me. https://www.brownie-camera.com/53.shtml

  • Reply
    Michael D Fraley
    June 10, 2020 at 8:09 pm

    I just recently cleaned a 1930’s Six-20 that my Dad had and put it back into action with the same kind of film, re-spooled. My photos weren’t as contrast-y as yours, but I was very happy with them. Mine has one aperture adjustment lever (F/11 to F/16) and I used the bulb setting during the testing stage. Otherwise, it sounds like my own magic box. I’m thinking of making a tripod mount for it, attached with elastic bands.

    • Reply
      Dale Rogers
      June 11, 2020 at 12:45 pm

      Hi Michael, I did punch my contrast in Lightroom a little. Good luck on the tripod attachment!

  • Reply
    John M
    June 10, 2020 at 11:37 pm

    What a great post! You need a lot of gear to have fun with photography. A simple vintage box camera will do the job.

  • Reply
    Dave Mockford
    June 12, 2020 at 12:57 pm

    I have a Brownie 620 but I’ve found that if you trim the edges of the 120 spool with sharp scissors and use a 620 spool as a take up there is no need to respool 120 film.

  • Reply
    Roger B
    June 12, 2020 at 4:35 pm

    Welcome to the wonderful world of box cameras, as you said the original point & shoots. I cut my photographic teeth, at about age 10, on a Brownie Hawkeye .. that was in the late 1950s. If you search for European box cameras you avoid the 620 film problem, as 120 was the Euro standard. I can recommend the Agfa Synchro Box and the Gevabox 6×9, and (for a few dollars more) the fantastic Zeiss Box Tengor series. All are available on That Auction Site. Enjoy!

  • Reply
    David Dutchison
    June 14, 2020 at 9:24 pm

    5 frames with a Leica this – 5 frames with a Leica that – 5 frames with a box Brownie, now that is interesting. So rare these days to find a camera which imposes itself on the photographer to this extent, and there’s not much to think about outside of the image. Good story and good shots.

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