Kodak No. 2 Folding Autographic Brownie

I have gained a number of old cameras from various sources, so I thought I’d write a short series of posts, each highlighting them, and maybe I will be able to inspire others to do the same.

I’m going to get this series rolling with a Kodak No. 2 Folding Autographic Brownie. It was broken…the shutter didn’t work, so I actually took it apart to see what the problem was (see image below of the shutter release mechanism). It turned out that it was an easy issue to fix; when raising the trigger to make ready to open the shutter, the little catch behind it was not quite travelling far enough to hook onto the springloading mechanism, so with a few tweaks I’ve now fixed it. The next job is to obtain a spool for the exposed film to wind onto (anyone got something kicking around please let me know!), with this complete, I will be able to take some pictures with it, as I have some Ilford HP5 120 film ready to roll.

This camera is quite an impressive camera for its time, as the Brownie was the first that really attempted to bring photography to the masses. The No.2 type Autographic version was produced between 1915 and 1926, and in this time, more than 500,000 were made of this model alone. I believe my model is a later one, made between 1924 and 1926. It takes a roll of film (type A-120), wound manually while using a viewing window so that you can identify numbers printed on it for correct positioning. The camera has aperture control, four settings ranging between f8 and f64, and four shutter speed settings; B, T 1/25 sec and 1/50 sec. The camera has sliding focus settings with preset positions to adjust focus to near or far objects by running the lens and bellows down the rails.

There is a small leakage of light in some parts of the bellows, but the few holes are tiny. They may create some interesting effects similar to some of the toy cameras from across the 20th Century, or some of the effects available on Instagram.

Have a Go at Home

Why not have a go yourself? This is a surprisingly inexpensive project. Use eBay to get yourself a Box Brownie, ensure that it is in working order with no light leakage and that it includes the film spool if you want to save a bit of hassle (when I looked at the time of writing this there were a number of them for under around £10 including delivery that appeared to be working models). Use Google to find a user manual for the specific model that you’re going to use, I found a PDF scan freely downloadable after just a few seconds’ searching. Get yourself a film, it’ll need to be Black and White because of the red viewing window in the camera for advancing the film roll after an exposure, as B&W film doesn’t respond to red light. I bought an Ilford HP5 120 film from Jessops for under £5. Next job is to get out there and take pictures. For each picture, make a note of the camera settings you used and the lighting of the subject, because for the first set of exposures, all you can do is guesstimate! Note that if it is an Autographic Brownie, it needs to be A-120 film to be able to use that feature. Finally, wait impatiently for the results from the developer, or of course develop the film yourself.