After a somewhat unsuccessful attempt with the Kodak Brownie as described in my previous post, I’ve decided to park that one for the moment. I have now moved on to the 1959 Kodak Retina II S, which I previously wrote about here: Vintage Camera #2, and has been my carry-around camera for the last three weeks. The first thing that struck me Continue reading

Camden Bridge, 1924 Kodak Brownie

I’ve been intending to get back into film photography for a long time. After completing an A Level in photography eight years ago, I rewarded myself with a second hand Digital SLR, and never picked up a film camera again. That has all changed now though. I couldn’t warrant the cost of paying £10-odd a time to get films processed without even getting prints or a CD of them, and especially not knowing whether Continue reading

Canon AE-1 Program

I’m taking a bit of a liberty calling this camera vintage, it’s not even as old as me…well the one I have isn’t anyway. The AE-1 Program was introduced in 1981 as the successor to the AE-1, its key difference being the ability to set both the shutter speed and aperture automatically. Mine was purchased by my parents in 1983 (no doubt to take embarrassing baby pictures of me), but I first got to know this camera when I began private photography lessons and eventually went on to complete an A Level in photography.

I used this camera through most of my A Level studies, developing the films (mainly Ilford HP5, sometimes FP4) and making prints myself. I enjoy using this camera and have achieved some great results with it. I still consider this camera to be a suitable backup camera if I do any commercial work.

Below is the camera and a few samples of images taken with it, the first films I developed and printed myself.

Kodak Retina II S

Kodak Retina IIs

The second in my series of posts about vintage cameras is a Kodak Retina IIs. It was produced between 1959 and 1960, and has a Xenar 45mm f2.8 lens with a Synchro-Compur shutter. Around 20,000 of these cameras were made in its short production life.

This camera is known as a Coupled Rangefinder camera, which essentially means that when you look through the viewfinder you see two images from different lenses, by adjusting the focus, it brings the two images into line to create a single sharp view in the camera. Being coupled, it means you can read the distance from a wheel around the lens.

Kodak Retina II S
Kodak Retina II S

The camera uses 135 film, the standard 35mm film. It was somewhat easier to get this camera working, and I’ve now got an Ilford HP5 film in it and have started carrying it around with me, so the results of this should be published very soon.

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.