Film photography is slow, expensive, limited and prone to mistakes, errors and fogged film. However it’s also a rather joyful experience with random surprises thrown in from time to time. Being able to take only 10 or 11 precious shots at a time and then having to wait ages to get your photos back makes a contrast to the instant gratification of taking thousands of digital pictures.

Although I love the ease of digital photography I miss the magical moment of watching the perfect image appear on a print in the dark-room developer tray, often after many failed attempts.

Recently I picked up an old Kodak brownie camera in a junk shop – it was a “Number 2 Cartridge Hawk-Eye Model b” – proof that the practice of giving your product an impressive complicated sounding technical name is not a new one. It’s a very basic camera, consisting of a leather covered cardboard box with a mechanical shutter and a single element meniscus lens, which is inside the camera (giving it a confusing look of having lost it’s lens). It dates from  between 1926 – 1933 and takes 120 roll film – still available from the Lomography people and ebay.

The tradition of giving budget gadgets impressive sounding names is an old one
The tradition of giving budget gadgets impressive sounding names is an old one

Once I’d worked out how to get it open (you rotate and  pull out the film winder and then release the 2 fastener hooks) I thought I’d have a go at taking some pictures. Since the safe light window on the back of the camera was showing it’s age and was a faded orange I covered it up with a blu-tacked penny. After a bit of experimentation with a roll of paper I was able to work out how much to wind the film on – for reference 4 turns of the winder are enough to load the film, and 2 turns to advance to the next frame. The camera has a shutter speed of 1/30 second. I’ve no idea of the aperture, although the rotating shutter has a fairly small hole. The mechanism is similar to that found in the Lomo Holga.

Next step was to get some pictures developed. I initially opted for develop only from the lomo store, as I wasn’t entirely sure if I’d see anything back. My first film only had a few photographs on it as I hadn’t then worked out the proper winding / picture ratio.

To get the negatives into the computer I built a shoebox slide copier.

Attempt 1:

A tree
A tree

Well it works. I’m not sure of the shoe-box photo method for colour negatives, although the ghost like quality of the images presents an interesting creative opportunity.

Anything closer than 6 feet from the camera is a bit blurry. Landscapes came out better, although colour was quite interesting (the photos already look old) either as an artifact of the lens, or as a result of the film and processing.

I’ve dug out my old 120 black and white film stash and processing spirals to have a go with black and white.

Update: my old school photography got a mention on the BBC!  as part of an article about the sad demise of Kodak.

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: