Vintage Cameras

I’m developing something of a ‘collection’ of vintage cameras, so I thought I’d dedicate a whole page to them. However, it should be noted that I actually know nothing about cameras and can’t take a decent picture to save my life.

Kodak No. 2 Folding Autographic Brownie

Kodak was manufacturing this camera between 1915 and 1926. However, the ball bearing shutter means this one is from before 1923, while if that's the original stand, it might even predate 1919. Only 500,000 were made before 1921. In fact it seems their serial numbers are chronological so I might see if I can find that, although the case and everything is lost.

Apparently it will either have a Rectilinear or Achromatic lens, but no idea how I'm meant to find that out.

The lens is at the end of a folding bellows, as is the viewfinder, which must be a bit awkward. It takes 120mm film, which is hard to come by and even harder to develop, so I haven't checked to see if it works yet...


Kodak Brownie 620 Model E

Next up is my little Kodak 620 Brownie - model E. I found it in a junk shop during my antiques roadtrip to Holland, where I also got my Dutch coffee pot. It’s obviously in terrible condition compared to the lovely Folding Autographic; the leather of the case is all flaky, and I can’t see anything through any of the holes (not sure if any of these is a viewfinder). Apparently it has a slide-out portrait lens and yellow filter, but it’s all so rusted and broken I’ll never be able to try it out. Still, it's a nice ornament.

Kodak made the 620 box camera (in huge numbers) from 1947 to 1957, and the ones with vertical stripes like mine were 1947-1953. So there’s about 30 years between my two Brownies – the folding bellows are gone, and the design is much more minimal. But still, it's strange to us modern camera users as it doesn't look anything like a typical camera.

Kodak Brownie Reflex

This is the Kodak Brownie Reflex, another box camera that was produced in the UK from 1946 to 1960, although it launched in the US a little earlier. It was therefore available at the same time as the 620 E; I’m not sure what the differences were, maybe the price or picture quality. I found it in a charity shop in Rhos on Sea for £5, the only fault is a bit of corrosion or something on the front plate. I’m also uber pumped about the fact there is film in it, just waiting to be developed.

There’s a sort of hinged trapdoor at the top, and you lift it to see the viewfinder. As you can see, the images you see through it are nicely fisheyed and have a sort of unreal quality (this is the view out of my window), and everything’s weirdly back to front. According to Wikipedia, a twin lens reflex viewfinder has a mirror behind the lens, but the image that’s reflected passes through a prism so you can see it properly. The top lens is the viewfinder lens, and the bottom one is the normal lens for taking photos. It’s cute.


Kodak Brownie 127 Model 3

Now that’s more like it. The invention of plastic obviously changed photography forever, including the actual appearance of the cameras. This tiny, lightweight camera is a Kodak Brownie 127 Model 3, which was manufactured from 1965 to 1967. The models 1 and 2 are from the mid and late 50s, but are recognisable because they’re made of Bakelite, and have a more rounded shape

But I love this one. It’s just so 60s; it could fit in your handbag, it feels cheap and fun, and was probably used for taking photos of mates and nights out, rather than stiff family portraits. It’s really easy to use, unlike the two previous models that have about 100 settings, this is literally wind, point, click. The only weird thing is, the shutter button is on the front and presses inwards - definitely going to cause some blurred photos!

If I can find a cheap source of 127 film, I really want to give this one a go. I think it would be perfect for holiday photos.

LOMO Smena Symbol

This is the only non-Kodak in my collection! It’s also the most expensive, as it was £15 off eBay including delivery from Europe. But I think it’s worth it, as it actually works, and takes 35mm film, so getting photos developed is much cheaper. Lomo manufactured the Smena Symbol in the USSR from 1970 to 1993, and the serial number on mine shows it was made in 1978.

It’s a pretty tech camera, with all kind of adjustable settings and numbers all over the place. I just love the chunky, functional Soviet styling, especially the solid case, and the satisfying lever that winds the film. Also, the little logo on the right reminds me of the TV tower in my beloved Berlin.

LOMO stands for Leningradskow Optiko Mechanichesckoe Objedinenie (bit of a mouthful), and around the time this was made, they were also making stuff for the military and space programme. It’s small enough to fit in my handbag, but damn heavy, so I’ve only taken about 20 photos of 36 so far. I bet when I finally finish the film and get it developed I realise one of the many settings was wrong and all my photos are terrible (this is the kind of thing that always happens to me).


Franka Solida 1

The Solida I Camera made by Franka in Germany
 Probably my favourite of all. This is apparently the camera my granddad used when he was doing National Service (or in the actual army… I forget which) and was recently passed on to me by my grandma. It has his name and address written inside the case, very faintly (Davies, Dol Awel, Penmaenrhos, Colwyn Bay N-Wales). There was actually still a film inside when I got it, although of course it was too deteriorated to develop.

The Solida 1 was made from 1952, and there are dozens of different models and variations, but I think this is one of the earlier ones from about 1954. The manufacturer, Franka, was in Bavaria and built cameras from 1909 to 1966. On the back of this one, it says ‘Made in Germany – US Zone’, which puts it into context nicely.

The Solida I uses 120mm film and the Anastigmat lens is on a folding bellows, like the Brownies from thirty and more years previously. It has a million settings and little levers, and I have no idea what they’re for, but it definitely seems like the shutter mechanism is broken… for now.

Knowing my Taid looked through this camera, carried it around, and wrote his name on the case, all over 50 years ago... to me, it makes this camera something magical.

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