Thursday, June 21, 2012

(Not So) Picture Perfect

About 25 years ago, I bought a Kodak Target Six-Sixteen box camera from my then girlfriend's (now wife) Aunt at her garage sale for $1. 

It was manufactured by Kodak from 1946 to 1951.  It sat on various shelves through various homes for those 25 years until last summer when I came across another box camera at a garage sale.  This one was a Kodak Brownie No. 2.  I bought that for $1 as well. 

Based on the patent dates and leather over cardboard case, this camera dates from 1916 to 1919 which I believe makes it a Model "E".

I decided it was time to try them out, so I did some research and found that film (No. 120) could still be bought from Amazon.  Unfortunately, the film for the Target Six-Sixteen (No. 616) was no longer available, however, I found a "hack" on the internet to allow the use of No. 120 in the Target Six-Sixteen camera.  It involved placing a nickel on either side of the film spool (the 616 film being wider) and advancing the film 2 frames at a time to accomadate the larger picture shot by the Target.

I decided to load the Six-Sixteen first given the fact that the No. 2 was missing it's protective red eye in the back.  This allows the user to see the film advancement while preventing it from being exposed.  Ever wonder why red was used?  Red allows visible light through while not exposing the Rhodopsin or "visual purple".  Rhodopsin is what gets bleached out when you look into a light and then try to see in the dark.  Red light doesn't cause bleaching.  It's the same reason red lights are used in photo development dark rooms and on submarines.  Your science lesson for the day.

Once I loaded the Six-Sixteen, I took it with me to the annual St. Stephen's Church picnic in Richwoods, Missouri.  Here are a few of the pictures that resulted.  Photos developed by Dwayne's Photo is Kansas City, Missouri.

If you've never used a box camera, you sight the picture by holding the camera at your waist and looking down through an prismatic lens, upright for portrait, sideways for landscape. Unfortunately, it you don't hold it exactly level, you end up with skewed photos like the first two.

This past spring, I finally found a resolution to the missing red eye on the No. 2 Brownie.  I cut a small square from a red Halloween strobe light cover and taped it to the inside of the camera.  I took the camera to Richwoods, Missouri again, but this time to the family farm.  Unfortunately (again), I didn't read the
manual which instructs you in the setting of the various exposure and stop openings.  I believe I had it set for portrait photos while trying to take landscapes resulting in the images being larger than in the view finder and centered incorrectly.

I'm not sure what the hole in the last photo is, but it creates an eerie and old-time effect.

For now, I've returned to digital film, but I might give the No. 2 another try some day using the correct settings.


  1. i've always wanted to do this -- these look amazing! what's really the coolest thing to me is that they really LOOK vintage, and they aren't photoshopped in any way to get it.

  2. More eery than the hole in the photo,.is the old woman in her wedding dress in the window! Aaaaaaagh!


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