Classic camerasKodak No. 2 Folding Autographic Brownie

In the last decade of the 19th century and the first couple of decades of the 20th century Kodak made a huge number of different role film format with a variety of different negative sizes. 120 (or No.2 film as it was originally called, hence the name of this camera) is the only one to survive to today. It is amazing to think that 120 film has been continuously sold for well over 100 years! In fact 120 film was the second smallest of these roll film formats, with only 127 film (originally designed for Kodaks ‘vest pocket’ folding cameras) being smaller.

What this means in practice is that most pre-1930 Kodak folding cameras are rather difficult to use today because you can no longer get the film, but if you make sure you get one designed for No.2 or 120 film you can indeed still give your camera some exercise even today.

This particular example is in remarkably good condition, and seems to be in full working order. Indeed this camera even came complete with the box! The ‘Brownie’ range of folding cameras was towards the bottom of Kodak’s range and features a very simple lens (hidden behind the shutter and aperture mechanisms) and an even simpler focusing arrangement that could best be described as an early form of zone focussing. There were basically just three focussing settings: fixed (i.e. normal), 8 feet (i.e. close) and 100 feet (i.e. distant).

BTW, in case your wandering, the ‘Autographic’ part of the camera name is a reference to a kind of early ‘data back’! There was a metal flap on the back of the camera along with a metal stylus. When you pulled up the flap you revealed a black surface on which you could write with the stylus. (The stylus is usually missing, so I was please to see this camera still has one!) You then let the sun shine on the black writing surface for 5 seconds or so before pulling the flap back down. When your pictures were developed you words would appear in white on your photograph. If you’ve ever seen white writing on photographs from the 1910s or 1920s, this is how it was produced! You could only use this feature when you used ‘Autographic’ film in an ‘Autographic’ camera as the film has a special carbon layer. The action of the stylus on this layer removed the carbon which allowed the sun light to expose your writing onto the negative.

Photographs taken with the Kodak No. 2 Folding Autographic Brownie

Film: Kodak T-Max 400

Location: Croft-an-Righ, Edinburgh

OK, maybe that should be photograph taken with this camera… singular!

This is from the first film I ran through my Kodak No.2 Autographic Brownie, and this frame (frame 4 as it happens) was the only one that came out at all. All the others are just a mass of foggy swirls. (Actually, they're quite attractive foggy swirls, so I might get around to scanning them at some point as abstract art!!)

I am at a loss to say what I did differently for this one. But I like the effect any way. There are a few hints of fogging on this one that give the image a nice vintage feel. The film is Kodak T-Max 400, but I decided to scan it with my scanner set to colour mode as and just leave it as a colour file as I like the sepia effect this gives.

It is amazing to think this camera is not far short of 100 years old! But will I run more film through this camera…? Hmm… if I can work out what I did right on frame 4 and what when wrong on the other 7 frames may be I will!