Classic camerasKodak No. 2 Folding Autographic Brownie

Kodak No. 2 Folding Autographic Brownie camera Kodak No. 2 Folding Autographic Brownie viewfinder detail Kodak No. 2 Folding Autographic Brownie lens detail
Kodak No. 2 Folding Autographic Brownie camera with box

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 formats 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 made 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 Kodak's ‘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 focusing. There were basically just three focusing settings: fixed (i.e. normal), 8 feet (i.e. close) and 100 feet (i.e. distant).

Kodak No. 2 Folding Autographic Brownie detail with autographic window closedKodak No. 2 Folding Autographic Brownie detail with autographic window open

BTW, in case you're 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 the backing paper of the film 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 backing paper for 5 seconds or so before pulling the flap back down. When your pictures were developed you words would appear in white on your photographs. 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

To see photographs with the lens from this camera used on a Sony A7II digital camera see the Using a 100 year old lens from a Kodak Folding Brownie article in the Outlandish lenses section of this website.

Film: Kodak T-Max 400

Location: Croft-an-Righ, Edinburgh

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 really came out as I was hoping. All the others are severely fogged to one degree or another.

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 around 100 years old!

Kodak No. 2 Folding Autographic Brownie gallery - Image 1

Film: Kodak T-Max 400

Location: Holyrood Park, Edinburgh

Another mage from the same film. This one (which was frame 6) is much more fogged than frame 4, but after processing the scan in Lightroom I found that under the fog there was actually quite a nice image.

Kodak No. 2 Folding Autographic Brownie gallery - Image 2

Film: Kodak T-Max 400

Location: Easter Road, Edinburgh

Most of the frames on this roll of film look like this one! You can just about see a faint hint of an image under all the fogging. The red window through which you can see the film numbers printed on the backing paper as you wind on has faded to a pale shade of orange, and at the time I scanned this film I thought this must be responsible for the fogging. But that wouldn't explain the fogging over the whole frame. So I think the Autographic window must actually be responsible for most of it. So next time I run a film through this camera I'm going to tape up the both the exposure counter window and the Autographic window to see if that makes any difference.

Kodak No. 2 Folding Autographic Brownie gallery - Image 3

Film: Lomography Lady Grey 400

Location: National Monument, Calton Hill, Edinburgh

This is from a much more recent roll of film shot on Lomography Lady Grey 400. I have to admit this roll of film had been sitting at the bottom of my fridge for a long time, but I was still very surprised to see the printing on the backing paper transfer to the negatives. I really have never seen anything like this before or since! In a strange way I actually quite like the effect, though I think this may put me off Lomography b&w film in the future.

Kodak No. 2 Folding Autographic Brownie gallery - Image 4

Film: Lomography Lady Grey 400

Location: Old Calton Burial Ground, Edinburgh

Another shot from the same role of film, again with printing transferred from the backing paper.

Kodak No. 2 Folding Autographic Brownie gallery - Image 5

Film: Lomography Lady Grey 400

Location: Unknown location, Edinburgh

Another shot from the same role of film. Several frames from this role of film were affected by fogging similar to the first film. In fact it was this film that gave me the idea that the Autographic window was involved. It is impossible to detect any of the underlying image, but to me the fogging looks like a ghost… (maybe I was in Old Calton Burial Ground when I took this photo and it really is a ghost!!)

Kodak No. 2 Folding Autographic Brownie gallery - Image 5