Using a 100 year old lens from a Kodak Folding Brownie
An old folding camera.
I think more or less any camera of this sort of format (i.e. 6x9cm negatives on 120 film) and vintage should work so long as the back comes off completely when loading film. The specific model I used was a Kodak No. 2 Folding Autographic Brownie camera. Kodak made over 500,000 examples of this camera between 1915 and 1926, and even today they are common and easy to find… mine cost around £10 on eBay.
Any digital mirrorless camera.
This technique would probably work on a DSLR so long as it has live view, but a mirrorless camera will make things a lot easier. The Brownie camera I used creates 6x9cm negatives, so the larger the sensor in your digital camera the more of the lens's large imaging circle you’ll be able to use. I would recommend a full frame camera (I used my Sony A7II), or, if you are lucky enough to own such a beast, a medium format mirrorless camera. But having said all that, if you have a camera with an APS-C or smaller sensor I think it would still be worth having a go.
This is a very easy project as none of the items involved needs to be changed or adapted in any way.
- Remove the bellows/lens unit from the film back as if you were about to load a film.
- Set the shutter on the lens/bellows unit to the T (for 'time') setting then press the Brownie's shutter lever. The T setting will make the shutter remain permanently open when you press the shutter.
- Remove the lens or body cap from your digital camera and hold the bellows/lens unit in front of your digital camera's lens mount and check focus. If your subject is not in focus take the camera away from you eye and adjust the cameras focus control on the bellows/lens unit. Rinse and repeat until you have attained focus. (Yeah… focusing is a pain, but you’ll get there eventually!) Here you can see a self portrait of me using the camera as described.
- Press your digital camera's shutter button to take the photograph. Note that you may have to set you camera to shoot without a lens. (See General notes on using adapted lenses if your camera tells you that you have no lens attached.)
These photographs were all taken in New Calton Burial Gorund in Edinburgh. The black and white conversions for all these images were done in Silver Efex Pro. I wanted to give this photos a look that made them look like they were taken 100 years ago.
To see film photographs from this camera see the Kodak No. 2 Folding Autographic Brownie article in the Classic cameras section of this website.