Kodak Six-20 Brownie Junior


As I mentioned in my previous post, the camera I used to capture the photo therein is the one shown in the photo below.


In case you’re not familiar with the significance of this sort of camera, the first camera produced as a means of making the practice of photography available to the masses was very similar to this one. The Kodak company became famous by mass producing simple cameras of this type that were inexpensive to purchase and use. This particular camera is a later development of the box camera type, but it is very similar to the original Kodak box camera, [1] as well as the later (and more well-known) Brownie box cameras.

As photographic equipment goes, this camera is elegantly simple (or rudimentary, depending on your perspective). [2] The lens is a fixed focus model, unnamed, in this case, though it appears to be little more than two or three pieces of optical glass; the two smaller lenses at the top of the front plate correspond to the two viewfinders. As this camera was designed to take 6 cm x 9 cm (2 ¼” x 3 ¼”) rectangular exposures, the two viewfinders were necessary [3] for landscape (left-hand window) or portrait (right-hand window) compositions. Given the film type and frame dimensions, the lens is most likely somewhere in the neighborhood of 105mm. [4] Most of the camera body itself and parts of the exposure chamber inside the camera are made of solid cardboard (with the former covered in leatherette); the carrying handle is leather, while most of the controls appear to be fabricated from simple metal (perhaps steel, but I have no idea how to tell what type of metal they are, nor do I really care much). There are only two shutter settings, Instant and Bulb; the small tab at the bottom left-hand corner of the front plate is the shutter release, while the tab above it controls the shutter settings (as shown, it is set for the “Instant” setting; when pulled out from the body, it switches the shutter over to the “Bulb” setting). The tab at the upper center of the front plate may be pulled up (or pushed down) to change the aperture; there are only two available apertures, one for bright light (small aperture), and another for overcast settings (large aperture). The film winding “knob” is on the left-hand side of the camera; there are no controls on the right-hand side. Frame counting is achieved by means of a red window on the back of the camera body, whose location corresponds to the 6×9 frame count on the backing paper of the film.

As mentioned in the title of this post, this camera does not use type 120 film, but the now-obsolete type 620 film. This is a departure from the previous Brownie models, most of which used the former. [5] That said, it is possible to transfer modern 120 film onto 620 spools, as the film size is the same; the only difference between the two film types is the size of the spools used. Type 120 film originally used a larger spool with metal end plates and a wooden core; the newer type 620 spools were all metal and, presumably, were easier to manufacture than the composite spools originally used for type 620 film. Of course, if you’re familiar with film and film history, you’ll know that type 620 never caught on nearly as well as Kodak had hoped, and eventually, it was phased out in favor of continued production of 120 film (with one-piece all-plastic spools – no doubt influenced by their experience with making the 620 spools). If you’re interested in using this sort of camera (or any 620 camera, for that matter), I have a set on Flickr devoted to illustrating how to make the transfer. [6]

The other major difference between this particular camera and its older brethren is the decorative plate on the front of the camera. This was as common practice of Kodak’s during the 1930’s, and often, the only major difference between cameras of this time period and older (or newer) models of similar design is this sort of decorative plate. The design, of course, is Art Deco, in keeping with the time period.

See below for another example of the results I got while using this camera:


As noted with the photo in my previous post, I did not clean up the photo much, beyond adjusting the saturation and brightness as necessary. Since I also don’t know how to disassemble the lens (nor would I attempt to figure it out), the scan is a bit more dusty than what I would normally tolerate. Given the history of the camera, however, as well as the novelty of using it, I don’t mind so much, in this case. The subject of this photo is Charlie’s Diner on Granby Street in Norfolk. The diner itself appears to be an addition to an older rowhouse; apart from that, it was just an interesting little building (and a good breakfast joint, too). The signage is, of course, better in color, but you get the general idea here.



[1]: This camera, which was also a box camera, was known simply as The Kodak. It was not, however, nearly as popular or successful as the later Brownie cameras, which introduced many a consumer to photography.

[2]: As with all things, this is a matter of perspective. Kodak was unabashed in its desire to make photography accessible to the public at large; this often means that the average Kodak camera is far less complex (or well-designed) as many of its more pricey contemporaries. That said, their cameras were often designed well enough to generate decent results.

[3]: Other types of cameras used a similar viewfinder setup, but with a single combined viewfinder that could be rotated as the camera was rotated. Obviously, this eliminated the redundancy of the viewfinders in cameras of this type, but it also increased complexity, which, naturally, would have increased production costs and, ultimately, retail cost.

[4]: Other medium format cameras I have used that also use this film type and frame size are equipped with a lens of this focal length, so it is reasonably safe to assume that this is the case here.

[5]: The original Brownie camera introduced Type 120 film; its connection to this model of camera is so ubiquitous in some locations that 120 film is colloquially known as “Brownie Film.”

[6]: See here for a Flickr set with instructions for how to transfer modern 120 film to 620 spools. Note that if you do not process the film yourself, you should probably re-load the film back onto the original 120 spools prior to having a lab process the film. The lab may not notice the difference between the two spools, and as 620 spools are a limited resource, it is advisable to maintain possession of them.


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