Kodak 620 Brownie Junior, 07 September 2011


I know, I know…I’ve been neglecting my blog for the past few weeks. To make up for that, here’s something that y’all likely don’t see every day: a set of photos taken with an antique Kodak box camera!

BrownieJr620 CHI PanF+ ArtInstitute01B

BrownieJr620 CHI PanF+ CarsonPirieScott01B

BrownieJr620 CHI PanF+ CentralLoop01B

Photo Information:

Location: Chicago, Illinois; Chicago Loop
Camera: Kodak Brownie Junior 620 [1]
Lens: Unnamed Integral Kodak Lens; Approx. focal length: 105mm [2]
Film: Ilford PanF+ (620) [3]

The building in the first photo is the Art Institute of Chicago (the original building, anyways – the Institute has developed into its own campus adjacent to Grant Park); the building was completed in 1893 and designed by Shepley, Rutan, & Coolidge, though it has been subsequently enlarged over the past century. The subject of the second photo is the entrance to the famous Carson Pirie Scott & Company department store, completed in 1899 and designed by Louis Sullivan. Unlike a number of Sullivan’s lesser-known works that have (sadly) been demolished, this building is protected both by being on the National Register of Historic Places and by being designated a Chicago Landmark. Most recently, the decorative ironwork on the entrance (as seen here) and on the first floor facades has been restored, and apparently, Target has expressed interest in occupying part of the retail space. Given its prominent location on State Street, it is not surprising that this building would continue to be a sought-after destination. I’m less familiar with most of the buildings in the third photo; they form the backdrop to the Federal Center in the middle of the Loop. On the far right, you can just see the top portion of the Marquette Building (completed in 1895 and designed by Holabird & Roche); the building next to that is 61 West Adams (completed in 1909, but that’s about all I could find about the building); across the street on the northwest corner of Clark & Adams is the Field Building (later the LaSalle Bank Building, and now known only by its address, 135 South LaSalle – the building spans the block between Clark & LaSalle, so its main entrance is on the latter; completed in 1934 and designed by Graham, Anderson, Probst, & White); south of there (and just barely visible) is the Clark Adams Building (creatively named after the intersection where it sits; completed in 1927 and designed by the Burnham Brothers); in the background, you can just make out the top of 190 South LaSalle (completed in 1987 and designed by John Burgee Architects with Philip Johnson and Shaw Associates as associated architects). [4]

Those of y’all who have been long-time readers may note that I first posted about this camera two years ago; my subsequent resumption of shooting with the camera is, however, entirely coincidental. I knew that it had been a while since I used it, but that’s as specific as I remember – a long time. You may also note a softness to the focus and a slight lack of focus at the top of the photos; neither of these effects are intentional – the former is likely due to the optical qualities of the lens itself, while the latter is (probably) due to the film not being fully taut inside the camera. In fact, on my first shoot with this camera, I didn’t even notice the soft focus of the lens – possibly this is due to the fact that I had a lab scan those negatives, while I scanned the ones you see here; also possible is that I just wasn’t paying close enough attention the first time around…

Anyways, enjoy.


[1]: There are a couple ways of identifying this camera (and similar ones, for that matter – Kodak manufactured many variations of it); in addition to how I’ve written it here, I’ve also seen it rendered as “620 Brownie Junior”, “Junior Brownie 620”, and “Junior 620 Brownie”.

[2]: As noted in my post from two years ago, I make this estimate based on the fact that the camera takes 6×9 exposures on 620 film (which is the same size as 120), and all of the other cameras I own that use this film and frame size also feature 105mm lenses (or close to it). Given my experience with some of Kodak’s other snapshot cameras, I suspect that the aperture is roughly f/8 or smaller – not surprising, given that a smaller aperture would be more conducive to producing in-focus shots (especially since the camera itself lacks any focus controls at all).

[3]: I estimated that the shutter speed on this camera is roughly 1/50 sec. or thereabouts; again, this isn’t surprising, given that the lens is (probably) quite slow. Given the combination of a slow shutter speed and a small aperture, I figured that while the ISO 100 film I had previously used would work fine (and it did, of course), ISO 50 film would work even better! Hence, my decision to use Ilford’s spectacular PanF+ this time.  It’s a tempermental film, but so worth using for the smooth, nearly grain-free results it produces.

[4]: This sort of conglomeration of architects and firms isn’t that uncommon in large projects, particularly ones that are designed by remote firms. The principle design firm will partner with a local associated firm, with the latter primarily involved coordinating the construction process.


One Response to “Kodak 620 Brownie Junior, 07 September 2011”

  1. Mike Says:

    Those are excellent box camera shots. Good technique clearly matters even with the simplest of cameras.

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