Box Brownie from 1916

Recently as part of an upcoming project I've started using cameras that were made and used in 1916.  In the search for still working cameras from that period the most common and easy to find are Kodak Box Brownies the first point and shoot cameras for lay people, even children could use them.  The name Brownie was used because of a popular childrens storybook character at the time.  They are pretty much glorified pin hole cameras.  

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From an aesthetic and design point of view, they ain't pretty.  In fact they are cheap and ugly but millions of them still probably work.  How many of today's cameras will still be working in 99 years.  

There is one button to control a single shutter speed of 1/30, (also a lever to switch to bulb mode). In terms of aperture there are three holes on a metal sheet you slide in front of the lens to set the F stop, your three options are F16, F22, F32.  The focus is always fixed at 1.8 meters to infinity.  

Most of the box brownie models of yesteryear used the now extinct formats of 620, 616, 116, 118, 122, 127 is still available but rare and expensive, the list of dead formats goes on and on but the 120 medium format is the big survivor (introduced in 1901) which produces a 6x9cm frame on the Kodak No2 Brownie.  

The Jobo developing tank I use in my darkroom can only fit 3 rolls of 120 medium format (or five 35mm), and one roll of 120 with the 6x9 frame size of the box brownie which will produce 8 frames on a roll of film.  So in one developing session only 24 image frames are produced.  A big difference from the 180 images produced from a developing session with five 35mm films from a Leica or Nikon.  

One freezing bloody morning outside Collins Barracks Dublin.  

One freezing bloody morning outside Collins Barracks Dublin.  

All these images were developed in Rodinal (because its been around since 1891 and contemporary to 1916) at 1:100 dillution with one hour semi stand development with agitaion at 30 mins.  

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The problem with a one hundred year old lens, is the glass is not coated.  Compared to the multi coated glass of today or the single coated lenses of the mid twentieth century, the lack of coating means any directional light towards the lens means you get flaring from hell.  Which can have its advantages creatively, as the flare and light artifacts produce a unique quality all its own.  Also another advantage of the lack of coating, produces negatives, when exposed in flat light of huge tonality, even in the deepest blacks there is still detail, something you have to overexpose or develop for with multi coated lenses today.  

Unfortunately the downside of using a camera with one shutter speed of 1/30 of a second it does not lend itself to capture the moment on the street photography.  

Unfortunately the downside of using a camera with one shutter speed of 1/30 of a second it does not lend itself to capture the moment on the street photography.  

Although with only one slow shutter speed I like how some movement is captured in a ghostly fashion  

Although with only one slow shutter speed I like how some movement is captured in a ghostly fashion  

Outside Kilmainham Goal.  

Outside Kilmainham Goal.  

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Good old Moore street.

Good old Moore street.

In many ways the lack of controls, only one slow shutter speed and three apertures is creatively liberating, using literally a box with a button to produce 8 photos is the photographic equivalent of a haiku, where what you produce is defined by its limitations.