Kodak Jiffy Six-20 1933-1937

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by jdm_von_weinberg, Oct 24, 2010.

  1. Kodak Jiffy Six-20

    This is the make of camera that was the first I ever shot pictures with, back in the early 1950s.
    The camera illustrated below is not actually the same family camera that I used, but is one of two that I have picked up for under US$5 as parts of lots on eBay.

    It was made between 1933 to 1937 and replaced by the Kodak Jiffy Six-20 Series II. The earlier model has the Art Deco front, designed by Walter Dorwin Teague (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Dorwin_Teague), shown below. The series II was much simplified in decoration (link: http://ny-image1.etsy.com/il_fullxfull.160575293.jpg). It is not the most common Kodak camera, but it surely is up there in contention for the honor.

    It used 620 film and took 2 1/4 x 3 1/4" pictures. Its cost was $6.75, not trivial in the years of the Great Depression. A variant of the camera with a different film size was the Kodak Jiffy Six-16 for 616 film for images 2 1/2 x 4 1/4.

    Discussion of it can be found on a number of sites, but unfortunately many of them either very short or have erroneous information in just the details you wouldn't know about (such as the number of waterhouse stops on the camera) -- so if you want other accounts, just Google™ them up and take yer' chances, I'm sorry to say. I was surprised to find relatively little here on Photo.net about it.

    My Dad bought this camera new sometime in the 30s, and some of the first pictures he took with it were of my mother, whom he was courting at the time. Later the camera was thrown into the car for Sunday drives with the family, and dragged out for the usual pictures of family members on outings or when they were gussied up for some reason or other.

    First, one of my current copies of the camera, together with a beat-up original box and some of the data that came with the camera.
  2. Here is some detail of the box top and end.
  3. For anyone who cares to download it, here is a 628K pdf of the manual and 'night-exposure' card.
  4. Finally, after the camera porn of this classic, but dirt-common, camera, here are some pictures taken with the family copy of this camera. First is a picture of my mother visiting a rural school. I don't know if this was one of my mother's early schools or merely a building that my father wanted to paint (he was a student of the more famous painter, Birger Sandzén (http://www.birgersandzengallery.com/home.html). My father exhibited at the Swedish American Institute in Chicago and elsewhere, but he didn't use the full version of the family name after the start of WWI, during which he was in the US Navy and one of my Great Uncles commanded a German commerce raider).

    The bottom picture is of my paternal grandmother, Gerda M. von Weinberg in her gardens, sometime in the late 50s, probably.
  5. Here are more Jiffy Six-20 pictures, on the left my Great Uncle Gustav in his 80s -- he lived to 106 (Not the uncle in the German Reichsmarine). On the right, a picture taken by my mother of my father Karl and me - composition with the tiny mirror finders on the camera wasn't easy.
  6. Finally, the last two are pictures actually taken by me. The top is a "cliff dwelling" at Mesa Verde National Park (http://www.nps.gov/meve/) from across the canyon. I can't find the negative on this one, and this is a scan of one of the first contact prints made my me using my contact printer and development kit.

    The bottom is even earlier. I wanted to take pictures of a clay brontosaurus (that's what it was then) I had made, but the camera wouldn't focus closely enough. I went down to A-Smile-A-Minute Camera store and bought some kind of positive lens and a holder for it and this was the result. The blurriness, I thought, being an optimist then, helped me convince kids at my grade school that this was a real dinosaur (I don't think they were fooled, but people were too polite in those days to out and out call you a liar.)

  7. That's all folks. Just a little travel down memory lane.
  8. Oh, there are in fact three (3) Waterhouse stops on a pull out on the side of the front. The stops seem to run about f/11 to 14 for completely open, middle stop f/16-19, and smallest stop f/22-26.
    I think that the shutter speed (I) is somewhere between 1/30 and 1/50 of a second. Metering with it suggests that this is in the ball park.
    I also found that you really need two 620 reels, otherwise the reel slips sideways and jams.
  9. Super nice JDM. What a time capsule. Very interesting images I must say and enjoyed them all, thank you for posting them.
  10. Great post, JDM, and some lovely old images. I really like the pic of your mother at the rural school; it has a real Andrew Wyeth quality about it. The instructions are just great, and really comprehensive. I'm ashamed to admit that I have a very nice copy of the Six-16 and I never discovered the aperture adjustment hidden behind the front place. Common or not, I consider the design to be superb and the Art Deco presentation just beautiful. Thanks for a truly classic post.
  11. Very interesting; thanks JDM. I like the picture of Uncle Gus; it has very classic look of old times. My uncle had a kodak 620 Box from the 1930's. It was Rexin covered and had no chrome trims at all. The shutter lever exposed on the downward stroke and again on the upward stroke. Early leaf shutter without return springs, more like a toggle switch. sp.
  12. I too really like the old schoolhouse photo.
    The sky in that picture, and the clouds low on the horizon, look almost to have been painted. May I ask--did you do any digital lightening of the sky next to the rightmost edge of the building, and next to the rear ridgeline and right side of the roof? Or is that just the way it was captured on film?
    Sometimes a non-dramatic, low-key image can be deeply evocative, as this one is. Its composition and perspective are just about perfect. (In an ideal world, your mother might've been standing about 6 inches to the left...) Anyway, I think Rick's comparison with a Wyeth painting was apt.
  13. I like the way the focusing system (if you can call it that) imparts a character to the photos. Only Uncle Gus appears to be critically sharp. All the rest have that slight fuzziness (not so slight in grandma's case) that at this distance we find evocative of past times. If we could travel back in time we would expect to see our forbears in black and white and with slightly fuzzy edges.
    People today sometimes go to great lengths to try to emulate the look with Holgas and other alternative cameras. Usually the exaggerate the defects of the camera to make it vignette and suffer light leaks. Very rarely do these look anything but painfully modern. All they need to do to go back in time is to use the mass- market, mass-produced products of the time, struggle with the awkward viewginder and vague focusing, and they have achieved the look.
  14. Colin, I think the camera's fixed shutter speed (between 1/30 and 1/50 of a second) and the crudeness of its shutter release (= handling vibration) may be more to blame than its lens or lens focus, for that slight fuzziness--at least, in those photos that were made by hand-holding it.
    Its lens (~105mm) is comparable, on its 6x9 format, to a 50mm lens on a modern 24x36mm format camera.
    Even using a modern camera, with ergonomic advantages and a smooth shutter release, it's a challenge for most people to get critically sharp photos at 1/30 - 1/50 second with a "normal" (~50mm) lens. For most, the results will be slightly fuzzy.
    But I agree completely with your larger point.
  15. The lens does focus, sort of - two settings: closer than 10 feet and farther than 10 feet.
    I adjusted exposure in ACR a little, but essentially these are otherwise straight scans on my Canoscan 9950.
    The picture that my father took of my mother at the school is very much like his paintings of abandoned first-wave of settlement buildings over the years--a subject matter common to all the Smoky Valley school of painters. Their more recent descendants in the Lindsborg, KS, area today, have called themselves the "Hardly Known School of Kansas Landscape Painters" in exhibits, etc.
  16. JDM,
    A great post, camera, history and images. I find I am enjoying the "histories" on this forum as much as the technical presentations. Thank you.
  17. Nice write up on this common classic. Of most interest is your own early work with it. Thanks for this personal historical post.
  18. Thanks for this post! One of my favorite little folder's. Had a couple of these years past and would usually just make contact prints with the 69 neg. Been looking for one but good useable ones are getting harder to find...
  19. Thanks, I enjoyed the story and the photos a lot JDM.
  20. Ernest, yes, you are right, those simple shutters often needed quite a push. Some of the see-saw types were a little lighter.
    JDM, how wobble-inducing do you think the shutter is on that particular camera?
  21. how wobble-inducing do you think the shutter is on that particular camera?​
    Not so bad as you'd think, but certainly enough potentially to create jiggle when hand-held. It has a long lever/stand so it can be set on a table top, especially for the bulb exposures.
    It's somewhat of a problem to find film slow enough to shoot in it these days.
  22. JDM, I'm not quite sure if this would be considered kosher in this particular post. I also have a Jiffy 620, and in quite good shape if I may add. I don't think it was a moment of madness though when I took the frame counter window out and fitted it into a Zeiss Ikonta. Maybe I should refit another red disc to the back of this Jiffy and run a roll of Velvia through it? At least the film speed will give me something to work with.
  23. I had seen earlier that you had got a red window from a Jiffy, but while I am normally a moderate conservationist, I couldn't blame you for it.
    If you try your experiment let us know how it works. At least on this one, you do have the stops to help out.
    As I said earlier, sad experience proved to me that just cutting down the 120 film roll didn't work. You either need to re-spool, or somehow plug up the side channels on either side of the 'hole' on a 120 spool. Of course, if you have 620 film, no problem.
  24. Wow, very very very nice, JDM. Wow... It's really something how a consumer product can become a treasured artifact, and a part of the family, over a long period of time.
    I keep toying with the idea of a similar post with my Olympus XA, 3mm Stylus, and digital Stylus. But lack the time right now, and can't figure out where such a post would fit. But all 3 have given stellar service, and all 3 are of the same family in size, use, function, build.
  25. JDM in particular
    I have some 127 " minature candid:
    My first use of one was 1950 and it had a spring-loaded shutter -returs after exposure.
    ( single stroke) But one in my collection has a shutter that exposes both down and up.
    does this date it or is this one just a cheaper model.
    I remember the one I used back then had a single stroke, spring return. It may have been discarded after the lens, held in by a fiber strip, let the lens fall to the side. No crazy glue or epoxy back then.
    One I bought new, old stock, in the 70S was the same but cast metal.

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