Second-hand Adventures - A Kodak Story

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by your_new_username, Dec 31, 2020.

  1. I was recently inspired to pursue what I started with by going back to film as a hobby (particularly, black & white film and processing). This is my journey.

    My story begins on the way home from Christmas visiting my wife's family. I saw a small antique shop in Salem, NJ. Turning to my wife I said, "Can we turn around? I'll bet they have what I'm looking never know what you'll find." We turned around at a gas station and headed back. Once inside, we realized it wasn't the small, antique shop we thought. Instead, it was a 5,000 square-foot emporium of relics and consignments one could have only dreamed of so close to the sticks.

    Remembering how I elected to not buy a new-in-the-box Kodak Brownie Hawkeye Flash (complete with box, manual, and flash bulbs) a few years ago, I was determined to find any and every camera in the store. I lusted after a medium format classic. Perhaps a Brownie or a twin-lens reflex (TLR). Over the years I had found, and left behind, cameras from Rolleiflex to Agfa rangefinders out of ignorance and intimidation. This time was different. I wanted a new film camera and I wanted it simple. A value-oriented model, something I could shoot for myself. I wanted to compose an image rather than pose a subject -- and I wanted to do it with the silliest thing I could think of -- a camera that was exponentially cheaper than my DSLRs. Something to add contrast to my work.

    The first one I saw was a an open-bellows Polaroid Land Camera, dusty and grayed, lying on a shelf near the floor in the back corner (a place I often find older, less intuitive cameras, that most deem junk). However, this wasn't what I wanted. While a big fan of Polaroid, I wanted something other than a folder. I wanted something small, inconspicuous, and with waist-level viewfinding to lesson the dork appeal when taking a shot in a public area. People don't seem to pay attention to others looking down (at cell phones, usually). At least, not in the same way they do if you raise a camera to your head or extend an arm with a smartphone pointing around.

    On an adjacent shelf I found an oblong black case with a dirty brass zipper that faintly read "Kodak" along the top. I instantly grabbed it, excited to see what lay inside. Opening the flap revealed a half-empty case complete with original cardboard dividers and a small plastic looking box. I had found a Kodak Instamatic 104. "This may do," I thought to myself. I played with it for a moment before realizing it took 126 film. A quick look online revealed 126 was a dummy cartridge for 35mm, made for those who had trouble loading 35mm into manual point-and-shoots. With an adapter, it could still be used with modern film rolls. I placed it back on the shelf and kept moving.

    Ah! Around the corner, I found what I had been seeking: the infamous "glass case" near the counter. Full of the usual, pocket knives, lighters, various baubles and trinkets. At the bottom, though, this menagerie of retro-grade salvage, showed two old cameras, a Kodak flash kit in a box, and a M-12 kit.

    The two cameras appeared very similar. One was a 120 box camera, wrapped in green and "Made in Newark, NJ." The other a Kodak box camera. I made a mental note of this as the thought of owning a camera made not too far from where I found it decades later fascinated me. The $110 price-tag did not. I moved on.

    After searching the entire place with my wife, and realizing it had been an hour since we arrived, I happened across yet another camera mixed in with some old china and blown glass ornaments. It was an Ansco medium format rangefinder for $65. This looked great, but the price tag noted the dials were quite stiff or even stuck when attempting to use them. I wasn't ready to spend that amount on a camera which was probably going to need a cleaning that I probably couldn't get for it unless I shipped it off. Too bad, so sad.

    Heading back up to the front I inquired about the "glass case camera" again. This time, though...I asked to see one of them. Inside a somewhat dirty, yellow box was an exposure guide and my new best friend. Meet Kodak Six-20 Target Brownie. That's not the same as the half-dozen other Six-20 models. It's the art deco face with intersecting right-angles and the name written above the lens. $32, a pair of earrings for my wife, and the ever-evil sales tax was all it took to gain a wonderful Brownie, with box, untorn strap, in-tact mirrors, and a working shutter, bulb, and aperture tab.

    And all this, on my first try in 6 years, 500 miles from home. It's a Festivus miracle!


    I hope you enjoy and I hope this is an "okay" place for the post. I'll have some questions and what-not about the Brownie, I'm sure. It's been a long time since I shot film and my first with such a challenging, yet unsophisticated camera.

    What are your thoughts on the Kodak Six-20 Target Brownie and in using it today?
  2. AJG


    620 film can be a bit of a pain--most people wind up getting a few 620 spools and then buying 120 film and transferring it to the 620 spools so that it can fit in the camera. Apart from the spools 120 and 620 are virtually identical, but they are not interchangeable for most 620 cameras. Other than that, most box cameras have very simple mechanisms that usually still work decades after they were made so if you solve the film issue you should be good to go. Good luck!
  3. Antique shops are rarely good places to find classic cameras. The owners don't really understand them, so they often put silly prices on relatively commonplace items, resulting in the camera gathering dust for years in the store.

    Yes. you need to look up respooling 120 film on 620 spools. The thinner 620 format was introduced by Kodak ostensibly to enable smaller cameras, actually to try to lock people in to buying Kodak products. The 120 and 620 films and backing paper are the same. The 620 spools are thinner. Sometimes you can get a 120 film into the feed side by trimming down the spool with side cutting pliers or similar.

    It would be good for you to post a picture of the camera. To do it, click on "upload a file". You need to reduce the image size to no more than 1000 pixels on its longest side.
  4. Thanks. I was fortunate in that it already contained at roll of 620 and so I have two metal 620 spools at the ready. I see they are around $8-10 on eBay, but don’t think I’ll need any extra.

    The respooling doesn’t bother me much, but I don’t feel excited to deal with the backing paper in a changing bag nor taping it in the dark. I will try practicing it with the junk film that was in it (and became exposed during cleaning).

    I’ll probably attempt the cut and sand trick first on a roll of Fomapan. If it jams, it jams...and I’ll just have to respool. I’m not paying $15 for a roll of 8 exposure respools from B&H.
  5. your_new_username said:
    You don't have to go through all that trauma.

    Step #1.Find an empty 120 spool. Pick up the 120 film, break the seal and make a few winds of the backing paper onto the empty spool. Hold the spools together in one hand and get your hands into the changing bag. Keeping the film taut, wind the film all the way onto the empty spool. Exit bag.

    Step #2. Take a few winds of the tail end of the backing paper onto the 620 spool, tucking in the gummed sealing strip neatly. Hold spools together in one hand and get your hands into the changing bag. Continue winding backing paper onto the 620 spool, and eventually you come to the loose end of the film. Keeping things nice and taut, tuck this film end around the 620 spool, making sure there's no sag, and keep winding to the start of the film. Exit bag. Have a rubber band or some tape ready to secure the film end.

    It's easier to do in a darkroom or tent, rather than in the confines of a changing bag, but it's a perfectly manageable procedure. Keeping tension on the film and backing paper is the key to success. You might like to use the junk film to practice a couple of dummy runs in the light.
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2020
    Bettendorf likes this.
  6. It is a not too hard to respool film. After doing it twice, you'll know where the pitflalls are and they become non problems. In Ricks description you resolve the numbering order or directional problem. I have used the changing bag successfully. While risky, I simply remove the 120 film completely and roll it backwards onto the 620 spool. I don't recall but once having a slight bulge as I got to where the film taped to the paper. I carefully lifted the taped film edge and reseated/sealed the tape to the paper. This maybe cost me a 1/4 or a half inch max on the numbering.
  7. I have a replacement for the Kodak Jiffy 620 I used for my Boy Scout Photography Merit Badge. (old, nostalgic post at Kodak Jiffy Six-20 1933-1937 )

    I trimmed down a 120 spool so it fit, but found out that wouldn't work properly -- in that camera at least, you really need to respool on a 620 spool
  8. I’ve been doing a lot of research over the last week and have found the method I’ll use, as described above. It sounds worth it compared to cutting/sanding and risking a jam. That would really frustrate me to throw away half a roll basically.

    thanks for your insight everyone! I’ll soon get some more film and supplies to begin. The excitement is unreal and the anticipation an emotional tsunami.

    after I begin this journey I’ll be able to travel along the DSLR film scanning route. Not presently thrilled, but eager since I don’t plan on making prints at home yet (space is quite limited).
  9. There are enough 120 cameras out there, that I haven't been so interested in respooling.
    Yes, it is keeping it taught enough at the point that the untaped end goes into the roll
    that is the challenge. Note also that the film will follow the back of the backing paper,
    not the front, as you unroll it.

    Funny thing, though, I am remembering about 50 years ago there were some magazine
    ads for free "famous brand" film in 620 or 127, and I then had a 120 camera.
    I thought about trying to respool, but not so long after mostly did 35mm.
  10. Once you have gone through the process of moving the film from the 120 spool to the 620 spool, you still need another 620 spool for the film to wind back into as you take the photos, right? And then once the film is spent and rolled onto the second spool in the camera, do typically send that spool in for developing or do you then spool it back (for a 4th time!) onto the original 120 spool so that you are sending that back in and keeping your 620 spools? Otherwise it seems you’d be running out of 620 spools quickly. Sorry if I’m misunderstanding this all, but I just acquired my first 620 over the holidays too - a Kodak Jiffy Six-20 Series II from my mother’s boyfriend. He has owned it since it was new!

  11. Lovely old camera, Quadna71. Most labs are quite happy to return your precious spools, such as 127's and 620's, and they might even have a few lying around that they could send you. Give your lab a call and check it out, and make sure you put a sticker on the exposed film to remind them to return the spool.
  12. You could develop it yourself, too.

    Last year. Well, closer to 1.5 years ago, I had a roll of VPL120 developed at a nearby lab.
    I wasn't so interested in the spool, but I did ask for the backing paper. They said it wasn't
    such an unusual request. I suspect spool requests aren't so strange, either.

    So far, the 620 cameras I have will take a source spool of 120, as long as the take-up
    spool is 620. The ones I put through that, though, I developed myself.

    I presume any lab that does 120 will do 620 without any problem.
    Not all labs will do other sizes, such as 127, though.

    I have wondered about 126, where it might be best to spool into a 135 cartridge
    before taking it to the lab.
  13. Otherwise, my favorite place to get older cameras is Goodwill, specifically either auctions, or eBay auctions, and pick up at a nearby store.

    But for COVID reasons the nearby store has stopped local pick-ups.
    I suppose it isn't an essential service. Maybe soon enough.

    Though shipping isn't so expensive across town.
  14. I've suddenly realized I effectively hijacked this post - sorry about that. I'll post another one with adventures with my new camera. Thanks all.

Share This Page