David Manns

Using an old Kodak Brownie Camera

So, I took a quick travel day out to the beach the other weekend and wanted to try out a film camera I inherited. A camera that first put photography into the hands of amatuers in the early 1900s, the Kodak Brownie. It involved using one roll of ancient Verichrome black and white film and re-rolling 120 medium format Portra 160 film on to 620 spools.

Many have a Kodak brownie film camera in their attic, so why not use it?

kodak brownie color picture.
Backyard picture taken on the Brownie 620e with Kodak Portra 160 film.

The photos are made by a meniscus lens and huge 6×9 negatives. On any other camera these would be super high resolution. The photos have a holga effect to them, which can look cool in certain circumstances.

The Cheapest Film Camera

If, like me, you're too cheap to pay good money for a plastic Holga camera then chances are you might have a Kodak brownie camera laying around the house, garage, or attic. My model, The Kodak Brownie 620e was made from 1947-1957, has a f/11 aperture, 100mm lens, 1/60 shutter speed, and also features a sliding close up lens and yellow filter. It is a good idea to choose a low speed film stock if shooting outdoors in blue skies. Even the 125 and 160 iso was often a struggle in bright sunlight and some frames came in a few stops overexposed. If I was to try using the Kodak brownie again I’d go for a 100 speed balck and white film and Portra 160, or Ektar 100. The Slower the better, as these cameras were made during an era without access to the higher speed film stocks.

If you can find an old Brownie camera in the attic have a go using it, or if you’re not cheap and want to make life simple just buy a Hogla and you can use regular 120 film.

kodak brownie black and white picture.
Shooting with expired Kodak Verichrome on the Brownie camera.

Re-rolling Medium Format film on 620 spools

If you've found an old Kodak Brownie and want to have a go re-rolling film for it here is a youtube tutorial I found from the Film Photography Podcast. It walks through how to roll your own film. I followed along the first time I did it and it worked out fine.

Southshore sunset