I had heard of the Kodak Brownie Hawkeye camera before, but I did not know much about it.  When I was younger, my Great Uncle Bill used to take lots of pictures.  I’m sure at some point, he probably used a Brownie camera, but with my lack of knowledge about cameras back then, I’m sure he said “Do you want this old camera?”  To which I probably said “No thanks. It’s old.”  So, like many things I should’ve been smart enough to keep,  it’s probably another thing I let him throw away after he finally bought himself the Canon AE-1 Program.

That was quite an upgrade.  The Canon AE-1 Program is a very nice 35mm film camera.  I know this, because I am the proud owner of one.  Now…I can’t take decent pictures with it, because I’m all digital all the time, but I do own one.  Maybe some day I’ll learn how to shoot with it.  You can read about it in my blog post titled The Canon AE-1 Program…My Adventures with 35mm Film.  

I’m constantly looking for YouTube reviews on different cameras that I wish I had, or cameras I’d like to learn more about.  One day while I was searching, I came across a YouTuber who was doing a series called “Old As Dirt.”  I was instantly intrigued, and clicked on the link.  It took me to a video of this guy taking pictures with a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye camera.  I watched it from beginning to end, and so began my obsession with finding a reasonably priced (and hopefully working) Kodak Brownie Hawkeye camera.

In a weak moment, I found myself browsing through pages on eBay when I “accidentally” came across several Kodak Brownie Hawkeye cameras for sale.  I found one that was reasonably priced (about $15), and put in a bid on it.  Much to my surprise, I won this eBay item.  A vintage Kodak Brownie Hawkeye camera was on its way to me!  Was it going to work?  Would I be able to figure out how to use it?  Only time would tell…

The camera arrived, and when I opened the box, I was surprised by how small and lightweight it was.  It appeared to be in good condition – it had the original box and the instruction manual with it, so I was hopeful.

The seller had mentioned in is notes that he thought there was film in it, but he wasn’t sure.  So…I hastily opened the back of the camera and guess what.  There was film in it.  Film that was now ruined because I had so hastily taken the camera apart.  Oh well…  I guess I’ll always wonder what might have been on that film that had been left in this camera.

Next, after opening and admiring the camera and deciding that I wanted to take some photos, I learned that they no longer made film for the Kodak Brownie Hawkeye, but there was still film available that works with this particular camera.

They were so patient with my while I was figuring this thing out. What a fun experiment!

The Kodak Brownie Hawkeye was made for a 620 medium format film, and this is no longer available, but 120 film is available, and it works with this camera.

Hooray.  I was in luck.  However, I also read that the spools used in a Brownie were a different size that what is typically used with the 620 medium format film, and there were a few modifications that needed to be made for the 120 film to work properly with he Brownie.

So…back to YouTube, where I looked for videos on how to load the 120 film into the Brownie camera.  Surprisingly, there were several sites that showed you what to do.  And with such a “simple” camera, how hard could it be, right?

The simplicity of this camera amazed me.  How could a little black box with no batteries or digital displays take a good photo?  I couldn’t wait to test this out.  It was so light weight, that it felt like I was playing with a child’s toy.  I finally got the film loaded correctly, and headed outside to take some pictures.

Now…you must remember, that to shoot with a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye camera, you hold the camera down low and look down into the top of the camera.   This was new to me – it took me a minute to figure out how to center my kids in the little viewing window.  Completely different from anything I’d ever shot with before.

I know it sounds easy, but it’s a lot harder than it looks. Maybe it’s because my camera was so old and dirty – it was not a very clear picture. But still, looking down to see something in front of you is interesting…

After about 30 minutes, I had used up all of the film, and was ready to figure out how to get it out of the camera and what to do next.  Not many people shoot with film anymore, so I was not sure if my local Walgreen’s was equipped to deal with actual film or not.

Just as I suspected, they were not.  You have to fill out some paperwork and ship your film off to Walgreen’s labs, where it takes a couple of weeks to develop the pictures.  Oh my…  I found myself being as impatient as my kids were who kept complaining that they couldn’t preview the pictures I was taking with the Brownie!  They had no concept of a film camera and what that meant.  Crazy, right?  All they know is cell phone and other digital pictures that you can instantly see.

After 2 weeks, my pictures arrived back.  The nice gentleman from Walgreen’s called and left me a very timid message saying “Um…your pictures came back, but they are really bad.  Nothing turned out.  They are all cloudy and white and you can’t really see any images.  Let us know if you want us to keep them for you.”

I went up to Walgreen’s the next day, and the nice gentleman was right.  EPIC KODAK BROWNIE HAWKEYE FAIL!  However, I was glad I kept them.  I snapped pictures of the photos and loaded them into Lightroom just to see what I could do.  As you can see from the pictures below, not much.

 

Here are some interesting facts I learned about the Kodak Brownie Hawkeye:

  • It is a Bakelite box camera that takes 6×6 images
  • It uses 620 film
  • It was made in the USA and France between 1949 and 1961
  • The non-flash unit originally sold for $7
  • Its focal length is 81mm
  • It has an Aperture of f/15
  • The shutter has an instant setting, but the precise speed is unknown (thought to fall between 1/30 and 1/50)

If you want to learn more detailed specs about the Kodak Brownie Hawkeye and some interesting facts, you can check out the Camera-Wiki Website.  There is quite a bit of detailed (and interesting) information on these cameras.

Now, if you’re a crafty person, and you want to “bedazzle” your Kodak Brownie Hawkeye, you should check out the article titled How to Renovate, Clean, and Paint a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye.  It is a great (very detailed) article explaining every step you need to know in order to take apart, clean, and then potentially paint your camera.

Personally, I don’t have the patience for all of those steps, but it would be very cool to have a turquoise Kodak Brownie Hawkeye camera!  Don’t you agree?  I should try and take mine apart and clean it though.  Maybe that would fix it.  Maybe the pictures were terrible because no one has ever cleaned the lens?  Maybe I’ll try that before buying another one.

If you’re curious about the photos taken in the YouTube “Old As Dirt” video, you can check them out in the article titled OLD AS DIRT NO. 2 – KODAK BROWNIE HAWKEYE.  I was quite impressed with the images he was able to get with such an old camera.  Obviously, the camera was in very good, working condition.

So there you have it.  My first experience shooting pictures with a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye.  I will consider this my test run, and I think we can all consider this my failed test run!  But, even though it was a failure, I really enjoyed learning about this little box camera.  I’m so happy that I bought one and learned all about it.  So simple, but yet it works.  Well…if you use it correctly it works!  I’m determined to either clean up this Brownie Hawkeye camera and get it to where it takes decent pictures, or I’m going to start a new hunt on eBay for one that is in better condition!

I want to take some decent pictures with this camera.  I am determined!  No matter what it takes!  Wish me luck.  I’ll let you know how it turns out.  Until next time…