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The Last Brownie Camera

By Chuck Baker

The Kodak Brownie II was the last Brownie camera produced. This interesting camera is similar to the Kodak Cross and the Kodak Star 110 models. Why it was released as a Brownie model, years after the previous 110 Brownie model ended production, is a mystery. It was produced and distributed in Brazil. As far as I can tell, it was manufactured only during 1986 and there were no variations of this camera produced.

The Kodak Brownie II - photo David Lisk

The Kodak Brownie II – The Last Brownie Camera

This well-made camera is surprisingly advanced for any Brownie camera, not just a 110 camera. The shutter speed is automatically set by the speed of the film, via notches on the film cartridge. Additionally, it offers a choice of two apertures and has a “flipflash” socket..

Kodak Kodak Brownie II - David Lisk photo

Closed Kodak Brownie II – The Last Brownie Camera

Here are some details:
Camera Type: Eyelevel 110 Cartridge Loading
Introduced: 1986
Discontinued: 1986
Film size: 110 Cartridge
Picture size: 0.51″ x 0.67″
Manufactured: Brazil
Lens: Kodar Meniscus F/11, 22mm Fixed Focus
Aperture Settings: Bright and Cloudy
Shutters Speeds: 1/50, 1/125 and 1/250
Numbers made: ?
Original price: ?

The Kodak Brownie II Package - David Lisk photo

The Kodak Brownie II Package – The Last Brownie Camera

The Brownie Camera Page was introduced to the World Wide Web in 1994 and has been growing ever since. I started the website because I couldn’t find any information about a Baby Brownie that was my father’s. The website has become a knowledge base, of sorts, kind of a WIKIBrownieCamera. I am always open and welcome new information and corrections to the website.

Recently, a visitor to the website/blog found a camera listing that was wrong. I did not verify well enough the wrong information that I used to create the webpage years ago. For this, I apologize to everyone who took this information as fact. This is a big Thank You to David Lisk for taking the time to point out the correct information for this blog and the camera page, with references, and for sending images of The Last Brownie Camera ever made.

What Makes a Real Photographer?

by Christopher Hosford

One of the most interesting debates in the world of photography today swirls around the memory of a dead eccentric who would cringe at the idea she was in the public eye whatsoever.

Self Portrait – Vivian Maier

I had this thought after seeing the excellent documentary, “Finding Vivian Maier” about the reclusive children’s nanny who also was a compelling street photographer. Maier, who died in 2009 in poverty, had rarely if ever printed or edited her own shots. More than 100,000 of her negatives were recovered in an auction of “junk” after her death, were brought to public attention by those struck by her work, and have now been embraced by the public.

While many now acclaim Maier as a near genius, a controversy has arisen over what qualifies people to be a “photographer” in the first place.

Maier was technically superb with her Rolleiflex, had a great eye for composition and light, and insinuated herself brilliantly into the private spaces of strangers in order to take a picture. But … she didn’t bother editing her work in the processing and printing process. In the eyes of some, this gap disqualifies her from the first rank of photographers.

By extension, some say the discoverers of her work who are now printing and selling her images not only are shameless profiteers, but also are misleading the world about Maier’s abilities. The excellent commentator Ted Forbes, in his YouTube series The Art of Photography, raised this issue recently, and seriously considers the point.

Children – Vivian Maier

I view the debate through the prism of journalism, since that’s how I make my living. I’ve always tried to do my best in the “shooting” aspect of writing, which includes reporting, verifying and crafting of words. But very few writers have any control once their work is handed off to editors and publishers—or in fact are very good editors themselves, especially of their own work. Anyone can appreciate this who’s read the unedited embarrassments on the Internet.

The poet Emily Dickinson is an apt Maier analog. Another famous recluse, Dickinson rarely published. After her death the first editions of her poems were printed only after her idiosyncratic syntax, usage, grammar and punctuation were “improved.” Only recently has her work been published as originally written, but it was the edited printings of her poems that brought her to prominence.

Consider other arts. Michelangelo’s “David” was originally intended to be positioned along the roofline of a Florentine cathedral, but later was situated in a public square, and then replaced at the original location with a replica. Does this “editing” after the event violate the artist’s intentions? Has it harmed the art itself? I’d bet a hatful of florins that the artist made the statue expressly to be viewed from afar and well below.

Woman - Vivian Maier

Woman – Vivian Maier

Are photographers expected to be great shooters as well as great processors, great printers, great chemists, great optical technicians, great mathematicians (the “zone system,” anyone?), or expert in many other abilities? Just how many skills must it take to be considered a “true” photographer?

I will say that Maier’s own reclusiveness harmed her legacy. Because she never, and I mean never, threw anything away, everything is now before the public, including the just OK and the dreck. Forbes’ critical assessment of Maier is partly based on her pedestrian stuff. If she could have foreseen the future, she may have chosen carefully, processed well, and hidden the embarrassments out of sight.

I’ll leave it to others to hash out the fine points of the debate. For me, if Maier’s negatives are all we have I’m good with that. They illustrate well her terrific photographic ideas, and that she could capture them vividly and compellingly. It would be swell if we all were so talented.

From Chuck: Chris started and moderates the Facebook group “Kodak Brownie Fans“. I’m excited about Chris contributing his thoughts and ideas to this blog.

The Challenges Of Buying A Used Film Camera

by Christopher Hosford

Anybody who is into old film cameras must know that acquiring one constitutes a delicate dance between hope and experience.

You say the local Goodwill has a dusty little Vivitar point-and-shoot for $1.99? But wait…there’s that nifty Olympus 35mm right next to it that, uh, kinda rattles when you shake it. And the antique shop up the road offers a lovely Art Deco Baby Brownie that looks in OK shape. But at $60 it’s no bargain, and uses hard-to-obtain film.

Here’s one online: “In perfect condition.” A bit further down the page, there’s this: “I know nothing about cameras,” and “No returns.” Hmm.

Lesson: Beware of Claims
When I was first trying to learn more about photography, I was attracted to what was termed a beautifully “restored” all-mechanical Ciro-Flex twin lens reflex. I love American stuff, and it went for $65 at an online auction site.

Yashica-ALesson: Check Out Seller Ratings
The Ciro-Flex was a horror. The “restoration” included funky green (not original black) leatherette that actually overlapped vital areas. The lovely white Ciro-Flex script on the face of the camera was painted over. And when I actually used it, the bellows crank broke after one roll of film, the resultant negatives were scratched by rusty rollers, and (judging by soft spots in the prints) the lens also appeared to be scratched. The seller refunded my $65 and sent me cost-free a less-upscale Yashica Model-A TLR. I guess he felt guilty, his seller rating was quite good and I’m sure he wanted to make things right.

Lesson: Be Happy With Good Enough
The Yashica A, by the way, works fine, and it continues to be a workhorse for me. So-called entry level cameras from good manufacturers can take great photos, so don’t get too hinky about bells and whistles.

Six-20 Brownie Model DLesson: Know When to  Fold’ em
Which brings me back to the Brownie, the ultimate entry level film camera. Inspired by some great Brownie photos online, I checked out online auctions and found a Six-20 Brownie Model D (1953-57 era). “Perfect condition” again was cited, but after running several rolls through this model from Kodak’s old English manufactory, it was clear that the lens either was scratched or was hosting a colony of fungus happily raising millions of offspring eager to matriculate to Kodak U. It is now a display piece.

Lesson: Check “Extra” Costs
Seeking additional Brownie experiences, I went for an earlier Six-20 Brownie Model C  (1946-53 era), also from England, priced at an unbelievable 99 pence (0.99 pounds sterling). How could I lose? I won the bidding, but when conversion to U.S. dollars and shipping fees were figured in, that one-quid camera set me back $26 U.S. of A. greenbacks. Youch!

Lesson: Enjoy the Wins
Sometimes things work out well. In my childhood my family had a Kodak Brownie Flash Six-20, and it took fine snapshots. I found one online for $6. This oddly shaped little tank seems indestructible, and takes excellent pictures. Later I bought an original Kodak yellow filter and close-up attachment just for this model. (I’m a nut about going stock. You’ll never find me pimping out my 1958 Studebaker Golden Hawk. If I owned one.)

Lesson: No Need to Gamble
There are reliable sources of old film cameras, such as shops that restore and sell them, and offer guarantees. But part of the fun is the thrill of the hunt. To grab a great Rollei for a song has got to put a zing in your swing.

Lesson: Cameras For All
I should add that many, many people buy cameras for reasons other than just picture taking. I know folks with hundreds of cameras, arrayed on shelves from every period of the great age of film. Here, perhaps rusty rollers or befogged lenses don’t matter. Historical gaps are filled, and wonderment is gained from red leather bellows, glorious mechanics, and superb hand craftsmanship.

Whatever your goal, keep up the good fight in your camera hunt. Don’t lose faith. Take the bad purchase with the good, return what you can, and stash the others in the bookcase where they will look fine.

After all, it’s just a camera.

From Chuck: Chris started and moderates the Facebook group “Kodak Brownie Fans“. I’m excited about Chris contributing his thoughts and ideas to this blog.

Images ©Christopher Hosford