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Boxing clever


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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Boxing clever

22 May 2020 10:05AM   Views : 388 Unique : 270


Digital imaging and modern lenses have freed us from so many constraints that we used to face as photographers.

With a simple box camera, slow film, a single shutter speed and an uncoated meniscus lens, the basic advice was to take pictures only on a sunny day, with the sun over your shoulder.

That was a genuinely simple message: the limitations of the technology made it really easy to do, providing you stuck to the rules.

View of the top right corner of the camera: can you see - faintly - an image of a pillar and a garden wall? Even more complicated to use because it reverses the image right to left...


My first camera was a Kodak Box Brownie (a Six 20 Model F, I discover on researching a bit). It was made from metal, had close-up and yellow filter pull-outs, and would take a flashgun. It had a very Fifties design, with cream leatherette all over the body, and a stylish (or maybe itís better to say styled) front panel. I think that the brilliant viewfinders may have been the only such things Iíve met that anywhere near worked well.

A vast amount of thought and development had gone into making a camera that was genuinely simple to use, thoroughly robust, and gave worthwhile quality. Big negatives gave contact prints that were decently sharp: a pristine example, complete with box and instructions will cost you getting on for £100: £15 gets you one that looks as if itís been kept in a plumberís toolbag for fifty years.

I currently own a rather older version (a Brownie 2), made mainly from wood and card, and black all over. Itís much simpler, but harder to use, because instead of a plastic knob, thereís a key to wind the film on, the viewfinders are tiny, and Ė hereís the killer Ė you need to use the shutter differently on alternate images. Push down for one image: pull back up for the next. The model F has a natty plastic button and thereís a sliding switch to lock it to prevent accidental exposures. The one plus the older model has is that the shutter is in front of the lens, protecting it from dust and damage.


ĎYou push the button, we do the restí was the old Kodak slogan. You could say the same of an iPad: and they are more completely ubiquitous than even the Brownie box camera, but the sheer lack of limitations tends to mean that many users attempt the impossible.

Whatís changed? A regimented approach, the idea that there were rules that you needed to follow may have helped Brownie owners to succeed. Maybe my view of the success rate is through rose-tinted spectacles. But I do wonder if too many of us have bought the idea that we are photographically invincible, and donít need to bother learning how to use our kit.

Maybe todayís the time to find out about that button you donít understand. Go on Ė look it up!


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dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.2k 2063 England
22 May 2020 10:06AM
Due to sheer incompetence, my daily picture upload has been delayed: I developed the wrong film. But when it comes in a couple of hours, it'll be a picture taken with this camera a few days ago.
PaulCox Avatar
22 May 2020 4:22PM
I was really expecting to see the Bakelite larger brother of the Brownie 127,
mistere Avatar
mistere Plus
10 38 8 England
22 May 2020 5:13PM
"Maybe todayís the time to find out about that button you donít understand"... Not the advice i'd give to the present occupant
of '1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C.'. BlushBlush
My interest in photography came far too late for me to have encountered a Brownie. I understand the attraction though. Basic, simple equipment,
designed to do one job, and do it reasonably well. I've used dive gear that was a lot older than me. That was fascinating but I wouldn't recommend
it to a beginner. Some things work best if you know how to get the best out of them. I suspect the same is true of the Box Brownie. And most of the other tools
in the plumbers toolbag...( that's a great line, I think i'll borrow it SmileSmile)
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.2k 2063 England
22 May 2020 6:38PM
You're welcome to borrow the Brownie as well, Dave - an introduction to medium format...

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