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edmund j. kowalski | profile | all galleries >> Galleries >> 99 Year Old Brownie Camera tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

99 Year Old Brownie Camera

This is the oldest camera in my collection, and I was curious as to what the capabilities of a century old camera might be.
Last patent date inside camera is September of 1909.
Film size was 3 1/4 x 5 1/2, size 122 rollfilm (postcard size)... impossible to find for sure, so I made adaptations at the film plane and in the supply side, to allow use of current readily available 120 size film, for negative frames of 2 1/4 inch by 5 1/2 inch.
Since I used the original 122 spool as a take-up, film could be loaded in the light, but I had to open the camera in the dark, to remove the exposed film and respool it to the 120 spool, for processing. I used a heavy winter jacket, clamped off top and bottom, my hands in through the sleeves, to hold the camera and film as a changing bag during this operation.
At the photo lab, I asked for develop only, no print no cut, because of the unusual image size. I was able to scan the frames with my Epson scanner in transparency mode.

Those beautiful red bellows were full of leaks, so I made a second pyramid of opaque foam rubber sheets, and inserted it as a second skin, on the INSIDE, for light-tight performance.
The lens is a very simple meniscus design, single glass element, made in an age long before color correction was necessary (prismatic effects that are neutralzed in most multi-element designs), so I elected to use modern black and white emulsion, Ilford FP4 ASA 125.
I had to block off the camera's frame counting red window, so for frame by frame advance, it became necessary to calculate how many turns of the advance key would carry it forward to the next frame without overlap.
I was able to fit 5 complete frames at 5 1/2 inches wide onto one roll of 120 film.

For subject matter it seemed appropriate to capture five scenes that would look relatively unchanged from the time that the original owner of this camera might have seen them. I chose Forest Park in St. Louis, and the former environs of the 1904 World's Fair.

Camera did quite well for such an old artifact, I think.

Please remember to click on thumbnail images below, to see in enlargement.
All images are 2009 E.J.Kowalski.
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