Before I even got in to film photography, my mother gifted me a Kodak Brownie — a Kodak Brownie Target Six-20 — complete with original box, manual, and envelope to mail in the film. The camera sat on my shelf for months, until I decided to see about getting some film for it. I had read online that it was possible to use 120 film, so off to Amazon I went. However, upon finding out that using 120 involved modifying the spool to fit into the camera, I abandoned the idea.
Three years and two months into COVID quarantine later, I’d decided to use my newfound free time to start developing my own film, and the idea of dusting off the Brownie sprung up anew. I had known that 620 film was available from the Film Photography Project for some time, but the prospect of spending nearly $4 a shot including processing was just too much. Home development meant I could get that cost down to a mere $2.
Armed with my Brownie, my partner and I set off for a walk through Toronto
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this 70+ year old camera, but I have to say that for such a simple device, I was pleasantly surprised. The camera produces a 6x9cm negative, so there’s plenty of detail, even if it’s not very sharp by modern standards. While film photography is already an exercise in minimalism, shooting with a camera this rudimentary is even more so. You have a shutter lever, two aperture controls, a bulb mode, and that’s it. That coupled with the high cost of shooting it really makes you slow down and consider the images you’re making.
The images — shot on Kodak T-MAX 400 — were adjusted slightly while scanning, but for the most part, they are exactly as they were on the negative. I was worried that a 400 ISO film would mean blown highlights on the sunny day, but it seemed like the opposite was the case with some areas falling deep into shadow, although that might have also been down to vignetting.
While this camera won’t be an everyday shooter, I am excited to run some colour film through it and experiment with some double exposures. Its combination of lo-fi and utter simplicity will probably lead to some interesting results and new creative possibilities. At an average cost of $20, grab one if you can—they’re much more than just decorations!
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