As if the year 2020 couldn’t get any worse for all of us; It was also the year in which I lost my grandfather. He passed in early June of, preceded by my grandmother in 2015.
The day after my wife and I flew to Indiana for the funeral I was sitting in my mother’s office (my old bedroom) and noticed an older leather case on a shelf next to her desk. Inside the case was an interesting looking camera; very basic at first glance. I could see the lens, a couple of windows, and a button protruding out of the side.
My first instinct was to press the protruding button and see what happened. There was a slight mechanical click noise and the front section of the camera popped out and extended showing me the bellows (I didn’t know that was what they were called at the time).
I looked around the camera for markings to help me identify what I had just found and there, right on the locking slide latch under the leather handle was engraved: Jiffy Kodak Six-20 Series II. I had seen a folding style camera before. My father has a Polaroid Land Camera that was his fathers, but the film is no longer made so I hadn’t done more than open the camera and look at it a few times before.
The camera itself was in incredible condition for its age. Manufactured from 1937-1948, this camera would have been purchased probably in the early 40s as my grandmother used it as a teen. The camera originally took 620 film, which luckily is simply 120 film on a slightly different spool, and, is still sold on these spools by some speciality camera shops online. Without hesitation, I ordered a roll of ILFORD Delta 100 Professional.
I opened and cleaned off the cameras Twindar Lens, checked the bellows for any light leaks and tested that the shutter worked. The camera itself is similar to the older Kodak box style cameras in that it has a lever which can be pulled out or pushed in to change between 3 aperture sizes. The shutter is a fixed speed at around 1/45th and the lens has a simple focusing method of turning the outer lens housing to adjust for subjects within 5-10 feet or greater than 10 feet.
As far as viewing the subject through the camera, you have two small viewfinder windows, one for portrait and one for landscape. Both of the mirrors inside these viewfinders were loose and so I eventually replaced them. The camera shoots a very large 6x9cm negative. So you can get 8 shots per roll of 120 film.
The Ilford Delta 100 I had ordered arrived a day before my grandfather’s funeral. I loaded it into the camera and used the little red tint window on the back to ensure it was advanced to the first frame. The first picture I took with it was out in my parent’s backyard of a cherry tree that we would pick cherries from to make cherry pie when I was younger. As you can see, I was a bit shaky during this picture but I am still impressed that the photo is exposed pretty well.
The next photo I took was the day of the funeral. My family had all gathered at my grandfather’s apartment where some of the out-of-town family was staying to have some relax time and catch up with everyone. My grandfather had moved into this apartment in a retirement community about a year before he passed. He chose this apartment because right outside the back porch was a small pond and from his porch he could watch all the different types of birds that came by to drink from the pond. This was a photo I wanted to have knowing it is a view my grandfather would have frequently enjoyed.
After returning home to the Bay Area I decided to take the camera along with me during a hike near my home. I snapped this image of the surrounding area from up on the mountain during our hike. Please forgive me for the ample amount of sky in the frame.
Later in the month of June I took a few days to meet up with my parents in Colorado to do some hiking in Rocky Mountain State Park. It was here that I finished the roll of Ilford Delta 100, taking a few shots along the hike that turned out quite well. Even the one of the mountains which is underexposed in the foreground turned out better than I expected.
Using this camera has been a way for me to continue to keep the thought of my grandparents alive and well. Each time I take it out of the case and shoot with it I am reminded of them and it is an item I will cherish for the rest of my life. I had read the manual for this camera online but with it being so basic in operation I was not sure if any of the photos I took would turn out. To my surprise every photo I took was viewable and only one or two were slightly under or overexposed.
I currently have it loaded up with a roll of Kodak Portra 160 color film; the first color film this particular camera has ever shot..
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This series is produced in conjunction with Hamish Gill's excellent 35mmc.com. Head on over to read the other half of these stories there.
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