The Kodak brownie is probably the best known and iconic camera series ever made. The Brownies in one form or another were made from 1900 to 1986 although are best known for the Iconic Box Brownies. The No 2 deserves a special place in this Iconography not just for it’s own 34 year run from 1901 but for the fact this camera gave us 120 film and is arguable the most reliable camera in the world still turning out shots almost a century later. Although this isn’t a Poundland Challenge Camera, scarily you can actually get this classic for a quid or less.
There a few such Iconic Cameras and millions of them exist. They were the original low cost snapshot camera using cheap Kodak film (a clever idea for a company whom had until then been a film manufacturer). It is worth noting that a Brownies No2 with a letter suffix ( Brownie 2A, 2C and Beau Brownie 2A) doesn’t use 120 roll film. Early versions were made of leatherette covered card until 1924 when a aluminum box was used. I suspect you’ll more likely find a post ’24 one. From 1928 they were made in the UK as well as America & Canada. Chuck Baker’s site details the subtle differences in the models.
Kodak Brownie No 2 Specs
- Lens: 105mm 1:8
- Focus : Fixed
- Focus : 8ft-infinity
- Aperture: f/11, 16 & 22 *
- Shutter: 1/50 sec + Bulb
- EV 100 : 13-15
- Exposure: Manual
Mines appears to be from 1931 or later by virtue of it’s winder knob rather than a key. You shoot 6x9cm images (8 per roll of 120 film) via the simple meniscus lens. There is no focus involved but you do have some exposure control.
There are 2 pull up levers at the front. The middle one moves the aperture between 3 settings (smallest when pulled up fully but feel for the notches). The other if pulled up allows you to shoot at Bulb. I believe the shutter speed to be around 1/50 sec for the standard No 2 but the No 2 Portrait is slightly faster at 1/60. My one has tripod screw points on both base and on the side
The No2 is geared for taking shots from waist level. You need to keep the camera fairly level to avoid parallax issues (this isn’t one to tilt). On the top and on one side there are reflex style viewfinders that give you a fairly bright image of what you’re targeting. To shoot move the shutter lever either down or up and that is it (don’t move the lever back as you’ll just take a second exposure). Wind on and you’re ready to go again.
And it works. Focus is okay for a fixed focus and is better than some I’ve used. Nice image bit soft but equally exposed. Vignettes a bit but not to bad and adds to vintage charm
The nice thing is people will stop and look & talk to you about the camera. It also uses widely available 120 film and could easily be modded for 35mm as has a flat film plane (although the long load length will seriously limit number of shots per roll. The post ’24 ones are incredibly reliable with only the red window falling out being occasionally mentioned. You can also get criminally cheaply on eBay ( I counted 6 that sold for 99p in the 50 most recently sold at the time of writing). The portrait version is a little more pricey but the highly collectable Art Deco Beau Brownie No 2 often goes for well into double figure. What ever one you get scarily will probably out live you !
- As vintage as you could wish
- Bomb proof
- 120 roll film
- Talking point
- 8 shots a roll !!
- Limited exposure range
- Fixed focus
What I paid & got
- £10 plus £3.50 postage (yup should have held out)
- Only extra was vintage metal 120 spool
- Vivitar Ultra Slim & Wide Clones– The modern 35mm equivalent
- Diana F+ – More capable but still basic modern 120 camera
- Agfa Box 50 – Post war (WWII) box camera for 120 film
- Brownie Camera Page has pretty much everything inc manual
- Brownie Group at Flickr
- Brownie Camera @ 100 on Kodak’s US website