During March, April and May 2020 I have been taking cameras from my collection out to test how well they still work. I particularly enjoy taking out the older cameras in my collection, as they often completely surprise me with just how well they work.
This is an autographic camera, which was designed to take a particular Kodak film that allowed you to open a small door on the back of the camera and use the supplied stylus pen to inscribe with carbon paper a note or details about the photographs as they were taken.
This camera doesn't have a standard lens, and insead it is open so you can see (and touch if you wanted to) the aperture blades and shutter. It gives you a really close up view of how apertures work and able to very easily see the shutter fire.
The apertures on this camera don't have the standard numbers that became a common-place way of measuring and understanding exposures, and instead simply have four options numbered 1–4.
There are four shutter speed options, 1/25th, 1/50th, Bulb and Time, all of them are working smoothly.
Testing out the camera
This Kodak No. 2 Folding Autographic Brownie that I have owned for a number of years was one of those that surprised and delighted. I've always understood that the Kodak cameras where the lens is on the inside after the shutter and aperture aren't known to take quality photographs. However, this is the second of my cameras with this setup to provide great results.
I own a few autographic folding cameras, and this backdoor often causes issues with light leak. Therefore, I tend to add some tape across the back to block out some of the light (while trying not to damage the camera), and try not to keep the camera out in the light too much when I'm out shooting. I'll only get it out of the bag once I'm sure I'm ready to take the photograph, and pop it away as soon as I can. Only one of the photographs I took on the test roll showed signs of light leak, and only because I didn't put the camera away straight away between shots.
This particular camera doesn't have standard apertures, instead it uses the numbers 1-4. Therefore, as I could see the sized of the aperture changing as I moved the knob, I decided to eye-ball it and take a guess at what I felt was appropriate. The fastest shutter speed on the camera is 1/50th, although who knows how accurate this is after all these years. All photographs were taken in the middle of the day in full-sun. I used the sunny-16 rule as a guide, and selected what felt like an appropriate aperture for the ISO 400 film I had loaded.
I used around aperture no.4 for most of the shots, which looked to be around f/22 ish, maybe a bit higher.
I used Ilford HP5 developed in HC-110 dilution B for 5 minutes at 20c.
When I pulled the film out of the development tank, I was shocked. The shots were almost perfectly exposed, and pretty close to in focus across the entire roll. Nothing was over-lapping, no major light-leak (except the one from the autographic door).
For a 100 year old camera, it was amazing to see just what it still has to offer!
About Madeline Bowser
I've been photographing with film for what seems like forever ... well since the late 90's. I shoot both film and digital, but film is where my heart is and I get the most ongoing enjoyment from and what I enjoy sharing and teaching to others. I also travel the world hunting down old cameras and unique locations to photograph in, and exhibit and sell my travel photographs.
When out shooting film, I often get asked the questions 'can you still buy film?', 'I thought film stopped being made 10 years ago' and 'why would you want to shoot film when you can shoot digital'.
My answers are, 'yes', 'no, it didn't', and 'I also shoot digital, both have their place in my mind'.
Visit haeliophoto.com or follow me on Instagram @haeliophoto to see more of my work.
Visit photo-tours.com.au to sign up to a film photography workshop in Melbourne.
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