On paper, the Kodak Duaflex II is a lousy camera. It tried to capture high-end cachet by being styled as a twin-lens reflex camera, but it’s really just a glorified box camera. Its single-element meniscus lens, a 75mm f/15 Kodet, was the cheapest Kodak offered in those days. Its simple single-speed leaf shutter fires at about 1/30 second. It doesn’t get much more basic than that.
The Duaflex II sold for $15 during its 1950-1954 run. That’s a whopping $121 in 2010 dollars.
Yet Kodak must have sold a bajillion Duaflex IIs as eBay offers dozens of them all the time. You’ll also find examples of the Duaflex (1947-1950), Duaflex III (1954-1957), and Duaflex IV (1957-1960), which differ from each other mostly in styling. Kodak sold the Duaflex by itself and in kits that included a leather “field case” and a flash holder that automatically synched with the shutter. Given the number of Duaflexes I’ve seen with the same carrying bag, I wonder if the bag was part of a kit or was just a commonly sold accessory. I do know that attachment lens filters were a common Duaflex accessory. Kodak also made Duaflexes with a fancier lens, the 72mm f/8 Kodar, which could be stopped at f/8, f/11, and f/16.
Clearly, this simple camera caught on. I’m not surprised. I had one in my first camera collection, and it was one of my top favorites. It was pleasant to use and took respectable photographs. You hang it around your neck and look down into its big, bright fisheye viewfinder. Framing is easy, though it takes a little getting used to how the viewfinder reverses images left to right. Its aluminum and plastic body has a little heft and is easy to hold, and its shutter button slides on silk, all of which makes it easy to keep the camera steady for crisp shots. Well, relatively crisp, anyway; the simple lens seems a little soft, especially at the edges.
Duaflexes take 6 cm square photos on size 620 film. Kodak discontinued 620 in 1995, but fortunately 620 is just 120 film (readily available since 1901!) on a narrower spool. Some people apparently have had good luck using 120 in Duaflexes by trimming the edges off both ends of the spool; others respool 120 onto a 620 spool. You can also buy 120 already spooled onto a 620 spool if you don’t mind paying a premium.
Before I do any of the above, I plan to clean this Duaflex, as it’s pretty dirty. That will involve taking it apart, but fortunately others have trod that ground before me and have written about the experience so I won’t be flying blind.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t show you photos from a Duaflex II. In the summer of 1982, I bought a roll of size 620 Kodacolor II at the drugstore and loaded it into my first Duaflex II. I scanned them all, used Paint Shop Pro XI to restore them to their original brilliance, and uploaded them to Flickr. Here are a few that I liked best. This one is of my bike and my friend Brian’s bike in my family’s driveway. This was the first photograph I ever took that turned out looking like I had a half of a clue about what I was doing.
This is Brian. We’ve been friends since 1979.
I turned the camera skyward and captured some clouds.
My first Duaflex II was a garage sale find. It came in a carrying bag (the same kind shown earlier) with a flash holder, accessory filters, a manual, and a whole bunch of old #5 flash bulbs. I spent one taking this photo of my brother in my bedroom.
My brother wanted to pound me for taking his picture. Fortunately, the flash was extremely bright, and it blinded him just long enough for me to get away.
Do you like old cameras? Then check out my entire collection.