Down the Road

Roads and life and how roads are like life

Kodak Duaflex II

25

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.

Kodak Duaflex II

The Duaflex II sold for $15 during its 1950-1954 run. That’s a whopping $121 in 2010 dollars.

Kodak Duaflex II

With the flash attachment

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.

Kodak Duaflex II

Yellow filter and closeup lens

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.

Kodak Duaflex II

The carrying bag

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.

Bikes

This is Brian. We’ve been friends since 1979.

Old friend

I turned the camera skyward and captured some clouds.

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

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.

25 thoughts on “Kodak Duaflex II

  1. Lone Primate

    Hey, Jim, if you know of a way to convert RGB images to Lab colour in PSP, you can get even better results from your old scanned photos. You slightly blur the two colour channels (L and A), which smooths out a lot of the chromatic noise, and enhance the brightness channel (B) to bring life to the shadows and tame the highlights. You can run a noise reduction filter on the brightness channel too, but at this point it’s balancing act between cleaning up noise and losing detail. It’s a call of the individual eye.

    Then, you convert back to RGB, save, and garnish with parsley. :)

    1. Jim Post author

      Wow, you just opened up a whole new room for me, as I’ve never heard of any of what you’re talking about. I’m betting all of this is out of PSP’s grasp.

      That shot of my brother does suffer from some obvious noise.

      The other thing I see on all of these photos is the “nap” of the matte paper on which the original photos are printed.

      I’d love to have a negative scanner.

  2. Ewa Kuc

    Hi.

    Great article. Just a few days ago I got the Duaflex II. Have Never Heard about it before, but I’d never been interested much in collectible cameras. I’ve got 2 ZENIT E-line at home, and both of them are pretty used by me when I was a teeneger with my first camera(s). Didn’t know what to do with it, and how to take care of it. Anyway…. Now when I have this Duaflex I’m again crazy about the “oldies” :-)
    Your article answered lots of my questions. I’ve been worrying about the roll film, and wher I can get it.
    Thanks a lot for sharing!

  3. Maija

    Thank you for the great article!
    I bought Kodak Duaflex II a while ago and have now taken two 36mm colour films with it. I really like how the photos turned out.
    Next, I plan to load 120 film and aim for the more “original” look.
    Do you know, if it is easy to find those filters and close up lenses for Duaflex II?

    1. Jim Post author

      I don’t know how easy or hard it is to find filters and close-up lenses — but I do know that if they’re available anywhere in the world, eBay will have them!

  4. RubyTombstone

    Thatnks for this really useful article. I bought the Duaflex II for Through The Viewfinder shots, which I never got around to. Now I’ve just bought an old Sabre, and I’ve got the urge to learn how to use vintage cameras.

    One question I do have is about which 120 film to use? I’ve seen 100 to 400 ASL for sale on line (even some pre-wound on the 620 spool). But which to buy…..? And should I go for B&W, colour or both? I’m thinking probably both :)

    1. Jim Post author

      The TTV stuff is supposed to be a lot of fun, so don’t give up on it just yet! As for what film to run through — I’m not an expert, but my gut says whatever you choose, choose a lower-speed film, something like 100 ISO. These cameras were built at a time when films were slow — 100 ISO (er, ASA) was considered fast back then. I’d also choose a film with wide latitude, because Duaflexes don’t give you any control. If I were going to load mine up, I’d choose something like Kodak Plus X. B&H Photo sells already-respooled 620 film in a few varieties. If I were buying from what they have available, I’d choose T-Max 100 and maaaaybe the Portra 160.

  5. RubyTombstone

    Thanks so much for that! Looking forward to experimenting with the films you suggested. I’ve also procured some (very) expired 620 film just to see what happens. I like the random factor, which is why I love my Lomos too :)

  6. John Salomon

    Hi there,

    I’ve just cleaned up my Duaflex II – do you have any idea whether #5 bulbs are still made? Or am I best off on eBay?

    Are they single-use only?

    Also, what kinds of batteries does the flash take? It looks like it fits AA or AAA but I can’t imagine the 1.5v batteries working with one of those bulbs….thanks!

    1. Jim Post author

      You’re going to have to search for #5 bulbs on eBay, I’m afraid — I don’t believe they’ve been made in years. They are single-use bulbs. I don’t have my flashgun handy but I’m pretty sure mine takes C batteries.

  7. Dave

    I was just given a Duoflex. I respooled some Fuji Acros 100 in 120 and went shooting. I loved the old school look the old lenses give! I’ll post some of the photos on my blog in the next day or two.

  8. Lori Delene Cornett

    Thank you! I just bought a Duaflex 2. It was an antique mall find. and this has filled in a lot of my blanks. But still I’m wondering, will I know when to stop winding the film if I re-spool 120? Understand this is the first antique camera I’ve restored to working order. Also, did you find the cleaning process a challenge? My lens could really use it.

    1. Jim Post author

      I haven’t gotten around to cleaning my Duaflex II yet, so unfortunately I can’t comment on how hard it is! As for winding respooled 120, the frame numbers on the backing paper are the same as what used to be on 620, so you will not have any trouble winding. I recommend buying your film pre-respooled from B&H Photo. You pay a little extra for it, but you get out of having to respool the film yourself. Here’s a link:

      http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search?Ntt=620+film&N=0&InitialSearch=yes&sts=ma&Top+Nav-Search=

  9. Madelaine

    Hi,
    I found your blog through a web search and am wondering if I can trouble you for some advice. How do I attach my 6A yellow filter to my duaflex iv? I can’t figure it out! :(

  10. Wally-Tonya Czyz

    Earlier this spring, I found a complete kit with box at a garage sale for $5. After cleaning it up and playing with it, I sold it at my own garage sale for $20. I would have kept it if I had your knack for film. My last film camera is my Olympus IS3 DLX, which sits on the top shelf of the closet….

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