One of my favorite vintage cameras is my Kodak Junior Six-16 Series II. Unfortunately, it uses 616 film, which was discontinued in 1984. Darn good thing that camera looks good sitting on my shelf, because that’s all it’s good for.
Kodak also produced a Junior Six-20 camera, identical except that it uses 620 film. Even though that film was discontinued in 1995, it is the same stuff as 120 film, except that it is wound around a narrower spool. 120 is still made and, as the professional standard, is widely available. Because you can roll 120 film onto a 620 spool — or just buy it pre-respooled from B&H Photo — any working 620 camera can still take photos.
Unable to try my beautiful Junior Six-16, I began looking for a Junior Six-20. Along the way, I learned that there was a senior Six-16 and Six-20, even more beautiful because their styling had art deco details. And then I found a Six-20 in good cosmetic condition on eBay for $30. Nab!
The Kodak Six-20 was manufactured from 1932 to 1937. It cost $38 when new, which is equivalent to a whopping $606 today. It packs a 100mm f/6.3 Kodak Anastigmat lens, which is probably a three-element Cooke triplet type. It was considered a good quality lens at the time. The Kodon shutter is nothing special, though.
The camera sports two viewfinders. The first is a small “brilliant” type attached to the lens assembly that swivels to frame portrait and landscape photos. The second is a gunsight type attached to the camera body; it frames only landscape photos. As you can see, my Six-20’s brilliant finder is foggy.
What really set the Six-20 apart was its art deco styling. This photo shows not only some of those details, but that I needed to do a better job of wiping the dust off my camera before I photographed it. The button next to the film winder opens the self-erecting bellows.
Even the folding mechanism is attractive on the Six-20.
The Kodak Six-20 takes eight 6 cm × 9 cm photos on every roll of 620 film. I loaded some Kodak Plus-X 100 and went to town, albeit briefly, as it takes little time to snap eight shots. I shot using the Sunny 16 rule. Aside from the foggy brilliant viewfinder, the camera itself functioned well. But I’m not particularly happy with the scans I got back from the processor. Actually, they didn’t make scans – they photographed the negatives with a digital camera and reversed the images in Photoshop. The negatives look better than these images. I think I’ll use a different processor next time! But my habit is to show you photos from the first roll I shoot, and so here you go.
This is the shed in my back yard. I had to do some fancy footwork in Paint Shop Pro (because I’m too cheap to buy Photoshop) to make the image look this good. I used the gunsight viewfinder to frame this shot, but then cropped the image to improve the composition.
This is the entrance of Second Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis. I used the brilliant viewfinder to frame this image. It’s hard to line things up in such a small window! I also couldn’t tell that I wasn’t holding the camera quite level, which caused the image to come out at a crazy angle. I straightened it out in Paint Shop Pro and cropped it to this size.
I cropped and tweaked this image a little, too, but there was really no saving it. Most of the remaining images came out ghostly like this. Did I underexpose them? A couple other images were speckled like this one, too.
Even though I was disappointed in these results, I have no regrets. This camera was fun to use, and I am sure I’ll shoot with it again soon. My mind is already working on things I might do differently next time. For example, I think I’ll use my tripod to level the camera, and perhaps I’ll try faster film. If you have experience with old folders, please leave me some tips in the comments!
Do you like old cameras? Then check out my entire collection!