Cameras, Photography

Brownie Reflex, Synchro Model

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When I was a kid, a Kodak Brownie Reflex, Synchro Model, found its way into my hands. I think it might have been my uncle Jack’s. It was an ugly duckling of black plastic with hard corners and an aluminum faceplate. But I’d never seen a twin-lens reflex camera before, and spent hours looking down into the viewfinder of this one, considering its fisheyed world. I never ran film through it – the shutter button was sticky, and a crack ran up the body. It was useless.

Now that I’m gingerly collecting cameras again, my old friend Michael e-mailed me recently and said, “Hey, I saw your blog post that said you used to have a Brownie Reflex. I have one here doing nothing. Do you want it?”

Does a wino want a case of Thunderbird?

This one is crack-free and its shutter button slides on silk. It even came with a flash unit every bit as ugly as the camera itself. Everything on and in the camera was dirty, so last night I broke out the tiny screwdrivers, Q-tips, and rubbing alcohol and went inside. It cleaned up pretty nicely. The only thing I didn’t try to clean was the cloudy lens, which was behind the shutter works. I’ll do that on a day when I have the patience for intricate work.

Brownie Reflex, Synchro Model

Some stains wouldn’t come off the mirror inside the viewfinder, as this photo shows. Twin-lens reflex cameras show mirror images in the viewfinder, which is disorienting until you get the hang of it.

Brownie Reflex viewfinder

The Kodak Brownie Reflex, Synchro Model, was made in the United States from 1941 to 1952. (A non-synchro model, which didn’t synchronize the flash with the shutter, was made from 1940 to 1941.) It’s original price was $6. It took typical square photos on 127 rollfilm. Kodak made millions of these cameras, so they’re pretty easy to come by. For more information, including a PDF of this camera’s manual, go to the Brownie Camera Page.

Do you like old cameras? Then check out my entire collection!

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23 thoughts on “Brownie Reflex, Synchro Model

  1. How about a case of good beer instead? I have some Leinenkugel Sunset Wheat that’s surprisingly good for the next time you come over… that is if you don’t wait forever.

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  2. Eileen says:

    My sister recalled our family Brownie to me a few days ago and I realized that I had it in the drawer- the same Synchro model as yours. My lens is clear, but the viewfinder is dirty. I think the last time I took pictures with it was around 1982 – it saw a lot of use. Since I was born in 1959, they had the camera before me! Thanks for your post – time to clean it up and see how it does when we all get together at Christmas. I think I might even have the flash attachment if I look hard enough!

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  3. Hi, I just found your blog on old cameras and I also have a Kodak Reflex Synch model. I understadn the shutter speed is around 1/30 and also Bulb. I am trying to take long exposure shots at night, but can’t seem to find out what the aperture is of the taking lens? Do you think it is f/11? Any ideas of the f/stop and focus length of this lens? Thank you! X.

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    • X, I wish I had an answer for you. My research turned up no information about the lens except that it is a simple meniscus type. My understanding is that most simple fixed-focus cameras of this era were either f/11 or f/16.

      I peeked at your blog and am glad to see that you’re putting your Brownie Reflex to some use.

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    • Darlene, it’s been 2 1/2 years since I took mine apart and I just kind of stumbled my way through it, so unfortunately I can’t give you a blow by blow. I just kind of figured it out as I went along!

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  4. The Brownie Reflex is actually quite a bit easier to disassemble for cleaning than most of the other reflex boxes of that era. If you set the shutter to the “B” setting you can hold it open and reach in from the back with a q-tip and lens cleaner. The top comes off by taking out the two screws on either side of the viewfinder. To get at the bottom side of the viewfinder and the mirror, you need to take out the two screws at the bottom of the back; that lets you take off the back and then extract the viewing system. Just be sure to note the order the pieces come out so they can be properly replaced. Taking out a couple more screws from the inside also lets you get at the simple shutter for a cleaning if needed. You can get 127 film at several on line locations including B&H Photo Video.

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    • Thank you for the excellent tips. Now that you point out setting the shutter to B to access the lens, I feel kind of silly for not thinking of it myself!

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    • Evan says:

      I was just taking my grandmother’s old Brownie apart to clean and everything went pretty well but I should have paid more attention to the “order the pieces came out so they could be properly replaced”
      oops.
      Can you help me out. The only trouble I’m having is around the prism. I’ve got the metal square that applies pressure the plastic tray that seems to hold the prism but when I put the pieces back in it’s not firmly holding the prism in place… a little rattle… obviously doesn’t really affect the photos but it’s frustrating.
      Can you describe that section in detail or take a digital pic… THANKS!

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  5. tommy says:

    Hi when i was 7 years old my grandad had this camera,
    Brownie reflex in the box.I got it from him 48 years ago
    its in mint cond.cannot find the film for it,my aunt carmen
    has pictures taken with this kodax.It was made in rochester ny.

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    • Unfortunately, the Brownie Reflex took 127 film, which Kodak stopped making decades ago. But isn’t it nice to have something your grandfather used?

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  6. I have this camera but unable to get it open to see if any film still is in there.

    I turned the latch on the back from “lock” to “open” but still cannot get it to open/drop down at the bottom.

    Anyone have suggestions? Am I supposed to do something else?

    I may take it to a nearby camera technician to see if he can get it to open.

    Jay in San Diego

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    • Jay, there’s not much to these cameras, so I’m having a hard time imagining what would jam your camera closed. Only thing I can figure is that the latch is broken but stuck in the closed position, in which case you may simply be stuck. Only way to open it then would probably involve breaking the latch or the bottom plate.

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  7. ianp says:

    The lens is a simple friction fit and can be extracted from the front of the camera with no disassembly required. It should be possible to use something like a tape with strong glue to remove it. Failing that, setting the camera to B, holding the shutter open and using a toothpick to gently push the lens out should do the trick.

    The lens is held within a plastic/bakelite ring mount and once removed you can very easily clean the lens compartment. The lens is then simply pushed back into place.

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  8. Aanchal says:

    hi, so i just bought one, and of course didnt check it well enough, so i have the winder missing, can someone be kind enough to send me images of what the film winder looks like, i am quite sure i shoudl be able to get one made cheap or 3d print it or something. also, you think there could be a way to use 120 mm film in this?

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  9. Deirdre Harper says:

    I took it apart and got it cleaned up but when I was done I had this tiny spring left over can anyone tell me where this goes help!

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