Camera Reviews, Photography

Shooting my Kodak Brownie Starmatic

I normally spend every spare summer Saturday exploring the old roads, but it’s been too stinking hot! So I’ve been taking pictures with my old cameras instead.

Kodak Brownie Starmatic

I was feeling nostalgic about 127 film after I found the negatives from my first photgraphs, which I took with a Kodak Brownie Starmite II. That camera was part of a whole family of similarly-styled “Star” Brownies made in the late 1950s and early 1960s. My collection includes the finest camera in the series, the Kodak Brownie Starmatic.

127 film hasn’t been made in the US in 30 years. Dedicated 127 shooters know that B&H Photo carries a few varieties still made overseas (check out what they offer). B&H used to offer Kodak Portra 160 cut down from a larger film size and spooled by hand. I got a roll before it was discontinued and loaded it into my Starmatic to revel in the nostalgia.

Not only does the Starmatic automatically set exposure, but it also compensates for various film speeds. At ISO 160, the Portra is on the fast side for this camera. I set the camera to its maximum, 125 ASA, and hoped for the best. I needn’t have worried.

Canoes

A few shots on this roll were ruined by some sort of funky pink clouding. A little of it shows up on this shot, but I like the colors I got in the evening light well enough that I am sharing it here anyway.

Caboose

So far, all of these shots are from Broad Ripple, an Indianapolis neighborhood. It’s been a frequent photographic destination for me this year.

Fire Station 32

I got this last shot in Handley, West Virginia, while I was there for a family reunion. This burned-out and fallen building stands along “the hard road,” highway 61, Handley’s main drag.

Collapsed

It was great to shoot square photos again, as I did as a kid. I enjoy and kind of miss the format. These photos were better than anything I ever got as a kid, though. I know how to hold my camera steady now, and I’ve learned a little about composition. Also, to my eye the Portra 160 renders color more pleasingly and with finer grain than the Kodacolor II I always shot.

Few labs still process 127 film. Dwayne’s Photo does, and they got my business this time. I normally have the processor scan the negatives for me, but Dwayne’s doesn’t offer that service for 127 film. So I had them make prints, which I scanned on my new Epson V300 scanner. After scanning they needed a little color correction and cropping, which I did in Photoshop Elements 9. Whaddya know, a workflow.

See more photos from this roll in my Kodak Brownie Starmatic gallery.

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9 thoughts on “Shooting my Kodak Brownie Starmatic

  1. Beautiful work. And you answered the question I had when I first started reading: “Can he still get film for it?” I didn’t have a Starmite, but I had a Brownie — in fact, two or three of them at different times.

    You have the same problem with cameras and film as I do with typewriters. Typewriter repair shops used to be everywhere. More recently, I had to drive to Chicago to get them repaired by Steve Kazmier (http://chicagotypewriters.tripod.com/). Since Steve died a few years ago, I now send them to New Jersey if I need to get them repaired. I guess that’s progress. :-)

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    • Thanks, Scott. There are enough of us out here who still shoot the old cameras that there’s apparently juuuuuust enough of a market for the older formats in limited quantities. It’s expensive, though; I think this roll of 127 cost me $13, and that doesn’t include processing.

      I didn’t realize that finding a good typewriter repairman was so difficult, but I suppose it’s not surprising now that I think of it. Maybe you could learn to repair them yourself and make a nice little side business out of it.

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  2. Thanks for calling my attention to this Kodak which I had completely ignored until now. Your fine pictures really show off its capabilities. I took a look a the camera’s manual on line and realized to my surprise that it is a direct descendant of my favorite 127 model, the Brownie Reflex, designed by Henry O. Drotning. I also see in going to Google that the ultimate modern authority on the Starmatic is Jim Grey.

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    • I was surprised by how nicely these photos turned out, except of course for the ruined ones. I was also very pleased with how well my new scanner digitized these prints. The Kodar lens is surprisingly sharp for being made of plastic. I’ll bet I could get good enlargements from these negatives. And I detect no light falloff or softness in the corners.

      I have a Brownie Reflex, Synchro Model, around here someplace. I wrote about it, gosh, five years ago:

      https://blog.jimgrey.net/2007/07/04/brownie-reflex-synchro-model/

      It’s the only camera I’ve ever taken apart to clean. Most of it came apart with little trouble. The lens is dirty, but getting at it looked involved, so I put that part off. Maybe I should get it out, clean that lens, and get some of the Efke 127 b/w film from B&H and see how it performs! I checked out your Brownie Reflex page and thought you got some nice, sharp results.

      A few camera pages on this blog rank high on Google. I’m apparently also one of the world’s foremost experts on the Argus A-Four, for example. An interesting phenomenon: Of everything I write about, my camera posts get the fewest views in the first few days. But thanks to the Internet’s long tail, they continue to get views from people searching for info about the cameras, and are overwhelmingly the most popular posts here. The most-visited post on the site so far this year is one I wrote about my Yashica MG-1 a couple years ago.

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    • Heh, and now that I look at that Brownie Reflex post again I see that you found it a long time ago and gave me advice about how to clean the lens!

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  3. It is amazing how some of the old amateur cameras can do well in the hands of someone who knows how to work within their limitations. I like the 127 format and have a few cameras that I wish I could use more easily. I did buy a bulk roll or Kodak Porta with the idea of respooling it. After having done it a few times I am wondering if I like my 127 cameras that much.

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  4. mysweatyshirt says:

    Love the photos! I love the pinky cloud, it add some attraction to the picture in some way. just got my birthday present, a camera of digital type and your post make me want to grab mine now and snap here and there. :)

    Like

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