Kodak Brownie Hawkeye, Flash Model

You’d better believe I took one of my old cameras along on my family’s Route 66 trip. Kodak’s 1950s Brownie Hawkeye undoubtedly shot millions of vacations in the middle of the last century, and it is relatively compact and dead simple to use. It seemed like the perfect companion for my family’s Route 66 vacation.

The previous owner of my Brownie Hawkeye thought it was a good vacation camera, too. This camera’s last use was to shoot a Niagara Falls vacation in the late 1960s – see those photos here.

Kodak Brownie Hawkeye and expired film

The Brownie Hawkeye takes 620 film, which hasn’t been made in almost 20 years. I’ve been known to buy fresh film hand-respooled onto 620 spools.

But last year I bought a flatbed film scanner and scanned some negatives from a roll of Kodak Verichrome Pan I shot in 1976, when I was a lad of 10. See those photos here. Verichrome Pan was arguably the number one amateur black-and-white film in the United States from its introduction in 1956 to its discontinuation about four decades later. I itched to shoot one more roll, so I bought one on eBay. It expired in September, 1985.

This was strictly an exercise in nostalgia. There’s a happy contingent of film photographers who like expired film’s unpredictable results. I am not among them. Expired Verichrome Pan has a good reputation for returning usable images, and the roll I bought was advertised as having been stored cold, which should have preserved it. I was disappointed that this roll returned faint, noisy images. I monkeyed around with the scans in Photoshop to darken them up and bring out some contrast.

This is the 1932 Standard service station in Odell, Illinois. See more photos of it here.

1932 Standard station

Here’s a shot from the Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba, Missouri; see more photos here.

Wagon Wheel Motel

These dilapidated log cabins are part of John’s Modern Cabins, an abandoned motel of sorts on an abandoned stretch of the Mother Road west of Doolittle, Missouri. I’ll write more about these cabins in an upcoming post.

John's Modern Cabins

Not long ago, the Film Photography Project found a cache of 620 Kodak Gold 200 film in England, expired since June of 1996 but stored cold ever since. They offered it for sale; some is still available as I publish this post. Click here to buy some – but brace for impact, as it is not cheap. I bought two rolls and put one into my Brownie Hawkeye. Now, the Hawkeye was built for the slow films of the 1950s. Verichrome Pan, at ISO 125, was a pretty fast film at the time. So I figured that I’d get a whole roll of overexposed shots from this ISO 200 color film, and I was right. Fortunately, I know a couple Photoshop tricks that brought out color and detail in the washed-out images.

This photo is of the great sign of the Rest Haven Court on the Mother Road in Springfield, Missouri. I really like the color in this shot.

Rest Haven Court

Some thick clouds had rolled in when we reached Carthage, Missouri. They created quite a mood for this photograph.

66 Drive-In

This is Pops, which is out in the middle of nowhere east of Oklahoma City. (There’s a whole lot of middle of nowhere on Route 66 in Oklahoma.) I’ll write more about Pops in an upcoming post. Meanwhile, dig the 66-foot-tall pop-bottle sculpture.


Finally, when my sons and I stopped for the night at the Munger Moss Motel in Lebanon, Missouri, I took this dusk shot of the lit sign. I thought perhaps I’d get a usable low-light image because of the film’s relatively high speed. I cropped this shot to this size because the processor frustratingly put a sticker on this frame. (Yes, this sign is a brother of the Rest Haven Court sign; both were made by the same company.)

Munger Moss Motel

The Brownie Hawkeye is super easy to use. You hold it at bellybutton level and peer down into the viewfinder; when you like the framing, you gently press down the shutter button. I did lose three frames on the roll of Verichrome Pan when the latch gave way and the camera opened. And then I dropped the Brownie Hawkeye while photographing the Blue Whale of Catoosa; fortunately, this only scuffed the aluminum and chipped a tiny bit of the body. Even if the fall had irreparably damaged the Brownie Hawkeye, they remain plentiful and inexpensive.

I have one more roll of the expired Kodak Gold 200 left. I’d like to see how this film can really perform, so I plan to shoot it in a 620 camera that lets me adjust exposure and packs a fine lens, such as my Kodak Monitor Six-20.

I have two other Brownies: a Brownie Reflex and a Brownie Starmatic.

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16 responses to “A Kodak Brownie Hawkeye and expired film on the Mother Road”

  1. gaycarboys Avatar

    My dad was a retail manager in Kodak for what seemed a hundred years. I fondly remember the smell of chems from the 60’s and 70’s. I cut my photographic teeth on brownies (then the infamous “instamatic”. I still love Kodak to this day. Thank you for taking me back to my childhood and some very beautiful memories. By the way, nice shots:)

    1. Jim Avatar

      I’m glad I gave you a walk down memory lane! I have to admit, I usually shoot Fujicolor 200 now because I can get it cheap, and I feel a little guilty, like I’m cheating Big Yellow.

      1. gaycarboys Avatar

        LOL. as do i using digital.. dad retied many yrs ago and Kodak has gone bellie up since then, their flimstock still the best

  2. Lone Primate Avatar
    Lone Primate

    There can’t be too many blog entries like THIS in the world. :) The whole idea of cobbling together rare film from decades ago has a strange air of bring Mad Max into the real world. I’m surprised there’s not someone, somewhere, cranking out just a little of the stuff new every year to sell at a premium to those who want it.

    For what it’s worth, the shots that disappointed you enchant me. It’s like you have a magic camera from some Twilight Zone episode that takes a scene in 2013 and show you what it looked like 50 or 60 years ago in a suitably vintage photograph. :) But I understand that’s not the effect you were hoping for.

    Nice job resurrecting the colour shots. I didn’t know you had Photoshop, or at least, I don’t remember hearing you did. Glad you’ve got a hold of it. :)

    1. Jim Avatar

      I’d imagine it’d be HUGELY expensive! But I’d love to shoot one more roll of brand new Verichrome Pan!

      I just learned this morning that my nearby CVS got out of the film processing business. I’m majorly bummed.

    2. Jim Avatar

      Oh, and a copy of Photoshop Elements came with my scanner. So it’s semi-Photoshop. I like it.

  3. pesoto74 Avatar

    I think you got your money’s worth with the Kodak Gold. Those photos look like they could have been taken in the heyday of Route 66. I will be interested to see what you get with a camera like the Kodak Monitor. I can see how you could be disappointed in the Verichrome, however after I looked at those images a couple of times they grew on me.

    1. Jim Avatar

      I’m super eager to take my last roll of the Gold out with my Monitor so I can control exposure — then we’ll really know what this film can do. The VP shots are growing on me as well.

  4. Carole Avatar

    I love the black & whites. A wonderful grainy look that could have been from reproduced photos of the ’30’s & ’40’s. The light reflecting off of the images and the shades of grey in the shadows and skies…Wonderful!

    1. Jim Avatar

      Yes, all of them have a retro look, b/w and color. I was really hoping for crisper and less noisy images, but I guess this is what you get with expired film!

  5. Derek Avatar

    If you have another roll of verichrome pan you better push it by 2 stops by the look of it. I have a roll of those in 127 that’s expired 1964, I don’t dare to use it, I think it’s good where it’s at, inside the box.

    Glad to see you took the Hawkeye out, I always like seeing that. However this is very odd, this is the second post about a 620 Brownie I seen today!

    Good stuff, keep up the good work!

    1. Jim Avatar

      Shoulda pushed the Kodak Gold by a stop, too! I enjoyed using the Hawkeye. Simple, fun, easy.

  6. ryoko861 Avatar

    I love all the images! That soda bottle is very cool! I wasn’t aware that film could keep so long beyond its expiration date! My son found an old old roll of 126 the other day and popped it into a, get this, mini novelty camera I got from a Kelloggs Corn Flakes box offer YEARS ago. I found it in a drawer and he wanted to see how it worked. It’s basically just a lens. The film fits up around it. So we’ll see what kind of pictures it produces

    If you dropped a camera these days, it practically renders it useless! But the Hawkeye took a beating I’m sure in it’s day and still keeps tickin’!

    1. Jim Avatar

      Thanks Irene! I’ll write more about the soda bottle, with better photos, in an upcoming post. If you want to get the 126 developed, try The Darkroom (thedarkroom.com) or Dwayne’s Photo (dwaynesphoto.com). They both still process this film. If that 126 cartridge is color film, you might want to consider Film Rescue International — you’ll pay good money, but they can get images from expired film when the others can’t.

      You’re right; modern digicams aren’t as hardy as that Brownie.

  7. Eric Avatar

    As you know, I shoot almost exclusively on expired film (mostly from the 90s). The Hawkeye is easily one of my favorite cameras. For it, I recommend finding some Ektachrome 64 and waiting for a really sunny day. Then I’d also suggest rolling your own 620. Get a darkbag and go at it!

    1. Jim Avatar

      Eric, the Ektachrome 64 is a wonderful suggestion. I’ll look for some.

      The CVS near my house just took out its color film lab, so I’m back to thinking very hard about processing my own film. I don’t have any way to build a real darkroom in my little house so I’d be spooling film into the developing tank in a changing bag anyway. If I’m going to go that route I might as well start respooling my own 620. I could use this Hawkeye more often and I would certainly shoot my delightful Kodak Monitor a lot more.

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