Brownie Reflex, Synchro Model

Because I’m way too busy getting ready for my wedding this Saturday, I’m doing some reruns this week. I thought you might enjoy the first camera review I ever wrote, published nine years ago today!

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 camera before, and spent hours looking down into its viewfinder, 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 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.) Its 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 all of my old-camera reviews!


8 responses to “Brownie Reflex, Synchro Model”

  1. hmunro Avatar

    Wow. Nine years since your first camera review … that’s quite a milestone! Congrats on that, Jim. But more importantly, a HUGE CONGRATULATIONS on your upcoming nuptials! I couldn’t be more delighted for you, and I wish you and your bride every happiness.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      :-) thanks! We’re closing in on being ready. It’s about as simple an affair as you can have, when you’re still inviting all of Margaret’s seven brothers and sisters and their spouses!

  2. Christopher Smith Avatar
    Christopher Smith

    Congrats on 9 years, a interesting camera I tend to stay away from 127 cameras because the film is so expensive that’s if you can get hold of it. Its £10 a roll over here in the UK but if I see one of these going cheap I would probably add it to my collection. Also Congrats on you upcoming special day I hope it goes well and you have many many happy years of marriage.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I tend to stay away from 127 cameras now, too, for the same reason. I wouldn’t add one of these to my collection today; not interesting enough. And thanks for the well wishes!

  3. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    Actually, about 9 years ago, I saw a pretty interesting photo group from a University of Wisconsin photography instructor, somewhere from one of the satellite uni’s up in central Wisconsin, of small Wisconsin towns photographed through the viewfinder of a camera like this. It was cut and framed perfectly to show the black edge, and the tarnish, discolorations, and dots in the finder were considered a “plus”. I can’t find the website now, but I did find this article worth reading:

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yeah, TtV photography was really a thing about then. I came upon it over and over while researching to write this post. Haven’t heard much about it since, though.

  4. Dawn Avatar

    Wedding???? Congrats!! I guess I missed the news. Happy for you and Margaret.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks! Yes, this Saturday!!

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