1957 in Knightstown

Isn’t this thing just cute? Made of Bakelite and aluminum, this palm-sized box camera from the late 1930s is almost certainly the smallest ever made to accept 127 film.

Kodak Baby Brownie

I’ve shot my Kodak Baby Brownie camera but once. I put my last roll of Efke 100 through it. I wasn’t wowed with the results. The lens might have been dirty; that’s been a common problem with old boxes I’ve encountered. So before shooting it this time I swabbed it clean with rubbing alcohol. Or it could just be that I don’t like the look of Efke 100. This shot of my last house was by far the best of that roll.

Home sweet home

So this time I shot Ektar, which in my experience is the best film for testing an old box. Such cameras tend to operate at 1/50 sec. at f/8, or 1/40 sec at f/11, or some other similar aperture/shutter-speed combo. On a sunny day, ISO 100 film is a good fit. Ektar in particular has wide enough exposure latitude to make up for unsunny days and exposure vagaries from box to box.


Kodak doesn’t make Ektar or any other film in 127; nobody does. But I found a fellow on eBay who cuts various 120 films down to 127’s width and respools the stuff onto 127 spools. His film flowed flawlessly through my Baby Brownie.


As you can see, however, light leaked everywhere onto these frames. There was evidence of leaking light on my Efke 100 roll but not as strong as here. Given the hand-rolled nature of the film I can’t be sure something wasn’t perfect with the way the film was rolled, either. But I’m betting it’s the Brownie.


This is such a wonderful little camera to use. Pop up the viewfinder, frame, and slide the shutter lever. You get used to its front-and-center placement in no time, and it moves easily. Shooting at close range, however, you can see this simple lens’s tendency toward barrel distortion.

1957 in Knightstown

I brought the Baby Brownie onto the National Road in eastern Indiana in August; these photos are from Centerville and Knightstown, Indiana. To see more from this little box, check out my Kodak Baby Brownie gallery.

Even though my Baby Brownie outing was pleasant, I’m not that likely to shoot very much 127 going forward. If I do, I know I’ll always get out my Kodak Brownie Starmatic. It’s even more pleasant to use, its lens is better, and it leaks considerably less light (as you’ll see in an upcoming Operation Thin the Herd review). I briefly considered keeping the Baby Brownie for display, but in the end decided it’s time to let it find its next owner.

Verdict: Goodbye


11 responses to “Operation Thin the Herd: Kodak Baby Brownie”

  1. Dan James Avatar

    I quite like the light leaks, it adds to the vintage appeal of the shots. But I agree not something you’d likely want to shoot very often, especially given the obscurity (and I assume, expense?) of the film and the rather soft lens.

    Do you have a running tally with your Thin the Herd project Jim, number of keepers so far, number that have been sold/donated and number remaining?

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I haven’t kept a tally. It’s not like me not to do that, but I haven’t just the same. A couple times now I’ve gone looking for camera X only to remember later I sold it.

  2. Mike Avatar

    Those are beautiful images from such a simple camera.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thank you! It’s such a pleasant camera to use.

  3. analogphotobug Avatar

    Great Catch for a Collector!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      These are fairly common and easy to come by, but they are fun to have in a collection.

  4. Wayne Avatar

    I dont always shoot 127 film
    But when I do
    I shoot with my
    Kodak Brownie Starmatic
    Stay shooting my friends!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      The Starmatic is the bomb!

  5. Wayne Avatar

    That camera has to be the cutest camera ever made and it takes great images!
    Good Old George E. had it going on!

  6. Sam Avatar

    Photos look great! Much better than I thought it would be from this camera I admit.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      These simple cameras had meniscus lenses, which under the right conditions could do good enough work.

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