Last year an old college friend sent me a Jiffy Kodak Six-20, Series II, that had been in his family since new. It came not only with its box, but also a letter his grandmother wrote him telling how she had used it to make family photographs for many years. My friend passed it on to me so it would have a good home, and perhaps see use again.

Kodak Jiffy Six-20, Series II

The camera was in good cosmetic condition. The only easily noticed flaw was that a little of the leatherette is peeling in one corner. But the bellows had developed a lot of pinholes, both in the corners and within the folds. I repaired all of them that I could find using black fabric paint. Then I spooled some expired Ilford FP4 Plus in 120 onto a 620 spool, loaded it into the Jiffy, and took it around with me wherever I went for a few days in late October last year.

I developed the roll in HC-110, Dilution B. I could tell just by looking at the negatives that I had not found all of the pinholes (probably; it’s not impossible there’s another source of leaking light). It wasn’t until I scanned the negatives, however, that I could see that most of the images were too blurry to be used.

Here’s the sharpest image on the roll. There’s a little flare and haze because the sun wasn’t perfectly behind me. The white splotches are light leaks.

1967 Chevy Impala

Most images looked like this, however. The shutter lever is awkwardly placed when you shoot in landscape orientation, and I found it difficult to avoid shake. The lever is easier to operate in portrait orientation, but even then my portrait images suffered from some shake.

Sycamore Row

I’m a little put off this camera right now. I’ll come back to it later this year, find and repair more pinholes, and try again — moving that shutter lever very gently.

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16 responses to “Camera shake and bellows pinholes aplenty”

  1. Keith Devereux Avatar

    I love it when cameras are passed down like this. I was given my mother’s camera, a grey box Brownie that was her father’s before her, and now that she has passed it’s something that I will treasure and hopefully use.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      This isn’t the kind of camera I would normally keep, but given that it comes from a friend after being passed down, with documentation of its provenance — well, it stays for sure!

  2. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    You would think that they spent a lot of time checking that a camera would be easy to actually fire the shutter, but I run across an amazing amount of old amateur cameras in resale and junk shops where it seems that it would be close to impossible to fire the shutter while keeping the camera steady! It’s amazing to find that our Grammys got anything useable at all.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I know, right? They probably saved 2c per camera doing it this way.

  3. Marc Beebe Avatar

    Yup. Had two, in different sizes. They are adequate performers, but the shutters are slow to accommodate the slow film of the day. Then they get slower over time. It’s a real art to hold a 1/25 shutter steady. I’m certain I can no longer do it – sometimes even on the digitals with stabilization!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      A little lighter fluid can loosen the shutters up and improve their speed, temporarily. I just did that on an old Brownie Star camera someone just gave me.

      I’m still pretty good at holding a camera steady with slow shutters down to 1/15, but the shutter button has to be silky smooth!

  4. Christopher May Avatar
    Christopher May

    The last Camerosity podcast ended their discussion by talking about cameras that the hosts and listeners wish they could get fixed. Bellows in Kodak folders got a mention in that section. Apparently, pinholes are pretty much a given for those cameras and the way the bellows attach to the camera make it essentially impossible to replace them. Even folding camera whisperer Jurgen Kreckel won’t touch them. That’s kind of a shame because while there are plenty of very plain Kodak folders out there, there are some real gems, too.

    Awkward shutter actuation affects one of my favorite folders that was gifted to me. I have a Zeiss Ikonta that, despite only having a lowly Novar triplet, can take some beautiful, large 6×9 images. The shutter release is problematic, though. It’s operated by the left hand and isn’t placed in a spot where it’s comfortable and simple to do so. So, much like this roll for you, I get a lot of images with shutter shake. I’ve gotten better with time but still get frustrated with my keeper rate. So much so that it stays on the shelf more than I would like. I’ve thought about making it a dedicated tripod camera but that just seems so antithetical to the essence of a folding camera. They’re supposed to be cameras of convenience that one can carry everywhere comparatively unencumbered!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I own a marvelous Kodak Monitor Six-20 Anastigmat Special. The bellows is still light tight, but the shutter button linkage doesn’t work right. I emailed Jurgen to ask if he could fix it, but he didn’t reply. I’m incredibly reluctant to try to repair it myself, as I’m all thumbs. I can still use the camera through bypassing the shutter button – I have to stick my finger in awkwardly past the end of the linkage to fire the shutter the hard way. Which makes this camera a tripod-only candidate. Similar to your Zeiss. A major bummer.

      1. tbm3fan Avatar

        Those Kodaks, with that somewhat convoluted linkage to operate the shutter are always a problem. Have it on 2-3 of mine and have to squeeze my finger tip in to activate. As for bellows I have managed to change out the bellows on two of mine No. 2 Autographics Brownies after tracking down the correct Kodak part number and finding them on Ebay as NOS. Imagine that. Wasn’t easy getting the old out I can tell you that but I did and the second one I was now forewarned. They used lots of little metal tabs that are hard to access. Now no light leaks.

  5. Gary_QH Avatar

    I also have a Kodak Monitor Six-20 Anastigmat Special. The bellows are light tight and the shutter button linkage works properly. The problem with mine is the mechanism that is supposed to stop the film advance at the next frame. Most of the time it works but every once in a while it doesn’t and if I’m not paying attention to the little red window in the back…

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      That’s another weak spot on the Monitor. Mine has occasionally balked too, but it generally works.

  6. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    I’ve brought this up a few times on here, but sadly those odd ball bellows were just “off-the-shelf” as late as the 1980s, when I was living in Oak Park (Chicago), when I brought a few folders into my neighborhood semi-pro camera store, and they just sent them someplace where they replaced the bellows for a pittance. I’m not even sure they didn’t just send them some place where a mom&pop operation was just folding them to order! Plenty of info on-line as to how to fold bellows, I keep thinking that would be my great retirement job: just take the old bellows off, spread them out for the sizing, and get some material to fold them up new! Maybe that’s on my list after everything else I’m trying to get rid of and do i retirement!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I can’t find the Web site now, but there’s a guy in the UK who does pretty much that. For a truly good camera, it’s worth paying for.

  7. billeccles Avatar

    Well, rats. As said donor of camera, I am thrilled to see that it has a new home and that it produced one semi-usable shot. But, really, Jim, if it brings no joy, dispose of it in whatever manner you see appropriate.

    1. billeccles Avatar

      That sounds heartless, but at some point, we have to be able to cut our ties with the past and the things of the past that have little to no value. It’s a simple fact of life that there’s just not enough room for all the stuff that we accumulate as well as for all the stuff which previous generations had accumulated. And it’s somewhat unfortunate that the previous generations’ stuff doesn’t hold any sentimental value to the current generation.

      So having said that, it’s OK if it doesn’t work and needs to go to the great camera heaven or wherever they go.

    2. Jim Grey Avatar

      Bill, these are the vagaries of old cameras. I’m going to give this camera one more pass of repairing the bellows pinholes. Before I load it with film I will mess around with it to see if I can figure out a better way to fire the shutter to reduce shake.

      You are right, we can’t carry forward everything that has family ties. My brother and I are wrapping up our mom’s estate. She downsized heavily in 2014 to move into a condo so it’s not like we’re sorting through her whole lifetime of stuff. But the stuff she kept was the stuff that mattered most to her. We just don’t need most of it, and can’t store it just because it mattered to mom. So her prized Heywood-Wakefield dining set will be sold, for example.

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