A budding young camera collector named Henry bought a Polaroid J66 and, as he researched it, found my post on this camera. He’s working with an organization called Happen, Inc., a nonprofit arts organization that works with kids on creative projects. They reached out to me on this fellow’s behalf and arranged a video interview between us about collecting old film cameras, which went live today. I thought you might enjoy seeing it!
It’s a Kodak box camera that’s not a Brownie: the Kodak No. 2 Hawk-Eye, Model C.
The Hawk-Eye or Hawkeye name is strongly linked to Kodak. Indeed, Kodak first made cameras with that name in 1899. But that’s only because Kodak bought the Blair Camera Company that year, which had bought the Boston Camera Company in 1890. Boston made the first Hawk-Eyes, box cameras for glass plates.
When Kodak took over, Hawk-Eyes became box cameras in the Brownie tradition. As best as I can suss out, the line began in 1913 with three models: one without a model letter, the Model B, and the Model C. They are all typical cardboard boxes covered in leatherette, producing eight 6×9 cm negatives on 120 film. The unlettered model and, it looks like, the Model B both offered two viewfinders, one in portrait and one in landscape orientation, and two apertures selected by a pull-up tab on the camera’s top. All three cameras presumably use the same meniscus lens, which is is probably at f/11 or f/16 (though I don’t know how the aperture control constrains that). The rotary shutter probably operates at about 1/30 second.
The Model C took away the landscape viewfinder and the aperture selector, probably making it the least expensive No. 2 Hawk-Eye. The only control on the camera is the shutter lever. Whichever position you find it in, up or down, you move it to the other position to make a photograph.
I couldn’t find out when Kodak stopped the original run of this camera in the US. I do know that Kodak also made this camera in the UK from 1926 to 1934. Mine’s one of those, as evidenced by the seal on the back that reads, “Made in Great Britain / Kodak Limited.”
Kodak also made this camera with colored leatherette. I’ve seen them in brown, blue, burgundy, red, maroon, and green, and with at least three different patterns embossed into the leatherette.
In the US, Kodak reissued this camera on the company’s 50th anniversary in 1930, in brown leatherette with a silver foil badge on the side noting the anniversary. They made a whopping 550,000 of them through 1934. I have one of those, too; a review is coming soon.
If you like box cameras, I’ve reviewed a bunch: the Ansco B-2 Cadet (here), the Ansco Shur Shot (here), the Kodak No. 2 Brownie in both Model D (here) and Model F (here), and the Kodak Six-20 Brownie (here). Or see all of my camera reviews here.
I loaded Kodak T-Max 100 into this old box and took it for a spin. I developed the film in Rodinal, diluted 1+50, and scanned the negatives on my Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II. All of these images got a little sharpening and contrast enhancement in Photoshop. I rotated the image below to be level. The rest I left at whatever cockeyed angle I managed thanks to the small, dim viewfinder.
Holding the camera level was the biggest challenge of using this camera. When the subject had one large, strong element, I had an easier time of it because it was so obvious in the viewfinder. The tree was that element in this image.
You’d think you could just hold the camera up and turn it on its side to get a landcape oriented image. Unfortunately, the image in the viewfinder turns upside down when you do that. It’s hard enough to frame a subject in the itty bitty viewfinder. It’s nearly impossible to do it with the image upside down.
All of the images were soft with low contrast. I’ve seen far better results from other Kodak boxes with meniscus lenses. Shake was also a problem on a couple frames. As slow as the No. 2 Hawk-Eye’s shutter is, I’m surprised shake didn’t affect more photos.
Conventional wisdom with simple cameras like this is to always have the sun behind you when you make a photo. The No. 2 Hawk-Eye enforces it by making the viewfinder wash out unless the sun is behind you and therefore your body is blocking it.
See more from this camera in my Kodak No. 2 Hawk-Eye, Model C, gallery.
This Kodak No. 2 Hawk-Eye, Model C, is a gift to the Jim Grey Home for Wayward Cameras. I thank the fellow who donated it. He’s a longtime professional photographer and camera collector who retired a couple years ago and sent me a box full of goodies when he cleared out his studio.
It’s always fun to shoot an old box, and this time was no exception. I favor my two Kodak No. 2 Brownies, however. They both have portrait and landscape viewfinders, and their lenses are sharper and deliver more contrast.
I’ve updated my review of the Argus Match-matic C3. It adds a clip-on light meter to the original C3, with a system for more easily setting exposure. I found it confusing, though. Read my updated review here.
This is the last of my updated reviews, in case you’re following along!