Film Photography

I bought hand-cut and -rolled 127 film from eBay user jrdnmrk for my Kodak Baby Brownie (and for my Kodak Brownie Starmatic, pictures from which I’ll share in an upcoming post).

It was a pretty good experience. The film came rolled with proper tightness. The green tape seal was easy enough to remove. The backing paper came from either this or some other roll of film, and had 127 numbering hand-marked on it. The photos below illustrate; click to see any of them larger. The last two show the film numbering inside the Baby Brownie (eight photos) and the Brownie Starmatic (twelve photos), respectively.


At the end of each roll I found a Kodak sealing band, but too far up the backing paper. So I just removed it and affixed it where I wanted it to go. Dwayne’s processed each roll with no trouble.


Using hand-cut 127 film

Film Photography

Operation Thin the Herd: Kodak Baby Brownie

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 this 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

Film Photography


When Meijer (a big-box store chain in several Midwestern states) affixes this sticker to an item, it means they’re not going to carry it anymore.

On the one hand, yay! 12 rolls for the price of four! (I bought all they had left, plus four rolls of Superia X-tra 400 for the price of one.)

On the other, waaaaah! My cheap and easy source of film is no more!

No more cheap Fujicolor 200 at Meijer?


Yellow flowers

Yellow flowers
Minolta XG 1, 50mm f/1.7 Minolta MD
Agfa Vista 200 (at EI 100)

When I was 22 I broke up with a young woman who I still call my first great love. We were such comfortable companions. Our favorite thing was to watch bad movies together on cable well into the wee hours. She was brilliant at heckling them. Her dry, nerdy humor kept me laughing. I don’t laugh easily. She was a real gift in my life.

Yet we couldn’t make other things about our relationship work, important things. I don’t think she ever felt like I really loved her. I showed her in the ways I knew how, but she needed to feel loved in ways I didn’t understand and couldn’t give.  And when I was tired or overwhelmed or irritated I was prickly and difficult. Still am. She never knew how to deal with that and she took it hard.

Sometimes a relationship can’t last because you’re not right together in some ways that really matter. Yet you’re reluctant to end it because it’s otherwise so comfortable. But after awhile comfort isn’t enough, and after a longer while the places where you don’t fit start to grate. More of your needs must be met. We ended our relationship, and it hurt, and we missed each other. But it was necessary.

My many Minolta SLRs have all been lovely and felt great in my hands. Their lenses are sublime. My heart leaps over the images these cameras give me. I want to shoot with them forever.

But they have been so unreliable. I just can’t keep one working for the long haul. There may be photographers out there who enjoy taking their gear apart and keeping them working smoothly. I’m not one of them. I just want my gear to work, period. And that’s why I’ve just sold my last Minolta body and am running right into the arms of reliable Pentax and Nikon.

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Film Photography, Stories Told

single frame: Yellow flowers


Film Photography

Film photography has never been less expensive

The other day I read this great post about how to save money on your film photography. There’s no denying that the more film you shoot, the more your costs go up. It makes a person want to economize.


Digital photography is a better deal after you get past the sunk costs for gear. You just have to stick with a camera for the long haul. My everyday camera is a wonderful Canon PowerShot S95, arguably the best point-and-shoot digital camera you could buy when I got it in 2010. I’ve taken about 10,000 photos with it and it still delivers great results after all these years. It cost $400 new, and I’ve added spare batteries and an SD card for, generously, another $100. That works out to about 5 cents a photograph. I shoot more freely with digital so let’s say that half of those images are throwaways. That’s still only a dime a photograph.

The cost of entry can be far lower with film. You can pick up great used bodies for pennies on the original dollar. For example, my semi-pro Nikon N90s SLR body cost just $27 and I picked up a solid 50/1.8 lens for it for $50. It’s a fabulous kit. But because of ongoing costs for film and processing, no matter how many photos I shoot with it I’ll never get down to 10 cents each. Actually, I calculated it using my least expensive film and processing options. 10,000 shots cost 33 cents each, for a total cost of $3,300!

Still, film is a bargain today compared to when film was the only game in town.

I shot film as often as I could afford it in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I paid $3 to $6 per roll depending on format. I remember 126 film being the least expensive and 120/620 being the most expensive. Processing and prints at my friendly neighborhood Hook’s Dependable Drugs ran about $7. To cut costs I usually mailed my film to Clark Color Labs, which did the work for about $4.

Total cost was $7 to $13 per roll. Adjusting for inflation from 1980, that’s $21 to $33.

Today I buy 35mm Fujicolor 200 for $2.75 per roll. The camera store downtown will process and scan it for about $8.50. My least expensive option costs just $11.25.

I often shoot black-and-white film in 35mm, and sometimes 120 negative film. I typically pay $5-7 per roll. I mail this film to Old School Photo Lab for processing and scanning, which costs me $17. That’s $22-24 per roll at the high end.

This is still real money, though. I’ve shot 34 rolls of film in the last 12 months. If I use $16 as a rough mean cost per roll, I’ve spent $544. You can buy an entry-level DSLR or a very good point-and-shoot for that kind of money!

By all means, then, trim your costs as much as you can. But if film and processing had been as inexpensive when I was a lad as it is now, I would have taken a lot more pictures!

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Film Photography

If you click here to go to my For Sale page, you’ll find a smattering of cameras from my collection plus some wonderful lenses for various 35mm SLR systems.

I’ve priced everything more than fairly and included shipping costs to make it simple. If you buy more than one item I’ll cut the total price because combined shipping is less expensive!

Click here to see what’s on offer.

Yet another batch of film gear for sale