I found a roll of film still inside this Kodak Brownie Hawkeye when I bought it. When I had it developed I found late-1960s photos of a family’s Niagara Falls vacation! I then took the camera with me on Route 66. So you’ve just got to read my updated review, here.
You’d better believe I took one of my old cameras along on my family’s Route 66 trip. Kodak’s 1950s Brownie Hawkeye undoubtedly shot millions of vacations in the middle of the last century, and it is relatively compact and dead simple to use. It seemed like the perfect companion for my family’s Route 66 vacation.
The previous owner of my Brownie Hawkeye thought it was a good vacation camera, too. This camera’s last use was to shoot a Niagara Falls vacation in the late 1960s – see those photos here.
The Brownie Hawkeye takes 620 film, which hasn’t been made in almost 20 years. I’ve been known to buy fresh film hand-respooled onto 620 spools.
But last year I bought a flatbed film scanner and scanned some negatives from a roll of Kodak Verichrome Pan I shot in 1976, when I was a lad of 10. See those photos here. Verichrome Pan was arguably the number one amateur black-and-white film in the United States from its introduction in 1956 to its discontinuation about four decades later. I itched to shoot one more roll, so I bought one on eBay. It expired in September, 1985.
This was strictly an exercise in nostalgia. There’s a happy contingent of film photographers who like expired film’s unpredictable results. I am not among them. Expired Verichrome Pan has a good reputation for returning usable images, and the roll I bought was advertised as having been stored cold, which should have preserved it. I was disappointed that this roll returned faint, noisy images. I monkeyed around with the scans in Photoshop to darken them up and bring out some contrast.
This is the 1932 Standard service station in Odell, Illinois. See more photos of it here.
Here’s a shot from the Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba, Missouri; see more photos here.
These dilapidated log cabins are part of John’s Modern Cabins, an abandoned motel of sorts on an abandoned stretch of the Mother Road west of Doolittle, Missouri. I’ll write more about these cabins in an upcoming post.
Not long ago, the Film Photography Project found a cache of 620 Kodak Gold 200 film in England, expired since June of 1996 but stored cold ever since. They offered it for sale; some is still available as I publish this post. Click here to buy some – but brace for impact, as it is not cheap. I bought two rolls and put one into my Brownie Hawkeye. Now, the Hawkeye was built for the slow films of the 1950s. Verichrome Pan, at ISO 125, was a pretty fast film at the time. So I figured that I’d get a whole roll of overexposed shots from this ISO 200 color film, and I was right. Fortunately, I know a couple Photoshop tricks that brought out color and detail in the washed-out images.
This photo is of the great sign of the Rest Haven Court on the Mother Road in Springfield, Missouri. I really like the color in this shot.
Some thick clouds had rolled in when we reached Carthage, Missouri. They created quite a mood for this photograph.
This is Pops, which is out in the middle of nowhere east of Oklahoma City. (There’s a whole lot of middle of nowhere on Route 66 in Oklahoma.) I’ll write more about Pops in an upcoming post. Meanwhile, dig the 66-foot-tall pop-bottle sculpture.
Finally, when my sons and I stopped for the night at the Munger Moss Motel in Lebanon, Missouri, I took this dusk shot of the lit sign. I thought perhaps I’d get a usable low-light image because of the film’s relatively high speed. I cropped this shot to this size because the processor frustratingly put a sticker on this frame. (Yes, this sign is a brother of the Rest Haven Court sign; both were made by the same company.)
The Brownie Hawkeye is super easy to use. You hold it at bellybutton level and peer down into the viewfinder; when you like the framing, you gently press down the shutter button. I did lose three frames on the roll of Verichrome Pan when the latch gave way and the camera opened. And then I dropped the Brownie Hawkeye while photographing the Blue Whale of Catoosa; fortunately, this only scuffed the aluminum and chipped a tiny bit of the body. Even if the fall had irreparably damaged the Brownie Hawkeye, they remain plentiful and inexpensive.
I have one more roll of the expired Kodak Gold 200 left. I’d like to see how this film can really perform, so I plan to shoot it in a 620 camera that lets me adjust exposure and packs a fine lens, such as my Kodak Monitor Six-20.
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I shy away from cameras that take 620 film. I own a few, as they’re plentiful; Kodak and other manufacturers puked out bazillions of them. But in 1995 Kodak discontinued 620 film, instantly orphaning them all.
620 film is nothing more than still-available 120 film wound onto thinner spools. This makes it still possible to shoot with 620 cameras, as all you need to do is re-roll 120 film onto a 620 spool (instructions here). You can also take your chances with expired 620 film, which can be found on eBay. Or you can buy fresh, hand-respooled 620 film, such as from the Film Photography Project (here).
The Kodak Brownie Hawkeye takes 620 film. It is a glorified box camera, but such was the state of proletarian photography for much of the 20th century. Many collectors report that some Brownie Hawkeyes accept 120 film on the supply spool, which would certainly make it less of a hassle to shoot with this camera.
I love it when a simple camera gets good results, and so I was charmed when I saw the great images well-known camera guy Ken Rockwell got with a Brownie Hawkeye on Route 66. I immediately bought one.
The Brownie Hawkeye was introduced in 1949; the flash model followed in 1950. They cost $5.50 and $7, respectively, which is about $60 and $75 today. Its Bakelite plastic body probably looked modern and pleasant in those days, but certainly looked outdated in 1961 when this camera finally went out of production. It sports a single-element meniscus lens with an aperture somewhere around f/14 or f/16. Pressing the ridged gray button that wraps around the camera’s top right corner fires the shutter, which stays open for about 1/30 second. If you pull up the smooth gray button that wraps around the camera’s top left corner, the shutter stays open as long as you hold the shutter button down. The flash model has two pins on the side that accept several Kodak flash units.
To load film, clip in a new roll up top, thread the film around the back, and insert the film leader into a takeup spool on the bottom. Put the back on the camera, lock it closed with the little slider on top under the handle, and slowly turn the winding knob until 1 appears in the little red window on the camera’s back. To frame a shot, hold the camera in front of your torso and look down into the viewfinder. Press the shutter button when you’re ready. The shutter button doesn’t lock after you press it, so if you press it again you’ll get a double exposure.
The Brownie Hawkeye had a number of running changes during its 11-year run. Early cameras had metal winding knobs and little rivets next to the flash pins. Kodak fitted glass lenses and viewfinders at first, but switched to plastic in later cameras. The button for long exposures has various markings, from B (for bulb) to L (for long) to LONG, depending on when the camera was made. Mine has a CAMEROSITY code of CYRM, meaning it was made in November, 1953. Its winding knob is plastic, and its lens and viewfinder are glass. Its long exposure button is marked L.
If you like simple cameras like this, check out my reviews of the Agfa Clack (here), the Ansco B-2 Cadet (here), the Kodak Duaflex II (here), the Kodak No. 2 Brownie, Model D (here), and the Kodak Six-20 Brownie (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.
A special gift was hidden inside this Brownie Hawkeye – a roll of exposed Verichrome Pan film. I sent it right off to Film Rescue International, which specializes in getting images from long-expired film. I was delighted when they returned several good images. Judging by the cars and the scenery, it appears that this family visited Niagara Falls in the late 1960s.
The roll features several shots of the falls. My experience with small waist-level viewfinders is that framing a level shot can be challenging. This photographer would probably agree – if he or she could see these photos.
I hope someone someday comes upon this post and recognizes this family. I’d like to reconnect them with their photographs!
When I took my sons on a Route 66 vacation, I thought I’d follow in Ken Rockwell’s footsteps and bring the Brownie Hawkeye along. I first loaded some 620 Kodak Verichrome Pan that expired in September of 1985. I…did not get the stunning results Rockwell did. Here’s the Standard service station in Odell, IL.
Ah, the vagaries of expired film. The Brownie Hawkeye was pleasant to use, though: walk up, frame the shot, push the button. The button has nice travel and requires only moderate finger pressure. The below photo from the Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba, MO, looks like an illustration from a dystopian novel.
I also shot a roll of 620 Kodak Gold 200 expired since June of 1996, making this among the last rolls of 620 film Kodak produced. These look better to me than any of my Verichrome Pan work, but they are all underexposed and suffer from heavy color shifting. This is the Wagon Wheel Motel again, with our car parked outside.
My film choices aside, the Brownie Hawkeye did its job fine, delivering good sharpness even out into the corners.
This is the best photo I made with the Brownie Hawkeye. I tweaked it heavily in Photoshop to reduce haze and boost contrast. The color shifts make the shot in this case. You’ll find this sign in Springfield, MO.
To see more from this camera, check out my Brownie Hawkeye gallery.
If you like simple box cameras and are willing to deal with the 620 film problem, you’ll like the Kodak Brownie Hawkeye. It’s a pleasant shooter that delivers good results.