I’m pretty thrilled right now, yesterday an old camera that I bought on Ebay arrived. Today I took it out for a shoot and I couldn’t be happier. Details below;
For a while now I’ve been intrigued by older folding cameras especially 120 format. Fortunately or unfortunately, there is a huge variety of brands, formats and models available to choose from, and to the uninitiated the plethora of choices can be daunting. I literally didn’t know where to start in looking for an old folder.
Luckily, I let aesthetics and intuition guide me and I got lucky on my first folder purchase. I knew I wanted a truly older model, something from the 1910s or 20s, partly because I love the way they look, but also because they tend to have simpler mechanisms, with potentially less to go wrong, I hoped. I didn’t need or want something fancy, just something that would work.
In my Ebay and Etsy searches old Kodak Hawkeye folders of various models and formats kept turning up, I noticed that the price for most was very reasonable. Fortuitously, my brother Don gave me a generous gift card for my Birthday just when I had run across a Hawkeye No.2 in supposedly near new condition and for a great price. The photos didn’t contradict the sellers claims either. A few days later, I was opening a small, neatly wrapped package with this old No. 2 in it!
As far as I can tell, this is a somewhat unusual Hawkeye that was only made for one year 1924. Kodak is notorious for generating a huge variety of camera models and this camera was improved in 1925 with the addition of another shutter speed. My camera only has two shutter settings: T for time and I for instantaneous, which seems to be about 1/30th of a second. Interestingly (at least to me) the meniscus lens in these old Hawkeyes is behind the aperture and shutter.
It does have four aperture settings which are f/8, f/16, f/32 and f/64! The manual clearly warns against using the latter two apertures in I setting, those apertures are only to be used with a tripod in T setting.
The Hawkeye is pretty compact for a 6×9 camera, when folded it’s just over 6″ wide x 3″ tall x 1″ thick.
The externally mounted viewfinder is tiny!, it’s about 1/4 the size of a postage stamp and is not very visible in bright light, but all that is fine with me. I actually enjoy the view through its miniature view finder. I think it helps me to see the overall framing my photographs more clearly.
The camera really is in incredibly good condition seeming almost unused inside and out. Even though the bellows looked really good, I suspected there might be some issues with that. Turns out the bellows had pin holes at every crease and leaked light like a photon sieve.
Luckily I had just read an article on quick and dirty bellows repair on Jim Grey’s excellent photo blog Down the Road. Jim recommended fabric paint and it worked like a charm, soon enough my bellows were leak free, my patch job doesn’t look nearly as neat as Jim’s though. I really had to layer up the fabric paint to eliminate the leaks entirely.
The only other issue with the camera was due to me being a ham handed doof. Immediately upon opening and examining the Hawkeye I broke the now incredibly brittle little red window that one needs to view the numbers on 120 film. Luckily I was able to get some red lighting gel and do an incredibly sophisticated repair on the red window, I even added a light tight cover for it.
This model is called a Cartridge Hawkeye because the camera comes apart in two halves and you load the 120 film into the cartridge section and snap and latch the camera back together. Loading the Hawkeye was surprisingly easy as was unfolding and folding it. It is a surprisingly well designed and manufactured camera for being so inexpensive, I think they sold for just a few dollars in 1924. Everything fits precisely together and latches and unlatches securely and easily. Can you tell I’m impressed with this camera?
The Hawkeye is not a rangefinder camera, as you might expect but is zone focusing. There are three zones marked on the bed that you can snap the front of the camera into, they are 8, Fixed and 100, marked in both feet and meters.
In the fixed setting the lens is in focus from about 14-75 feet. That’s where I left it for my first roll of film. The manual includes a helpful chart showing the focusing distances at various apertures. I do hope to test it on some of the smaller apertures using a tripod. There are tripod fittings for using the camera in both portrait and landscape orientation.
Since I guessed that the shutter speed was probably 1/25 or 1/30 (the model after my camera had speeds of 1/25 and 1/50) I thought that a very slow film might work well.
I had never tried Rollei RPX 25, or even really heard or read anything about it, but I thought it might work well and wasn’t exorbitantly priced. Upon reading a little about it on Alex Luyckx’s super helpful blog. I realized it was a very high contrast film, perfect!
My first roll only yielded four shots, two of which I’m presenting here (I was bracketing using the apertures on the camera). Rocket scientist that I am (no offense to actual rocket scientist who may be reading this!) I thought that I should roll past every even number when shooting as I’ve had to do with practically every other 6×9 I’ve ever shot. Wrong. The Hawkeye is configured to correctly display film numbers for 6×9 format, but I skipped every other number, giving me four very widely spaced shots. Oye.
I guess it must be the developer I used, Cinestill Df96 monobath has proven to be a versatile and reliable stalwart for me, but these shots came out to be super high contrast, which I absolutely love! I realize these won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it seems like these are the photographs I’ve always been wanting to take but didn’t know it. I just hope I can repeat these kind of results again and that RPX 24 is available for a while more.