A century ago, Kodak hit upon a formula. Photography could be a huge market if only it could be expanded from the professionals and placed in the hands of the masses. A cheap and easy-to-use camera was the solution, and the Brownie series was born. For more than half a century Kodak would sell its Brownie cameras extremely cheaply, even giving them away in some cases. Much like today’s cell phone companies, Kodak expected to make its money on the after-sale services and support.
The average Brownie had few if any settings. It was simply a box with a lens and a shutter, which the photographer would point at his subject and trigger. I’ve shot a manual 35mm SLR for years, so the notion of a point and shoot camera with minimal settings is foreign to me.
My first Brownie arrived yesterday courtesy of eBay and the USPS. It’s a Hawkeye flash model from 1953
My first impression is that it’s cute. Somehow it’s smaller than I had expected. It’s a little brown Bakelite box with a handle, lens, viewfinder, and a winding knob. Initially it had a problem with a sticky shutter, but a quick disassembly and cleaning seems to have solved it. (One latch, two screws.)
I loaded it with Portra 160 and have only had time to take a few shots. It’s definitely different, but I think it’s going to be fun.
4/17 – the new Brownie Hawkeye Flash