One of the most recognizable cameras in history is the Kodak Brownie. They made several models of the Brownie, but the Hawkeye Flash stands out because of its simple square bakelite body. The Kodak Brownie Hawkeye Flash was designed by Arthur H. Crapsey, and manufactured from May 1949 to July 1961. The cost, $5.00 USD for the camera, $7.00 USD with the flash.
This camera is easy to disassemble, clean, and reassemble. Even for a guy like me that barely knows which end of a screwdriver to use. Two screws on the top and two on the front of the camera can be removed to clean the viewfinder and front glass element. Two screws inside remove the entire film chamber giving you access to the shutter mechanism.
Over the course of the production, Kodak made some minor changes to the Brownie Hawkeye Flash. My version has a glass lens, but later models had plastic. The camera has an aperture of f/14.5 – f/16. Shutter speed is about 1/30 sec, along with a bulb mode. Focal length is approximately 75mm and the focal distance is about 5 feet to infinity.
The Brownie Hawkeye Flash uses 620 film. The only difference between 620 and 120 film are the size of the film spools. There are many methods for using 120 film in 620 film cameras depending on the make and model. Instead of re-spooling 120 film, or grinding down plastic 120 spools, I chose to modify the camera. I took a Drummel tool and ground out just enough of the bakelite so a loaded 120 spool would fit. Unfortunately, there’s not enough room in the camera to modify it to use a 120 take-up spool.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I have to admit I’m happy with the results. The images below were shot on Ilford Pan F Plus 50 BW Film, processed by RepliColor in Salt Lake City, and scanned on an Epson Perfection V600 Photo. It’s not very often that I share an entire roll of images, but I’m going to this time so you can see the accidental double-exposures. The Brownie Hawkeye Flash has a spring loaded shutter, so it’s always cocked and ready to go. My mistakes took place when forgetting to advance the film. Overall, the images are sharp. There’s some slight curving in the images, something I would expect, so it doesn’t surprise me.
You can find various Brownie Hawkeye Flash cameras on eBay. Some are in better condition than others. Some come with the flash attachment and others are a complete boxed kit. I wouldn’t pay more than $15 for this camera. It’s not a rare gem, but certainly fun to use. This camera and its limitations push you to slow down, compose the image, and think. Another benefit of the Brownie Hawkeye Flash is the number of resources available online. Check out the Brownie Camera Page, or Kurt Munger’s site for a detailed breakdown and cleaning guide.