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120 film RF Folders 120/220 Format Folding Rangefinders, including the various classic Zeiss Ikontas, Voigtlander Bessas, and their Ruskie copies.

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100-year old Camera
Old 10-27-2016   #1
aagiv
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100-year old Camera

Whenever I use my Leica III or Zeiss folder, my wife likes to call out that the pictures are from my "1930's camera". That got me thinking that I'd like to have a 100-year old (or older) camera.

However, I'm not sure exactly what I should be looking for. I'd like to stick with 120 format for easy film availability. I'm thinking Kodak folders are my best bet, but Kodak had many different film formats during that time. I'm also open to other brands and form factors, but I'm not sure where to look.

What specific options do I have for something made on 1917 or earlier (it's almost 2017) that uses 120 film? Preferably something that I'm likely to find in usable condition? Budget is low, <$100, but I'm not looking for collector pieces.
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Old 10-27-2016   #2
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The Vest Pocket Kodak was in its prime in 1916/17. They use 127 film but it can still be bought. I have a couple that work quite well and take pretty decent photos as well.

The Kodak Brownie was also around. The first one, as well as several others, used 117 film, but the No 2 Brownie, which was available in 1917, used 120 roll film and still takes really good photos as well.

Just a couple of options and both of these are fairly easy to find in good condition on E-Bay, or other sources, at decent prices.
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Old 10-27-2016   #3
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I've got a 1916 Kodak Premo No.2 which takes 6x9 photos on 120 film. Got it for $10 at a garage sale and it takes decent photos, considering they used very simple lenses. Shutter worked well, just needed to clean the lens and patch a number of pinholes in the bellows. This site has a good listing of Kodak's 120 rollfilm cameras, folding or otherwise. http://kodak.3106.net/index.php?p=206

If you're looking for a folding camera to shoot with, rather than just a shelf queen, try to find one with a working shutter, folding struts that open and close smoothly, reasonably good bellows and not too many signs of abuse. Pinholes and tiny tears in the bellows can often be repaired with liquid electrical tape. Box cameras might be more plentiful, but the folding cameras are really cool, especially when you tell people it's a working camera and you can take pictures with it.
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Old 10-27-2016   #4
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All of the VP Kodaks I've found had pinholed bellows.

I would recommend the Kodak No.1 Autographic Junior, this is a wood-bodied camera that tends to have better made bellows than some later cameras, in fact of all the folders from the era, these cameras in my experience are the most likely to not have pinholed bellows. And when they do it's usually pinch holes from the viewfinder, so they're easy to patch instead of randomly distributed all over the bellows. This model has two shutter speeds and scale focusing so it's more flexible/useable than a contemporary box camera. They also were fitted with a variety of lenses, mostly simple behind-the-shutter achromats, but you'll see rapid rectilinears sometimes, and more rarely triplets or even tessars. Please note that the No.1A, which is also very common, takes 116 rather than 120 - don't mix them up!

Otherwise, I'd go with a box camera. It's most likely to work without problem, but you'll likely get bored after a roll or two because of the lack of adjust ability.
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Old 10-28-2016   #5
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Anything Kodak No.2 from around the period would suit your needs. (Just plain "No.2", not "2A" or other version )

Kodak No.2 Folding Pocket Brownies work pretty well, especially since I've added some extra light sealing foam around the rear door of my 1912-ish Model B. I think I paid $50 for a good one.

I've shot with a pre-No.0 Kodak Folding Pocket from around 1898 as well, but 120 film is a little harder to feed into a camera designed for 105 format film.

Same problem with the Kodak No.1 Panoram, the 120 spools don't fit quite right, but the camera works fine with them. Panoram's are quite a bit more than a $100 though.
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Old 10-28-2016   #6
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The info on the Kodak folders has been useful. The naming convention of cameras versus film format seems simpler now. I'm definitely leaning towards folding cameras for the greater choices in aperture and shutter speed.

For the sake of discussion, are there non-Kodak options for pre-1917 folders in 120 format? Seems like most of of the ones I'm familiar started a decade or two later.


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Old 10-28-2016   #7
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This made me smile as it reminded me that I asked the same question on photo.net a few years back (seems you and I have similar thought processes about old cameras ). You'll find a few more suggestions in that thread so you might want to check it out. Sadly I have to report that I still haven't purchased such a camera - always too many other things going on it seems. But I'm still thinking about it.
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Old 10-29-2016   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aagiv View Post
The info on the Kodak folders has been useful. The naming convention of cameras versus film format seems simpler now. I'm definitely leaning towards folding cameras for the greater choices in aperture and shutter speed.

For the sake of discussion, are there non-Kodak options for pre-1917 folders in 120 format? Seems like most of of the ones I'm familiar started a decade or two later.


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You're not going to find any that are useable, for the most part. I've had a few from Ansco, Conley and Rexo, and all of them suffer from really cheap bellows that won't be light tight anymore. The only exception to this I have found is Ensign/Butchers, but you'll have a hard time finding a 1917 or earlier model. You'd be looking for one with a wooden, squared off body, the camera will usually be marked for 120, but sometimes it'll just give the negative width of 2 1/4 and then a spool type, A or B. B is the same as a modern 120 spool, A is smaller spool that only had space for 6 exposures. You can make a 120 spool fit in a 2 1/4A camera by trimming it a little as you would to get a 120 spool into a 620 camera.

Here's an Ensign 2 1/4A box camera I have, I think these small-spool cameras went out of production around 1920:

Ensign 2ĽA Box Form camera by Berang Berang, on Flickr
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Old 10-29-2016   #9
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Ansco made some Buster Brown models that use 120 film.
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Old 10-29-2016   #10
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Buster Brown No. 2, and No. 1. If the handle is missing (that's where the model name is stamped), as it usually is, there is often a decal inside saying to use 4A film, Ansco's version of 120 at the time. There's a folding Buster Brown 1 and 2 as well. Expect the bellows to be toast, but you might get lucky.

But if you're going with box cameras, there's no shortage of cameras to choose from. You might have to do some research to find out about particular cameras though, because a lot of these boxes were in production for decades with few noticeable changes.
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Old 10-29-2016   #11
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I have a Kodak no 2 folding autographic brownie and i adore it. takes vwry decent pictures and carry size is quite small. mine was lucky enough to have good bellows and i got the lens and shutter cleaned for $30.

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Old 11-09-2016   #12
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I have modify my Gundlach Wizard Duplex No.1 (1904).
from 118 film format to 120, by using just two wheels from my son Lego.. It make 6x11 negative. Only problem with film advance, I still have to count rotations (1= 8, 2= 2 1/2, 3=2 1/2, 4= 2 1/4, 5= 2 1/4, 6= 2 1/4)

2016-08-16 16.12.12.jpg
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Old 11-09-2016   #13
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The No.1A Autographic Pocket Kodak...uses 116 film...
I've never used it due to the film type...I've had it at least 20 years...

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Old 11-09-2016   #14
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I've used the No.2A with 3D-printed 120-to-116 spool adapters and partially taping up the red window on the insided. You have to wind about 2.5 frame numbers passed the red window for each shot.
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