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Kodak Brownie reflex review

This is the first part of my review of one of Kodak’s very popular cameras from the early 1950’s – the Kodak Brownie Reflex. In this part I describe the camera and my reasons for buying it, in the second part I cover my experiences of shooting with it and show some sample pictures.

Kodak Brownie Reflex Images

My Kodak Brownie Reflex Camera

I bought this camera for two reasons, both nostalgic. First I have a book called ‘Boys book of Photography‘ written by J. Allan Cash which I’ve had since I was a boy and used to read very often when I was about 10 years old. It was the book that first got me interested in photography, and one of the cameras featured in that book was a Kodak Brownie Reflex.

The other reason is that, having read the book, I remember my Mum & Dad buying me a camera like this one Christmas, along with a contact printing set. Therefore when I saw two of these on sale on eBay I put in a bid for them and got both of them for about £5.

When I received them in the post a few days later I was glad to see that one of them was loaded with film, with the exposure count set to 3. Since the film was in the less well preserved model, I wound it to the end of the roll and I’m going to re-spool it in a changing bag so I can load it in the best camera and finish the film. I’m not sure how old the film is, but I’m going to have a go at stand development with some Rodinal developer I’ve just bought to see if I can get anything out of it.

Although one camera was in obviously better shape than the other, the viewfinder display in both cameras needed a good clean and I’m glad to say the cameras are simple to work on. I just had to undo the screws on the back and the two at the top and I could get the mirror, front lens and condenser lens out of the viewfinder system and give them a good clean really easily.

With the camera re-assembled, I’m already for my trip back in time!

Kodak Brownie Reflex Description

This is probably the simplest camera I own. There is no aperture, no focus, no shutter speed adjustment other than instantaneous or bulb so there is really nothing to do other than compose the picture and press the shutter. To get the correct exposure it was recommended to use a different film for outside sunny pictures and indoor pictures although an optional flash was also made to attach to the camera.

The camera is called ‘reflex’ because it operates using the same principle as the Twin Lens Reflex which was a popular type of camera at the time this model was made. It doesn’t have the complexity of a TLR, because there is no coupled focusing arrangement, but the basic idea of having a viewfinder lens in the same plane as the taking lens holds true. In fact, it’s more like an advanced box camera, and in fact that works quite well. I remember using a box camera, and the problem with them was the viewfinder was so small (and normally not very clear either), that it was easy to cut people’s heads off when you took snaps.

As I said above this is the simplest camera to use. Loading a film is a case of opening the camera lock so the film transport is detached and can be pulled out of the bottom of the camera. The film is loaded onto the carrier on the left and the backing paper is passed across the back of the plastic transport and threaded into the take up spool. As soon as enough paper has been wound on the spool so you are sure that it is secure, the unit is put back into the camera, locked in place and the film wound until ‘1’ appears in the window on the back. The camera is then ready.

To take a picture open the viewer at the top to look down on to the view screen. Compose the picture and then press the shutter at the front of the camera smoothly and gently. Then advance the film to the next number and repeat.

I remember having loads of fun taking pictures of everything in our garden, my friends I used to play with, and I think I ventured into town one day and took some pictures of the cars and shops. Happy days!

Kodak Brownie Reflex Specifications

  • Kodak Brownie Reflex viewfinder camera
  • Viewfinder in top of camera
  • Separate viewing lens and taking lens
  • Single shutter speed + bulb
  • 127 film for 12 exposures of 1 5/8 inch square
  • Fixed focus (5ft to infinity in focus) – attachment lens available for 3 – 5 ft.
  • Terminals for optional add on flash bracket
  • Tripod bush on base
  • Manual available here

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I’m a software developer by profession but I’ve been taking pictures since I was about 8 years old. In that time I’ve owned cameras of all types and sizes from 120 roll film thro’ 35mm to my current Pentax K-5, Ricoh GXR + P10/S10/A12 28mm/A12 50mm, Canon S95 and recently acquired Sony NEX 6.

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