When we were cleaning out my grandmother’s house over 10 years ago, we discovered a bunch of old cameras: a Kodak Brownie 116 2A, a Kodak Art Deco 616 folder, and a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye Flash. At the time, we kept them because they were cool to look at. As my interest in photography has grown, I’ve determined to get them up and working—even if I’m only able to get a single roll out of them.
Converting the 116 and 616 cameras so they can take 120 film doesn’t look too difficult but it’s still a semi-involved project which I’ve been putting off. The Hawkeye on the other hand was really straightforward. Despite being a 620 camera, it can actually accommodate 120 film and only needs a 620 takeup spool.
The Hawkeye also satisfied other urges I’ve had regarding toy cameras, lo-fi photography, and pseudo-vintage looks. As much fun as I know I’d have with Hipstamatic or a Holga, I’m allergic to anything that trendy. A camera as old as my father (manufactured in the same month he was born!) does all that in a much more personal way.
After one roll, I was hooked.
A lot of the appeal was that this was also my first experience with medium format. And a lot of the reason why I haven’t shot more rolls in the Hawkeye is that I quickly borrowed a YashicaMat 124G for “proper” 6×6 work.
I’ve since come to realize that the Hawkeye really sings with 100-speed black and white film—especially if you aim it at older structures.
This isn’t to say that color work isn’t also fun. It’s just that I don’t feel the same excitement with my color results unless I really simplify my composition.
Hawkeye landscapes are underwhelming. Thankfully, I live near by all kinds of old buildings and signs which are just calling for this camera.