First photos from an 80-year-old box camera

Some time ago my oldest daughter picked up an old Kodak box camera at a yard sale, and it sat ignored on a shelf for years until I decided to get my hands on some 120 film and an old 620 film spool and see what kind of pictures the old camera might deliver.  While the results aren’t stellar, I did learn a thing or two about using this camera that may lead me to try again in the future.

The first roll illustrates a couple of problems you can easily run into with these old cameras:  accidental double exposure.  Until you get into a routine, you find yourself asking, “Did I advance the film or not?”  And since there are only eight exposures on a roll, it’s tempting to err on the side of not having advanced the film, and then you get two photos for the price of one.  Or maybe I got that backward…


A phone booth (also an antique?) in central Windhoek.  Taken from two angles.

Below is a second problem we discovered.  With the old box cameras, you can often set them so that the shutter opens when you move the release – a simple metal lever – down, and then closes when you move it back up.  Alternately, you can have it open and close immediately (about 1/40 of a second).  So when we operated the shutter release, moving the lever downward, we thought somehow that you would have to move it back upward to finish the process.  What actually happens is that you end up taking the same picture twice – the shutter opens each time – resulting in another double exposure.  In the case of the photo below of the van Eck power plant in Windhoek, the effect is kind of cool, if unplanned.



A third problem you can run into is the problem of aiming.  Although there is a kind of finder you can look through when you hold the camera at waist level, it’s often difficult to see through the tiny window what the camera is pointing at.   So you end up aiming the box in approximately the right direction.  This could have been a great photo of the Christuskirche in central Windhoek – instead, it’s a photo of the lawn at Parliament gardens (mostly).


Finally, a photo where things pretty much turned out alright.  Soon, I’ll need to respool another roll of film and give this another shot with what I’ve learned.



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