This week’s vintage camera test is an interesting one (yes, but aren’t they all?), despite its rather long name. Waaaay back in the late 1880s, a small company called the Boston Camera Company introduced a model called the “Hawk-Eye” Detective camera. The Hawk-Eye Detective camera was unique in 1888 because it enclosed all of the camera’s components in a wooden box, which made it easier to take candid shots. You could argue this was the start of street photography. People soon figured out, however, that a wooden box with a hole in it was a camera, and would pose for the shot.
The Blair Camera Company apparently also thought this was a great idea, acquired the Boston Camera Company, and continued to produce the Hawk-Eye number 1 (I’m not sure they actually called it that!) and gradually improved it by doing things like covering the wooden box with leatherette. That Hawk-Eye used 4-by-5 inch plates.
Meanwhile, there was a guy by the name of George Eastman, who had been manufacturing dry camera plates since 1880, who decided to get into the camera business himself in 1888 when he registered the “Kodak” name. In 1899, he acquired the Blair Camera Company, and in 1913, rolled out the Number Two Hawk-Eye, a simple box camera with one viewfinder set up for vertical “portrait” photos (later, a second was added); a shutter switch, and no other adjustments. The Number Two Hawk-Eye Model C was made of thick cardboard, covered with black leatherette, and used 120 rollfilm which had been developed by Eastman’s Kodak company. Missing from the model below is the leather strap that would have been on top.
Only the subject of this blog post isn’t one of those 1913 Kodak No. 2 Hawkeyes – this one would not be produced until 17 years later. In 1930, Kodak re-issued the camera – this time with brown leatherette and gold colored latches – as a 50th anniversary “special.” Parents of children who were to turn 12 that year were invited to pick up one of 500,000 such cameras produced in the United States (another 52,000 in Canada) in celebration of Eastman Kodak’s 50th Anniversary. On the side of the camera was a sticker identifying the camera as such – many of these have by now worn off.
So this is the camera I tested for this week’s post. I used a roll of Kodak black and white (TX400) film and took the camera to a local festival celebrating the Mylapore neighborhood. I got eight 6-by-9 centimeter exposures, of which three were blurry. Here are the remaining five.
The photo above is the Kapaleeshwarar Temple.
The photos below are a “kolam” contest. Each day of the festival, up to 100 (mostly) women competed in a “best kolam” contest. Around the corner, they had a contest for kids/teens. These are from the kids/teens contest.