It’s been a while since my last post but that’s because I’ve had my fingers in so many little pies that I haven’t had the chance to stop long enough to concentrate on any one thing. Anyway, before my next post about Mile Cross (yes, there is one on the way) is this post about a little Kodak Brownie 127 that was given to me on New Years Eve. I was with a lovely lady named Cecilé, who was showing me around the barn at the back of her pub, The Marlpit Arms – the barn section of which will hopefully be part of a wedding venue overlooking the nearby meadow when planning is granted – anyway, I digress. As Cecilé was showing me her grand plans for the barn, I spotted an old Kodak Brownie 127 sat on a dusty window ledge that didn’t look like it had been moved for decades. Cecilé kindly let me have the old camera and I took it home with me. On closer inspection I found that – unfortunately – there was no film inside and no mystery photos from the past for me to develop. I put it on the shelf with the rest of the camera gear and decided that I would take to Google to see if I could find some 127 film to fit it.
9 months later I finally got around to looking into it and (unsurprisingly) it became apparent that although you can source 127 film, it is expensive as well as being awkward to process. I decided to search a bit further and stumbled across a video on YouTube showing willing dipsticks (such as myself) how to load 35mm film into old 127 cameras and this video gave me the encouragement to try it out on the old Brownie sat on my shelf.
The first obstacle I found was that the image plane for 127 is (obviously) a lot bigger than 35mm and that getting the smaller film cartridge to sit centrally and securely in the bigger 127 would take a bit of Blue Peter Badge ingenuity.
What I came up with was far from ingenious. I headed over to the ‘man drawer’ in the kitchen to see what I had rattling around at the back that could help me fabricate something to hold undersized film firmly in place. I found an adjustable brass bolt (from an old climbing frame) and pushed that through the bottom of the camera’s film holding support to hold the 35mm cartridge steady at the bottom and small, wooden potting-plant stick, cut down to fit in the top of the cartridge and held in place at the top of the Brownie with a blob of Blue-Tac. Technical stuff!
There’s a little red window at the back of the Brownie that allowed the photographer to see what frame of the film he or she was on. 127 film has a paper backing with the number of each frame in the middle of the shot so that you could see how many shots you’d taken and to aid you to know how far to wind the film for the next shot. As I’m not using 127 film this little hole needed to be blocked up to stop light seeping in and over-exposing my expensive 35mm film. More Blue-Tac and a bit of electrical tape were used to block off the window:
Whilst I was at it I decided to work out how many turns of the winder it would take to wind the 35mm film so that I didn’t double expose. This was done by cutting a strip out of a bit of A4 writing paper and loading it on to the spindle like film. I marked the edges of the frame on the paper ‘film-strip’ and counted how many turns it took to wind the winder to shift the film far enough to take the next shot. Turns out that the three and three quarter turns I’d worked out was far too many and there were massive gaps between my exposures, so I don’t really know what went wrong there.
Anyway, it was time to load the film into the modified Brownie. I had to cut the end of the film to fit in the slot on the spindle and hold it in place with a piece of tape to stop it all unraveling. I also added a bit of masking tape with a marker on it to the body of the camera next to the winder so that I could count my turns. This had to be relocated after every shot.
With the film loaded up it was time to take the camera out and give it a try and as usual headed to one of my favourite haunts, Happisburgh.
Seeing as the 127 film is larger than the 35mm film I managed to get just 11 shots from a 36 exposure roll and they came out (as expected) as wide, panoramic shots. I had to take this into account when composing the shots as I knew I would lose a section from both the top and bottom of the frame because of the narrower film. I also had to consider that the 127 Brownie had a fixed focal length of 65mm, fixed aperture at F14 and a fixed shutter speed of only 1/50s. Unfortunately, the resulting images aren’t the sharpest, but seeing as the camera and it’s glass was crude even by 1950’s standards when they were being mass produced, and that I was using the wrong type of film being held in place by a stick a bolt and a blob of Blue-Tac, it’s a wonder that I managed to get anything back from the developers. The film would have been flapping about a bit as it was stretched across a larger film plane with no paper backing like the 127 would have had.
I have to thank the nice Gentleman at Rapture Photography on Hall Road for scanning the negatives for me. Apparently it took him hours, but he enjoyed the challenge and could see that it was a fun little experiment and was as excited to see the results as I was.
The images below have been tidied up in Lightroom (some spots removed and straightened up) but are pretty much as exposed by the old Brownie:
As you can see, they’re not exactly sharp, but I don’t think that these little Brownies were ever renowned for their picture quality.
Seeing as the scans cost me £11 and I had the pictures open in Lightroom I thought I might as well get a little creative with them. Here are a selection of those images:
Thanks once again for reading,