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Score: 4/5

What Ford's Model-T did for the world of automobiles, Kodak's Brownie camera did for photography – it brought photography to the people. Before the Brownie, cameras and photography were left primarily to the professionals to deal with. The Brownie was the first ultra-affordable consumer model offered by Kodak, or any company by that matter, originally retailing for $1 in 1900. Kodak did produce some earlier and considerable more expensive cameras previous to the Brownie – the original Kodak camera retailed for $20 in 1888, a far cry from the $1 Brownie. The Brownie exploded upon the market and it was the Brownie that paved the way for the millions of point and shoot cameras that adorn the world today.

You may be thinking to yourself, why is a hundred year old camera being reviewed today? Is this going to be a history lesson, or will there be useful information fed to me? I promise you neither, and hope for a touch of the latter. Kodak produced many cameras under the Brownie name, the last produced in the 1980s for the Brazilian market. The original was a box camera and Kodak continued to produce Box Brownies until the late 50s or early 60s. The Brownie Target Six-20 is one of the later models of Box Brownies produced, which sold in 1946-1952 for $3.50. The box camera is, like its name suggests, a camera in the shape of a box. Inside the box is where the roll of film sits. At the front of the box is the lens and shutter, and on the side is the shutter release button and a film wind knob. That's the basics, and in the sixty years from the first Box Brownie until the last Box Brownie, not much changed. The major differences, other than aesthetic detailing, between the original Brownie and the Brownie Target Six-20 is that the Target Six-20 has two aperture stops, two viewfinders [one for portrait, one for landscape], and it has a timed shutter release as well as a bulb setting [with the bulb setting the shutter remains open as long as the shutter release button is held down].

Craftsmanship: The fact that after 50 years, the Kodak Brownie Target Six-20 can still take good photos, says something about the craftsman ship. It's still solid and doesn't leak light. The shutter mechanism is as good as ever. Built Tough. I must say that the majority of cameras made today will not stand the same test of time. The Box Brownies are built simple, and so they stay simple and have much less to break down. Today's cameras, apart from being made of cheap plastic, have a million chunks of complication within them, and that's a million chunks of things that can go wrong, and they do. Major problem with today's cameras: batteries. If the battery dies, you can not take a picture no matter how big a Kodak moment it is. The Box Brownies do not have batteries, and thus they'll still be able to take photos after the battery becomes obsolete.

Process: Now, you may say to yourself, "This is a 50 year old camera. There is no way you can get film for it!" Actually, I thought that this may be true, but browniecamera.com has a page devoted to places that still sell "un-popular" film formats. [Note: Many professional phography development houses will process and print most of the film formats out there. Don't expect your local supermarket to be able to though.] Though, even if you do not have film for your Box Brownie, you can still take photos with it. The method that I used, which is probably a method accessible to fewer people than is purchasing hard to find film on the internet [this method is currently unaccessible to myself as well], is the paper-negative method. For this method, you need to have access to a darkroom. For those of you who don't have access to a darkroom I suggest that you use film in your Brownie. I do not offer this information to exclude those of you who do not have access to a darkroom, but instead I offer as added information for those that do have access. Step 1: Cut photographic paper into strips that will fit into the box of the camera. I found that a sheet of 8" x 10" photographic paper would yield two strips for the Kodak Brownie Target Six-20. Make sure you do the cutting in your darkroom or other appropriately lightless place. Step 2: put one paper strip into the box, emulsion side out of course. Again, do this in your darkroom. Step 3: Go and photograph! You will need to do a bit of testing to determine appropriate aperture and shutter speeds. Important note: on the back of the Brownie there is a transparent red viewspace that is used to see how many exposures you have taken. If you are using normal 620 film with it, then you need not be concerned with it, as the film has a protective light-proof layer on the side that faces the viewspace, but if you are using photographic paper, you may need to tape it up to keep it light-tight. I found that I didn't need to unless I was going to be in the light with the camera for more than a few minutes. Step 4: Process the strip as you would a normal print. This will produce a paper-negative. Step 5: To end up with a paper-positive from this negative, place the negative face-down directly on top of an unexposed piece of photographic paper. Do your exposure test under your photographic enlarger as you normally would. When you're satisfied, expose, process and there you go – you've got a paper-positive print from your Box Brownie!

Quality: I must say that I was severely delighted by the quality of the images that I photographed with the Brownie Target Six-20. Using the paper-negative to produce a paper-positive produced a very ghostly quality that makes the image seem already aged, and from the past. The whole process and the fact that the images were taken with a Box Brownie add to that effect. I took the same paper-negatives and scanned them in, and inverted them to be positives. I was equally impressed by the detail of the images – ultra-sharp and good contrast [who's a fan of contrast? me.]. I haven't used the Target Six-20 with film, but there are some galleries, of images recently taken using Box Brownies, on and linked from browniecamera.com and Chris Eve's Kodak Camera Collection, and they seem to produce good images. Here is an example of the paper-negative vs the scanned-inversion.

Fun: If your looking for frat-party group fun, then the Kodak Brownie Target Six-20 is not your camera. Don't expect to enter a crowded room or bar with your Box Brownie and everyone to think that it's the coolest thing around. It is more the camera for the enthusiast, the experimentor. If you're into exploring the unknown, or the old in your photography, then this is a great camera to try out. Taken from a professorial point of view, the Box Brownie can be quite enjoyable.

Features/Accessories: Well, as described above, the Kodak Brownie Target Six-20 does not have much in the way of features or accessories. This camera is one of the more basic cameras that you can get your hands on. That is not to say that fewer features are a bad thing. Au contraire. Sometimes, it can be quite refreshing to pick up a camera that all you have to do is press a button rather than spending ages focusing, and setting the aperture only to have the cute little gopher pop back into his hole.

Price: Some people think that an old camera, like a Box Brownie, would cost a good chunk of coin. It doesn't and it shouldn't. The Box Brownies, through the ages, originally retailed between $1 and $5 USD, and because of this low, low price, millions were sold and I imagine that, although a large portion of these were thrown out or otherwise destroyed, there are still millions out there to be had. I'm not going to give you much in the way of
online sources for finding a Brownie, because I doubt that getting one online is not worth it, unless you live away from a medium-sized city, as the shipping costs for getting yourself a Brownie is likely more than you should spend on one itself. I give you eBay as the only online source, as you may be able to get a deal. Other than that, I urge you to go to flea markets, garage sales, and antique shops, and not the antique shops of the fancy-pants variety because they'll gouge you. Try to find the antique shops that are packed chock full of stuff, and nothing is polished – they'll have something more in the price range that you should be spending on. All in all, I'd say that $10 USD is the upper limit for buying a Box Brownie, and even that would be a bit high, as it's likely you could find one for half that. That being said, the original Brownie is probably worth more, if only for posterity's sake.

Conclusion: The only thing that the Kodak Brownie Target Six-20 has against it is that it requires access to a darkroom for the paper-negative technique, or it requires difficult to find film. If you can handle one or both of those requirements, then the Kodak Brownie Target Six-20 is really a delightful little camera that performs to a high degree considering how old it is. It's a sturdy product that stands up to the test of time and it produces high-quality images that can exceed the expectations of almost any enthusiast.

July 1, 2001
ryan@cameraofthemonth.com

info@cameraofthemonth.com all of the info contained within is for the use of any and all. enjoy.

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the camera
the photos
paper-negative vs the scanned-inversion

browniecamera.com
Chris Eve's Kodak Camera Collection
Kodak

eBay
garage sales
flea markets
antique shops
Casio Wrist Camera
Kodak Brownie Target Six-20
Loreo Stereo Camera
Nintendo Gameboy Camera

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