Kodak Brownie 2A

The Kodak Brownie 2A box camera takes 2½" x 4¼" photos on 116 format roll film. This film format has been discontinued for a long time (apparently in 1984 according to Wikipedia) but it still isn't difficult to find old expired film for sale on eBay. The film is 70 mm wide, and thus somewhat larger than the still widely available 120 medium format film.

This particular camera shown here is a family hand-me-down, though I'm not entirely sure about its earliest history. I do know it has been sitting on a shelf in Lancaster, PA for a long time. After cleaning the viewfinders, I found it to be in perfect working condition. The camera is made out of cardboard and has a trigger guard, that means it is a model B made between 1920 and 1924 (according to http://www.brownie-camera.com/56.shtml).


The shutter speed measures almost exactly 1/50 of a second. This was necessary for the slow films of the time, but it makes it somewhat difficult to avoid blurry pictures due to camera shake. Alternatively, there is a bulb mode where one can keep the shutter open for an  arbitrary amount of time by pulling the small slide on top of the camera. The camera manual helpfully suggests this is the way to use Kodak flash sheets for flash-light exposures. I am guessing these flash sheets are pieces of paper coated with some kind of explosive and highly flammable substance, but I have not found any details about these. As the manual also shows, Kodak made a metal  flash sheet holder to light these up. Looks somewhat safer than flash powder, but significantly less convenient than flash bulbs which came to market later in the 1930's.


In addition to instantaneous (1/50 s) vs bulb mode exposure, the only other thing that can be controlled is the lens opening (aperture). The larger slide on top of the camera can be used to choose between a large, medium and small opening. I measured these at 9 mm, 7 mm and 4 mm. Only the large opening is meant for regular hand-held use and is roughly equivalent to f/11.


There is no focus control, the camera is set at a fixed distance of about 25 ft, which — at the largest aperture — results in sharp images of anything from 15½ ft away to 68 ft (but still good enough at infinity). This information is not provided in the manual, I found it in a 1921 Kodak publication titled "About Lenses" in the "Depth of Focus" table "For Lenses commonly used on Cameras Making Pictures 3¼ x 4¼ and 2½" x 4¼." For close-up portraits, there is the Kodak Portrait Attachment #2 (shown next to its metal box in the picture), which allows for taking photos of an object or person exactly 3½ ft away from the camera lens.

Example Photos

For some photos taken with this camera, see my blog entries here.