The extremely popular Kodak No. 2A Brownie Model C was responsible for popularizing the concept of the snapshot.
Lomography is really a type of snapshot photography and snapshots started with the Kodak Brownie family of cameras. There were many types of early Kodak box cameras, but by far one of the most popular cameras ever made was the Kodak No. 2A Brownie. The one I have is a model C. They were made in many colors and patterns. Because they were so popular, they’re not very expensive except possibly in some of the rarer colors or patterns.
Even though it’s an early camera, the Kodak No. 2A Brownie Model C has some features that are still interesting today. One extremely interesting feature is that the 2A Model C has two viewfinders – one for portrait mode and another one for landscape mode. Along with two viewfinders, the 2A Model C has two tripod bushes so that you can mount the camera in either portrait or landscape mode. The 2A Model C also has a “B” setting for long exposures and an interesting shutter release that works differently from any other I’ve seen. The “B” mode switch is a little tab on top of the camera that you lift up. When the tab is down, the shutter release will momentarily open the shutter every time you move it from one side to the other. You operate the shutter by toggling it back and forth, either up and down or left and right, depending on the orientation of the camera. Each time you switch it from one position to the other the shutter will quickly open and close. When you lift the “B” tab, the shutter release will keep the shutter open until you switch it back to where you started – either down-up-down or up-down-up. Interesting. The other tab next to the “B” tab is the aperture setting is the aperture switch. It’s just a metal plate with three holes in it. The instructions just call them “Small”, “Medium”, and “Large”. The actual apertures are close to either f/11, f/16, and f/22; or f/16, f/22, and f/32 depending on whom you believe.
The No. 2A Brownie was designed for a film that is no longer available, but you can use 120 film in it as well as 35mm. When you use 35mm, it exposes the sprocket holes and gives you a giant frame, but you don’t get many shots and you waste a lot of film at both ends of the roll.
Here are some specs. Pay attention because these are hard to find:
- Close focusing distance: 2 meters. (Kodak sold a close-up lens.)
- Focal length: Approximately 130mm (Difficult to measure.)
- Apertures: Probably f/11, f/16, f/22 (Possibly f/16, f/22, and f/32)
- Shutter Speeds: Somewhere between 1/35" and 1/50". They were not very concerned about exact shutter speeds and shutter speeds tend to slow down over time as springs weaken. Most extant cameras will most likely be on the slower side and maybe even slower.
Because of the long focal length and slow shutter speed, you should definitely consider stabilizing the camera on a tripod or some other solid surface.
Here are some shots I took using Kodak Ultra Max 800 35mm film: