The Brownie Bull’s-Eye is an odd-looking camera. It was made from 1954 to 1958, when a new “gold” model was introduced and sold until 1960. The black Bakelite body is heavier than I thought it would be. It was designed by Arthur H Crapsey, who designed most of the iconic Kodak products of that era, such as the Pony and the Signet. He had been a pilot before he became an industrial designer, and all of his designs seem to be a bit futuristic for their time.
The Brownie Bull’s-Eye was an inexpensive, common camera of its day- cheaper than the Anscoflex II I’ve reviewed previously. It has more than a few similarities with that camera. There is one shutter speed which seems to be around 1/50th of a second. The lens has one f-stop, which is around f/11. Even though the Brownie Bull’s-Eye is plastic, it weighs more than the metal Anscoflex II. The Brownie Bull’s-Eye also gives a bit more control in offering a bulb setting and basic scale focusing. The focus scale has a detent at 10 feet, which is the optimal distance for the use of flash bulbs. If estimating the distance to your subject in feet was too much, you could use the other scale of “scene-groups-close-up” to make your choices.
The Brownie Bull’s-Eye shoots 620 film, which is just 120 film on a different spool. I’ve picked up a few of them over time, and I just re-spool 120 film on one when I want to shoot. Sometimes you can modify a 120 spool for use in a 620 camera, but it’s just easier to use an original 620, I think. After you re-spool a couple of rolls in a dark bag, it becomes pretty easy to do. I’ll put color film back on to the 120 spool before dropping it off. Some places aren’t very good at returning your 620 spools. The negative is 6 x 9 instead of the more common 6 x 6. They’re pretty good size, and even the simple lens of this camera produces a good level of detail on them. You get 8 shots per roll of film.
Another interesting thing is that the Brownie Bull’s-Eye shoots in portrait orientation by default. Most cameras are oriented to shoot landscape, and make you decide to shoot portrait by turning the camera. This camera is the opposite, which is interesting. I tend to see a shot in landscape, and do a little rethinking when I brought the viewfinder up to my eye. Shooting landscape is awkward with this camera, due to where the shutter is placed.
I’m not sure this camera has grown on me. It’s very Holga-like in its operation, which is a good thing. It might be good for shooting portraits of people. I’m not sure it’ll stay around, though.