The Kodak Brownie Bull’s-Eye

shoot-282Sometimes, I indulge my desire for cameras that are a bit odd. Like the Kodak Brownie Bull’s-Eye. It’s hardly the sort of thing I usually would walk around with, but it is enjoyable.

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.

shoot-280
As close to close focus as it goes. Also as close to low light. Light leak in there somewhere.

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.

Sharper than I thought it would be. More interesting light leaks, too.
Sharper than I thought it would be. More interesting light leaks, too.

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.

3 Comments

  1. akismet-d7880c392bde56fb7ac37cf5b74d043b
    January 21, 2015
    Reply

    Pretty sharp, it looks like. That building with the stairs looks very familiar to me … Cap Hill? Also: you had to have dodged out that flyer on the telephone pole, right? That’s a really good-looking shot, man. I love these Crapsey-designed Kodaks; I have a Pony from that era that, while the operation of it and the zone focusing annoy the crap out of me, is still a loverly camera. re: The Weight; I have a Bulls-Eye Six-20 box from a little before this that is the heaviest piece of Bakelite I’ve ever felt. It’s a 6×8 with a curved back (wondering if that will help correct for some of the softness on the short sides of the frame from cameras of that era that lacked aspherical lens elements…of course they still wouldn’t be anastigmatic, so even on B&W chromatic abberration could still result in the appearance of softness at the edges…hmmm thinking)…

    • Andrew
      January 21, 2015
      Reply

      Actually, that’s just a bad scan and a little dust spotting. There’s two flyer posters in Cap Hill. One religious and one bonkers. The religious posts Chick tracts and random prayers. The other conspiracy theories.
      I think you’re right about the curve. This camera has a bit of a curve on the film plane as well.

      • akismet-d7880c392bde56fb7ac37cf5b74d043b
        January 21, 2015
        Reply

        Well, it looks great with the dark, dark post and the bright flyer standing out against it. Nice light, I guess. 😛 I miss living in Cap Hill and seeing all the stickers and flyers and tags and stencils on … well, pretty much everything.

        If that’s the case, my hopes are high! Your building shot there appears better focused towards the edges than a lot of boxes that age. Working on posting about my Bessa I, which has pretty badly blurred edges. Still testing to see if it has to do with aberration or what.

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