I decided that as the weather warms up in (cold, blustery, wet, and windy) Chicago I should get out of the studio and take some fun snapshots around the town.  But after spending most of my days with a 21.1 megapixel two and a half pound digital SLR strapped around my neck this year, I kind of wanted to leave my usual camera behind this time.

Just like any good photographer… okay, let me rephrase that… Just like any unnecessarily nerdy photographer, I had about 8 or so vintage film cameras in my collection to choose from.  Should I take the 1960’s Nikon with pop-top, waist-level viewing?  Or what about the 1981 Chinon?  A lesser-known brand of its era but with some of the best optics and metering out there.

Then I remembered “Mr. Brown.”  Several years ago (okay, probably 7) a friend and I were doing some thrifting in a resale shop when I found “Mr. Brown” on a shelf wedged between some books and broken radios.  “Mr. Brown,” as I call it, is a Kodak Brownie Bulls-eye camera, manufactured between 1954 and 1960.  I bought it for $2 and haven’t gotten around to testing it out.  Until last weekend.

Jamming some film in “Mr. Brown” and testing it out remained on my to-do list for 7 years because it doesn’t eat normal 35mm film, or even normal medium-format 120 film for that matter.  Medium format 120 film is the proper size for the Brownie Bulls-eye, but it’s spooled on size 120 spools, and these cameras take 620 spools.  Which are no longer manufactured.

So where does someone go to find the proper food to feed a 52 year old camera?  A 113 year old camera shop.  I figured if anyone knew how to get a hold of 120 film on a 620 spool it would be Central Camera– the oldest camera shop in Chicago.  I’ve been going there for years, but since I packed up my darkroom (temporarily- some day, somehow, I will get it back…) I haven’t stepped through their doors in quite a while.

I asked if they had 120 film spooled on 620 rolls.
“There’s only one guy in the country who re-spools those things and sells them…” said the film guru behind the counter, “and we stock his stuff.” Of course they do.  Central Camera is awesome.  I kind of feel like I need to say that again.  Central Camera is awesome.

So last weekend “Mr. Brown” was fed his proper film food and took some of its first photos in probably decades.  Here are two of them- processed and printed by Central Camera (which is awesome).  I had them request that the lab return the extra 620 spool so I can experiment with my next adventure: re-spooling 120 film on the 620 spool myself so I can feed “Mr. Brown” regularly and do this again.


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