Friday, January 1, 2010

A New Decade…A New Beginning…

Indeed, let’s hope it will be that and more. Welcome to 2010!


Beware: photo-geek moment ahead!

Take a look at my new toy. Or, should I say “my new to me” toy.

It’s a Kodak Vigilant Jr. Six 20 folding camera, produced between 1940 and 1948 and was made to use Kodak’s 620 film exclusively. I’d heard of 620 film, but not ever having dealt with one of these “folders” before, had never used it, so I headed straight for Google. My research taught me 620 film is exactly the same as 120 film. The marketing geniuses at Kodak made the spool carriages in the body slightly smaller so that standard 120 spools wouldn’t fit, thus forcing owners of these cameras to purchase and use only Kodak ‘620’ film. The difference between the 620 and120 labels is the ends of the 620 spools are a slightly smaller diameter than their 120 counterparts. Pretty shady (or crafty) planning on the part of big yellow, depending upon where you sit on the Kodak fence.

The DAK shutter is factory fixed at approximately 1/100, (on other versions of the camera, the shutter speed could be set to either 1/25 or 1/50), and has options for Bulb and timed exposures. The aperture range runs f12.5 to f32. It produces a standard 6X9cm (2.5X4.25in) negative. There is an optical finder fitted at the shutter.

This camera was given to me as a Christmas gift; quite a pleasant surprise considering the source: my mother-in-law. To understand why this was such a surprise, you must understand my mother-in-law sees all other adults, particularly those in her immediate family as children. No matter the age; no matter the relationship; no matter that I’ve been married to her daughter for nearly a quarter of a century; in her mind we’re all children, little more than perpetual 10 year old toddlers. Christmas gifts from her to me are usually socks or some other mundane and random item of clothing. Finding the little folder in the box was great fun.

Then came the next surprise – inside the camera, tightly rolled and sealed with the “Exposed” label, was a spool of Kodak Verichrome 620 film. She told me the camera was given to her in 1950 by her grandfather for a 12th birthday gift, and by her best guess, the film had been exposed around the same time. I’ll develop it sometime in the next few weeks and see what, if anything is there.

I’m still trying to decide if I want to use the camera. I’m really tempted to; I’m certain it would be great fun to shoot with it. But before I try to do anything, the little folder will need a good and thorough cleaning, lubing, and adjusting; the good ol’ “CLA overhaul.” I’ve got a bit more research to do before I invest the money in the old gal, or just add it to my shelf collection of antique image making devices. The one good thing about finding the film inside is that I have a pair of 620 spools to use in the camera, spools which I understand to be very hard to come by. Of course, this is only good if I choose to use the camera, and spool bulk 120 film by hand.


Finally, after a couple of years lurking as a guest, I’ve ponied up and joined APUG – The Analog Photography Users Group. It’s an unrivaled resource for the film-based world and a very friendly community of knowledgeable, helpful, and generally good folks. Check them out; click on the link above or to the left, under ‘Photography Links.”


  1. Hi Bill, HNY and all that.

    Thats rather spooky, after not even touching a 'real camera' for several years I was given a Kershaw Eigth-20 folding camera, it was left to my mother by my late father.
    It takes 120 film like your Kodak and offers f11 or f16 @ 1/60 (or B), that's it so no hi tech camera luxuary, but it's in perfect condition so will definitely be trying out as soon as I can get some film. Can't wait to be a real photographer again.

  2. Hi Bill

    I've got a Kodak 1A autographic which is also 620 film. I've shot a few rolls of 120 through it just fine. The main issue is the extra wide format means you can't trust the frame numbers or you get overlapping images. My rule of thumb is two frames instead of one. This means only aboout 6 shots to a roll, but it works. This picture quality is pretty godawful but has a certain retro charm! Enjoy!