Saturday, June 23, 2012

New Life for Old Cameras

Do you collect vintage cameras?  Have a passion for photography?
Have you ever come across an old camera, but weren't sure what to do with it?
Follow this blog, read the post below, and leave a comment for your chance to win this vintage Brownie Holiday camera - only produced by Kodak for one year.

Kodak Brownie Holiday camera

Let's set the scene.
Vintage Cardboard Suitcase

Opening the old cardboard suitcase in Grandma's attic, you root through travel brochures and receipts, a few favorite linens, postcards and newspaper clippings, to discover near the very bottom of the pile... one old camera.  Great.  Perfect.

Not what you were hoping for?  Well, maybe you didn't find that elusive stock certificate, but don't give it to the kids to play with quite yet.

Yashica D - 120 Film

The point is, this old camera is probably more connected to family history than you may have considered.  Sure, everyone wants to inherit Grandma's fine china and the Antique Victrola Player, but how often would you "use" them?  And a better question... How often did Grandma use them?  Was the fine china there when your uncle won his first college football game?  Was the Victrola there when your parents got married?  Which one was at the family reunion at the lake house?  Not only was that old camera a part of the important   events in your families history, it probably recorded them.
Besides, if you find a camera like the Yashica D shown at left, it may be worth more than you think.

So, now that you're seeing this old camera in a different light, let's look at it a little closer.
Go ahead.  Pop open that leather snap.  Blow the dust off the top.  Wipe it down with a tissue.

Did you find the manufacturer?  The model?  Where was it made?
Don't open it!  Part of the fun could be to find undeveloped film still inside.

For the purpose of this article, we're going to assume that the camera was bought between 1945 and 1965, but due diligence can uncover information on just about any age of camera.  Below you'll find three different film type cameras that were popular during each decade, how to handle them, and how to use them today.

1945 - Argus C3 "The Brick"

(1945)  Argus C3 - "The Brick" Rangefinder - 35mm Film
The Argus Rangefinder camera made its debut in 1939 by the International Research Corporation of Ann Arbor, Michigan, but changed its name to Argus, Inc. in 1944.  The camera's nickname derived from its shape and the durable and reliable nature of the C3 model.  It remained in production until 1966, but was at its peak in popularity during the mid 1940s.  The retail price in 1945, including case and flash, was $69.95.

This camera is tough, but still handle it as you would any vintage camera.  Wash your hands first, clean off all exterior dust, and make sure there isn't film inside before opening.  If there is film, rewind the film and take it to your nearest photo shop - Quick!

Here's a video tutorial from Andrew on how to use the Argus C3.  You can find other tutorials on handling, loading, and using vintage cameras all over the web.  This is one of my favorites.

(1955) Brownie Holiday - 127 Film

1955 - Brownie Holiday

The Brownie Holiday camera produced by Eastman Kodak from 1954 to 1962 was one of the favorite take-a-long cameras of its time.  Although this particular model, shown with the Dakon Lens vs. the original Kodet lens, wasn't produced until 1955, it outsold the original twenty to one, but was quickly replaced in 1956 with the Brownie Holiday Flash.

Handle this camera as above, but keep in mind that with a Bakelite body, the Brownie Holiday will be much more easily damaged.  You probably won't be able to walk into Walmart and buy 127 speed film.  The good news is that it is still available and simple to load and unload.  If you do a quick internet search for "127 film", you'll find a few sites that offer both film for sale and developing.
Blue Moon Camera is one that I've used and have been happy with their service.

1965 - Polaroid "Swinger"

(1965) Polaroid "Swinger" - Instant Film 
The Polaroid "Swinger" was introduced with huge fanfare in 1965 thanks to its television advertising budget and targeted teen market.  This particular Polaroid was made completely of plastic and featured a simple light meter in the viewfinder that said either "YES" if there was enough light and "NO" if you had to pop in a flash bulb.  After you pushed the button, you only had to pull the tab to start developing, which took place outside the camera in about ten seconds.  I know, I know... A lot of people would give me flack for picking this camera to feature from the 60's.   "What about Nikon?"       "What about Leica?" 
Get over it.  Not everyone in the 1960s had $500 to spend on a camera.  The Polaroid Swinger was only $19.95!

Film is still available for many of the instant cameras thanks to the people at The-Impossible-Project , but the 20-series Roll Film used by The Swinger isn't currently in their product lineups.  As soon as it is, I'll be one of their first shoppers.  (Many thanks to ReclaimVTG for correcting my mistake)

Love this vintage Polaroid Swinger Commercial!
(with "Love Story" actress Ali Macgraw)  

So, don't just set Grandma's old camera on a shelf or put it back in the suitcase.  Clean it up, find some film and start creating your own memories.  You'll be happy you did.

If you weren't lucky enough to inherit Grandma's old camera, but want to try your hand with a vintage camera, you still have a chance.  The Etsy Vintage Elite will be giving one away!

Rules: Eligibility is contingent on meeting both requirements; being an active follower of thEtsyVintageElite blog and commenting on this post.  The contest will run from 6/23/12 to 12/8/12.  On 12/9/12, we will submit all entries into a 3rd party draw service,, send the winner an email and announce the winner on the EtsyVintageElite blog


HilltopTimes said...

I never knew.... I usually pass by old cameras without good reason. Not any more. I want to find the one with undeveloped film. Great blog, as always. Thank you.

tracy said...

Interesting information here! I would love to try my hand with an old camera :)

Retro Moxie said...

Love it! Im always on the hunt for older cameras. There's something so magical about them.

Traci Moody said...

I love all these wonderful tidbits of information.
Cameras are fantastic.

Alexis Colbert said...

Hi Scott! My son collects vintage cameras and he read this blog very slowly like he was reading a Bible. :)

Mothra Sue said...

Oooh this is exciting! that camera that you're giving away with the original packaging is amazing! i have a brownie camera in my shop and this is making me want to get some film for it and keep it for myself hehe :)

Andrea Holding said...

Oh, my! This is so full of good information! Fascinating, but I still like Grandma's china.

Niftic Vintage said...

Totally terrific post Scott! Never new how to use the Argus I sold so long ago, I probably could have commanded a higher price!

ReconGirl said...

Fantastic posts always, Scott. I love it! And I love old cameras!

Allison Kapner said...

I've recently got into vintage cameras. I am very drawn to them, and love the look of the Brownie.

Allison Kapner

Annie said...

Great post!! I never thought about old film being in the camera. It's like finding treasure! Off to share this on my facebook page. :)

wretchedshekels said...

I love old cameras, have a collection I will NEVER part with :)

Anathalia said...

I love this post! Do 2 items make a collection? Not sure, but I love old cameras and I'm looking to expand my little collection of old cameras! :)

Moody said...

That's awesome! Next time we're at a show together, bring him along. I've got a few cameras that will make him drool...

Moody said...

I know, right! You should. I love taking pictures with old cameras....

Moody said...

Annie - I just was getting ready to put a camera in my shop the other day - a mint green box camera - and it still has undeveloped film in it. I'm leaving it in for the person who buys it to have the excitement of developing it.

reclaimervtg said...

I'm a film camera junkie, for sure!

That Swinger commercial is great. (Just a note though: sadly, you cannot get film for the Swinger. It takes 20 series rollfilm, which was discontinued in the early 90s, I believe. The Impossible Project, which is super awesome, makes several instant film types, but no rollfilm. So the Swinger is a strictly a display camera, or maybe a pinhole conversion project for the DIYer.)

Moody said...

Oops. You are 100% correct. The 20-Series Land Picture Rolls aren't available from The Impossible Project at this time, and The Swinger definitely uses that film. (Although I bet they'll have it before long)

I'm going to update the post to correct my mistake. Thank you!

gazaboo said...

Now I'm inspired to look more closely at all my vintage cameras.
Great information, thanks!

Betsy and Randy Justis - and Ellen and Laura, too! said...

Pop! I can just hear the flash going off with the excitement of this blog! My husband is a commercial photographer and old camera collector - he enjoyed the post, too. Thanks for the info.

Anonymous said...

This is so helpful! Chris has just started digging deeper into the "vintage camera world" and we're always looking for great info on what we find. Thank you so much for sharing!

Post a Comment