Sunday, October 06, 2013

First Adventures in Photography

Scanning some very ancient black & white negatives recently (possibly 50 years old), I was reminded of the camera that produced them.  I have taken pictures with my Dad's Brownie 127 and my grandfather's old Brownie box camera, but the first camera I remember owning for myself in my teens was this little beauty:
The specification was somewhat sparse: fixed aperture, no focus control, no exposure control, certainly no autowind or zoom.  A viewfinder (of sorts) took the form of a foldout metal frame that offered all the accuracy of a Hong Kong government budget forecast.  The lens, though proudly proclaiming itself "bloomed" (apparently this means coated so as to increase its light transmitting power) gave all the fine resolution of a transparent shirt button.
However, this simple piece of equipment did have several advantages:
  • It was dirt cheap (from Woolworths, then still a mighty name in retailing).
  • It took 16 half-frame shots on 127 film, making it economical on film as well.
  • Very little could go wrong with it (though with advancing age mine began to leak light around the edges and needed to be sealed with black tape after changing each film).
Thinking about it for the first time in decades, I Googled "Woolworths camera" and with only a few minutes of research was amazed to find not only these images, but the original instruction sheets (which I don't remember ever possessing, not that they were really needed) and the history of the camera - apparently it dates back to the 1930s, though mine appear to have been the 1950s "updated" model.

And the results: about as good as you would expect, and sometimes better - this is one of the more acceptable examples (not too bad considering it's from a very old negative):
By the way, does anyone have any idea where this is?  I wasn't systematic about keeping photographic records back then, and many of my old shots are a total mystery now.  I only know it's in the UK somewhere.

Anyway, after a couple of years I graduated to a more modern Instamatic and started getting better pictures, though it was still a few more years before I got my first SLR (once I started working and could afford it).  Now we have cameras that do almost everything for you, but don't necessarily give better pictures - just more accurately exposed and sharper lousy ones!

1 comment:

Private Beach said...

I forgot to mention another advantage - the camera was very small and light and easy to slip into a pocket. Today I can do the same with my Canon S100.