One of the things we pride ourselves on at Wilkinson Cameras is that as a team, we are pretty much obsessed with photography. For most of us, it’s more than just a job – with many members of the Wilki Team, keen photographers and creative souls!
Kirsty McSkeane is a sales assistant at our Carlisle store and during her spare time has been working on restoring a Kodak Brownie Six-20 model, gifted to her from her partner. A tricky job, requiring some adaptation of parts and a good judgment of distance!
‘I was inspired to restore the Kodak Brownie Six-20 Model D after being encouraged by several customers, who shot film. One customer in particular gave me the light trapping material I needed to replace the one in my worn Nikon FM2 and gave me the confidence to try it myself. After my attempt, I managed to get usable images, but the exposure still wasn’t perfect so I sent it away to be spruced professionally!
‘But… this did spur me on to see if an older and more rudimentary camera like the Brownie could still be used – even if it wasn’t going to be perfect. (Not to mention the detail that comes out of 120 film was something I wanted to see.)
‘The Brownie was a gift from my partner, who saw it sitting in a charity shop in Brampton. He bought for £8.99 with no idea if it still worked. Even if it hadn’t worked I’m sure it would’ve still looked pretty on a shelf despite how worn it was.
‘The main issue, besides aesthetic ones, was the discontinuation of the 620 film format. The film itself is the same size as readily available 120 format film, however 620 is wrapped more tightly around the spool, meaning the lip of the spool at the top and bottom are smaller. This meant I had to sand down the spool to fit.
‘Thankfully the camera still had the original 620 catch spool inside (I gave a little cheer when I found it) which gives me a perfect comparison to signal when to stop sanding! (A friend of mine also used a charity bought brownie with 35mm film and a 35-120mm spool adapter, but I found the sanding method to be easier despite how time consuming it is.)
‘Unfortunately, there was a little mold starting to grow in the lens, but it didn’t affect the photographs and it could’ve enhanced the dreaminess of the results.
‘Otherwise, the hardest bit of using the camera is gauging the distance between yourself and the subject, in order to get the correct focus using the correct lens via a tab on the side that tells you whether you’re taking a close up or a landscape, essentially.
‘Using it was a lot of fun. I went handheld the first time, but for future endeavors I definitely want to take a tripod and a tape measure. The 1/40th shutter speed was sensitive to shake and the distance by feet, correlating to the lens tab being pulled out, was boggling my brain for a little while. It’s definitely a learning curve but I’ve enjoyed the process!
‘I knew it would be harder to do portraits than landscapes with this camera because I wasn’t great at judging distances, but my passion is people and so I started off with a B&W shoot on a walk with my pal. The results were acceptable, and I was interested in how colour photos would look with the sort of glow the lens produced so the next opportunity I had was with a local musician, Melanie Baker.
‘I took my trusty Nikon FM2 for the bulk of the shoot, but we also managed to get a couple of interesting shots with the brownie. Again I was defeated by the distance gauging and found the buildings, for example, behind the subject, were more in focus than she was. I’ve learned from this though and can’t wait to give it another go. Third time’s the charm and now I know better than to restrict myself to a small room.
‘I’d love to give a more complex restoration a go and I’ve been eyeing up a Fujica Half I have sitting on my shelf. One day soon I’ll take it out for a test run and see what needs fixing, but until then I’m going to try again with the Brownie and nail that focus!
‘My advice is to just buy an old camera in reasonable nick, shoot a roll and see how you feel about the results. If the light leaks are romantic, the underexposure atmospheric, the accidental double exposures a stroke of artistic luck and you love it then maybe it doesn’t need spruced up at all!
‘That’s the fun with film, the unknown is the best part I think and film can turn out some unexpected and unique results.’
Fancy joining Kirsty in some classic film shooting? Or even building your own film camera? The Lomography LomoMod No.1 Film Camera is just that. A flat-packed cardboard camera that can be assembled with ease at home.
Another great choice is the Lomography Diana F+ Film Camera and Flash, a twist on the cult classic 60’s Diana camera, the Diana F+ produces dreamy, radiant, lo-fi images on 120 film.
For more choice, head to the film & darkroom selection on our website.