Film: 620/120/medium format
Format/Frame: 6 x 6 cm

Kodak made a slew of cameras bearing the moniker ‘Brownie’ from roughly 1900 till the mid 1980s, ranging from box cameras to folders and frequently only having the name in common… apart from the Clack, which I feel is in a class by itself, the Brownie Hawkeye may—from a user standpoint—be the most likeable box camera I have used.

—Matt Denton (Matt’s Classic Cameras)

My Insights on the Kodak Brownie Hawkeye Flash

The Brownie Hawkeye Flash  camera (BHF) is a pretty common find in any thrift or antique store. Because they are so common, it won’t cost you much to have one of your very own. As a result, it shouldn’t be too surprising to know that I not own not one, not two, but three different BHFs. And, don’t be surprised if you find a roll of film still inside your purchase—talk about a bonus.

I like the BHF because there are no controls… none, whatsoever—no aperture, no shutter speed, no focus. This is a camera that is all about composition and the fact that it’s a waist-level finder allows you to get low—a perspective that many never consider.

I like BHF as it has a Diana-like “quality” sans the light leaks of the Diana. No doubt, you can get some wicked shots with a Diana, but sometimes they just bomb from too many things going wrong. Whereas if I put a roll of film in my BHF, I know I’m coming back with some images that I can use. Put another way; if I put a roll of film in my Diana, I’m saying a little prayer in hopes all goes well. That’s not necessary with the BHF.

Of my three BHFs, I typically reach for the one that’s the most beat-up, but it is the one with the flipped lens.

“Flipped lens,” you ask? What’s that all about? I’m pretty sure all the images in the above gallery were shot with the “flipped lens” BHF.

Unlike many photographers out there, I’m not one to hold back any “secrets” I might have. If I did, I certainly wouldn’t be talking about this little gem-of-a-trick for the BHF.

Just in case you get you end up with your own BHF someday, here’s a good link on how you can flip the lens on your BHF.

One possible drawback on the BHF is the type of film it requires—620. Simply put, 620 film is 120 film on a different type of spool. Although they are the same film, they are not on the same spools which can be a problem in some 620 film cameras. Purchasing hard-to-find true 620 film is difficult and costly, or you can simply purchase regular 120 film and re-spool it onto 620 reels. You might want to watch this video and do some trial runs on ruined/exposed film before you do the real thing in total darkness.

With all of this said, I’ve some good news when it comes to the 620-film issue and the BHF. Rather than the above solutions, all you need is an empty 620 spool/reel in the take-up department of the camera along with an unexposed roll of 120 in the supply end of the camera. Further, your camera will likely already have an empty 620 spool inside when you purchase it—not to mention that possible forgotten and partially exposed roll on its own spool.

Here’s another take from Alex Luyckx on the BHF.