Film: 620/120/medium format
Format/Frame: 6 x 9 cm
Cons of the Medalist:—Ken Rockwell
None; there are those who say that this is the greatest American consumer camera ever made.
Read Ken Rockwell’s full review of the Kodak Medalist HERE
My Insights on the Kodak Medalist
When my crush arrived on this particular camera, I hadn’t purchased it yet as it wasn’t quite as common as… say, the Brownie Hawkeyes, so the prices were a little above my punching weight at the time, but I was certain I’d find one at some point in the near future.
During a phone conversation with my big brother, I happened to mention the camera and its history, especially regarding its role in World War II as a documentary camera on the battlefield and beyond. For whatever reason, he took it upon himself to track one down and let me know it was on its way. And, like a big brother, he never told me what he paid for it.
Upon its arrival, I found the camera to be what most others have considered it… a beast! This is not a camera to carry around all day—not even on a neck strap. However, it is a camera to take to a bar fight because it will take a beaten and return the same on whoever is on the receiving end.
As pointed out in many reviews, this camera also requires the infamous 620 film (i.e., 120 film on a smaller spool). And, unlike the Brownie Hawkeye, you can’t get away with simply having a 620 take up spool with a 120 spool on the supply side. Nope, this will require you to re-spool 120 film onto a 620 spool before you can load it. That’s right, 620 spools on both sides of the camera.
It sounds like a pain, and perhaps it is, but this camera is so worth it. Not only will you get great images with it, but when in some social setting, it will turn heads like a cute dog on your leash. Further, once you’ve re-spooled a role or two of 120 film to 620, you’ll be able to convert five rolls in under 15 minutes.
In September 2022, I sent my Medalist to Dan Daniel Cameras in Chazy, New York for a thorough CLA. Dan prides himself on working on this camera model. Along with the CLA, he will also be converting this beast from 620 film to 120 film so I can be spared the task of respooling film. I suspect that as grow older and start whittling down the material possessions of my life, this camera will be one of the last things to go. It’s a keeper.
I love this quote on the Medalist that I picked up from the militaryhistorynow.com site
Built by Kodak in America and introduced in 1941, the Medalist was big, heavy, remarkably rugged and appeared to be indestructible. If ever a camera looked like it should be a military model, this was it. The Medalist shot eight big images to a roll of 620 size film. Used a lot for colour photography, it ensured better quality than images from a 35mm camera and was easier to use than the Speed Graphic, which it rapidly replaced.
Postscript: In February 2023, I received my Kodak Medalist back from a thorough CLA that included a transformation from 620 roll film to 120 roll film. This was performed by Dan Daniels and his camera repair operations in Morrisonville, New York. If you have a Medalist, this is your go-to CLA camera shop.