The Blog

Everyday updates and longer photostories

Oct 19 2015

I bought a 1930’s camera from an antiques shop and found a film inside it. I developed the film tonight and incredibly all of the photos came out.

Last weekend Kaori and I went up into the Sierras for some R&R. On the way back, we made a diversion and stopped at Angels Camp, a small hot-and-dusty old gold-mining town. There wasn’t too much to do there on a Sunday, but we had some lunch and wandered into an antiques shop. I found a cabinet of old cameras and among them was this Kodak Brownie Hawk-Eye No. 2 Model C. I’ve thought for a while that it would be fun to put some film in a very old camera and see if I can get some pictures out of it. This was the only camera in the cabinet that uses a film size still available today, so I bought it for $20.

However, I wasn’t expecting to find a roll of exposed film in it!

You can see that the film was sealed, but not wound very tightly on the spool. The chance of this film having recoverable photos on it seemed very low.

I did some research and found that this model of camera was produced from 1930-1933 in Canada and was sold for $1. It’s made of cardboard with a faux leather covering, and makes 6 x 9 cm negatives. Very definitely a budget camera despite the large size of the negatives. The film, however, is Kodak Verichrome Pan, which was produced starting in 1956, so the camera was at least 23 years old before the photos were taken. Apparently, Verichrome Pan was a very stable film. Adding to that the fact that 120 film has a black paper backing on it to protect it from the light when it’s loaded into the camera, I held out a tiny bit of hope that there might be some images on it.

Verichrome sounds like a color film, but I learned that it was actually a black-and-white film that can be developed with today’s developers. Well, I know how to develop black-and-white film, so tonight I decided have a go. When I unraveled the film to wind it on the spool that goes in the film developing tank I found that the end of the film wasn’t taped to the backing paper, which is standard in Kodak 120 film today, and it was folded back on itself. It looked even less likely now that any pictures would come out because it seems that the film was tampered with and surely exposed to light in the process. But onwards…

After about 30 minutes of developer, stop bath, and fixer, I opened up the tank and pulled the end of the film off the spool. Incredibly I saw an image. I quickly rolled the end back on the spool and washed the film in water for 30 minutes. When I pulled the entire film off the spool couldn’t believe it when I saw all eight possible frames on the film. It’s now hanging up to dry. Some of them are low contrast, but others seem to have come out pretty well. I can see buildings, vehicles, and a person, which means I might be able to estimate when the photos were taken. Once they’ve dried, I can scan them and really see what I have. Stay tuned…

Three hours later, here are the eight pictures from the roll. The last one is a double exposure – one image in landscape mode and one in portrait mode.

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