I received this camera as a gift and have been charmed by these adorable Kodak Brownie shooters ever since. I’ve recently added the Brownie Hawkeye, Bull’s-Eye and Starmite II to my modest collection. Many medium format users suggest starting with such “toy” cameras as the Diana, Holga or even the Lubitel, due to their low cost and point and shoot configuration. The Lubitel will give you slightly more control over exposure as you can set aperture and shutter speeds. However, after using these Kodak Brownies, I find them a quite enjoyable camera to achieve interesting if not nostalgic results with medium format film. Plus they are usually even less expensive than the Holga–medium format for a dollar anyone? (see Brownie Hawkeye) The Brownie Bullet is an oddball. Like its cousins the Holiday, Fiesta, and Starmite among others, it takes 127 roll film which is somewhat hard to come by and a little more expensive than standard 120 film. B&H is the best U.S. based resource, while The Frugal Photographer is based in Canada. Both supply the Monochrome only film for the same price, around $4.95 per roll, but B&H is usually faster when it comes to processing your order and shipping, while The Frugal Photographer charges less for shipping. The Frugal Photographer also carries color print and slide film in the 127 size but availability is sporadic. There are other suppliers that roll their own color and B&W versions of the 127 format, but expect to pay a premium. Since you’ll only get eight frames at 4x6cm from the Bullet, and twelve 4x4cm negatives from the Starmite II, five bucks per roll is plenty. The images from the Bullet are a bit soft, what can you expect from a plastic lens, but still provide ample detail. Just working with the 127 film format is nostalgic in itself. Great if you develop your own film. The plastic Patterson Universal developer tanks and reels accommodate the 127 size. The Bullet is a ‘promotional only’ version of the Holiday, essentially the same camera but with different name plate and black Bakelite versus brown on the Holiday. It features a single shutter speed of approximately 1/50, aperture around f/11 and plastic Dakon lens. Just point and shoot.
Bakelite was a wonderful invention. Handle any of these Brownie cameras and you’ll be surprised how solid they feel for being essentially a “plastic” camera, especially the Bull’s-Eye which is the big boy of the line. For a small, nearly pocket sized camera the Brownie Bullet feels solid while fitting in the palm of your hand. The thick Bakelite body splits in half by sliding down the two metal clips that also hold the small, nearly useless braided strap. Perfect for a child’s wrist I suppose, maybe it’s intended purpose. The small 127 film roll, just slightly taller than a 35mm cartridge, fits into one side and is pulled horizontally over the film plane by a small plastic knob, yielding 4x6cm negatives. The shutter button is white plastic and trips the simple, one-speed, metal, rotary shutter when depressed. There is no double exposure prevention, so the shutter button can be repeatedly tripped if not careful.
CLEANING AND REPAIR
The plastic Dakon lens is secured beneath the thin metal faceplate, which can be removed for cleaning with just two small screws. There’s not much in the way of maintenance, due to its simplicity; usually it just takes some 50/50 ammonia/hydrogen peroxide solution on a cotton swab or cloth to clean the lens, viewfinder and outside of the camera. Even Windex would do the trick. If the rotary shutter seems sticky, flood it with Ronsonal lighter fluid after removing the lens. Work the shutter a few times and allow to dry; should be good as new. Bakelite takes a beating so it’s usually the metal faceplate on these Brownies that tend to be scratched or marred in any way.
This quaint little camera can be found for three to ten bucks on EBay. Ignore the “rare” or “scarce” descriptions you may see from sellers, as these cameras were mass produced and far from “rare.” Just do an EBay search to see what I mean. Unless you want the camera “mint” in the original box, if you’ve paid more than five or ten dollars, you weren’t patient enough to wait for the next auction. I suggest entering $5 as your max bid and wait. If you don’t win, place a bid on the next auction which will probably end an hour after the last one. As they say timing is everything and patience will be rewarded. I picked up my Starmite II (in the box) for $3.50, the Bull’s-Eye for $2.00, and a Hawkeye for an amazing $1.00. Of course shipping fees are extra but these cameras are small and if the auction is for just the camera, you shouldn’t be paying more than five or six bucks for Priority USPS or Parcel Post. Always look at the images provided by the seller for visible problems, never bid if the picture is lousy, unless you’re in a gambling mood. So far, including the $1.00 Hawkeye, the only physical problem with these cameras has been dust, dirt and minor scratches on the body or faceplate, but not the lens. All of these cameras look brand new after cleaning them up, which proves the near-indestructibility of Bakelite.