KODAK BROWNIE REFLEX 20

kodakbrowniereflex20

SUMMARY
I frequent photo.net for the galleries and forum, especially the classic camera forum for obvious reasons.  In addition to insightful information, the other posters keep this particular forum entertaining and inviting, while many online forums tend to be hostile places, the opposite occurs here.  I must give a plug for frequent poster CE Nelson who sent me this Kodak Brownie Reflex 20 and a Kodak Duaflex II.  I believe I just paid for shipping.  When they arrived, the Reflex 20 had film already in it with a couple of exposures taken.  I guess CE lost interest, so I was happy to continue where he left off.   Months have gone by since I received the camera and finished off the roll on a trip to Flagstaff, Arizona.  I have finally gotten around to developing the film and will have the samples link on this page updated soon.  Thanks again CE.

The Reflex 20 was introduced in 1956 and was the last Brownie camera to utilize 620 roll film.  It looks like an overgrown Starflex, with the similar plastic body design of its 127 size brethren.  120 roll film can be used if re-spooled onto a 620 spool or by trimming down the edges of the 120 flange.  I did find that the numbering on the 120 film backing didn’t always lineup with the ‘little red window’.  But that’s not a problem with the Brownie Reflex 20 with its many bells and whistles.  This isn’t grandpa’s Brownie, this baby was a modern marvel (!?)  First open the camera by moving the latch on the bottom from ‘lock’ to ‘open’, and remove the film carriage by pulling down.  The camera will separate into two pieces like the other ‘Star’ Brownies of this era.  Load the film on the carriage and insert it back into the camera, then switch it back to ‘lock’.  The red framing window has a cover, so this must be slid out of the way to view the frame numbers on the film backing.  Turn the advance dial on the bottom of the camera until frame ‘1’ appears in the red window and then close the cover.  Stand back, new fancy feature about to be explained!  There is a metal switch on the bottom of the Reflex 20 that is marked ‘EXP 1-12’, by sliding this into position it will no longer be necessary to look at the frame numbers in the ‘little red window’.  I know, I know, miracles of the modern age.  After taking that first exposure just advance the film until the dial stops turning, not only does this ensure the correct framing, it cocks the shutter and prevents double-exposure.  Now if I can only remember to focus the damn thing.

Unlike many other Brownies of the fifties and sixties, the Reflex 20 sports focus adjustment using a three zone scale system (i.e. close-ups, groups and scenes click stops).  Distance indicators are printed on the lens housing.  The non-coupled viewing and taking lenses are simple meniscus lenses.  It features a brilliant viewfinder with frame markings and folding hood.  So even though it allows for adjustable focusing, you won’t see these changes in the viewfinder, hence some blurred images on my first roll.  How dare Kodak add functionality to throw me off!  This is a 6x6cm square format camera with a shutter speed around 1/40.  The three aperture settings, which are selected using a slider underneath the taking lens, follow typical Kodak fashion using EV numbers 13, 14 and 15 which are equivalent to f11- f22. The shutter release is on the front right side of the camera body and there are flash contacts on the left side for the available pin and screw flash attachments, including the Kodak Midget Flashholder.   The Kodak Close-up Attachment No. 7A and Cloud Filter 7A can also be used on the Reflex 20.

The Reflex 20 seems to be a perfect candidate for street photography.  When hanging from a photographer’s neck, the big, bright viewfinder is easy to frame without needing to raise the camera.  Preset the focus and aperture settings, point and shoot, then advance the film.  It makes for very inconspicuous shooting.

CLEANING AND REPAIR
Since the camera was sent to me by a fellow photo.net poster, it was in excellent condition.  As with most Kodak Brownie cameras, whether made of Bakelite or Plastic, common glass cleaners work just fine to clean the entire camera, including the lens.  Most of the lenses on these old Brownies were plastic, so just choose a glass cleaner that doesn’t streak.  Cotton swabs are great for getting dirt out of those hard to clean ridges on the body.  The shutter on these ‘Star’ style plastic Brownies are tough to get to since they are attached inside of the body with small welds.  The lens housing usually screws off allowing for the removal of the single meniscus lens element.  But don’t be surprised if you can’t remove the lens at all.  Remember these were marketed as inexpensive point-and-shoot cameras so servicing wasn’t high on Eastman Kodak’s list of priorities.

EBAY SUGGESTIONS
Like most Kodak Brownie cameras these can be found at very affordable prices on the ‘Bay.  Millions were sold during their production runs.  The Reflex 20 originally sold for seventeen dollars, and can be picked up for about that including shipping.   A recent auction ended at 99 cents so expect a range from 1 – 10 dollars.  If the auction states the common ‘I don’t know if it works’ line, just email the seller and ask them to unlock the bottom and advance the film dial.  If working correctly the shutter should cock within a couple of turns and fire when the shutter release is pressed.  Also have the seller turn the focus dial and switch between apertures to ensure the shutter blades respond. This is not a heavy camera, so shipping should be reasonable.  Garage sales and thrift stores are another excellent avenue for finding a number of these old Brownies.

RELATED LINKS
Eastman Kodak
Kodak Brownie Reflex 20
Reflex 20
Kodak Camera History
Kodak Manuals

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