Kodak introduced a new film format in 1932 called 620 with the release of a new camera, conveniently called the Kodak Six-20. This was an attempt to replace or at least provide an alternative to 120 roll film. The film itself didn’t change only the size of the spool. At that time Kodak stopped production on 120 film cameras, and in a few cases even modified the current production models to start taking 620 roll film. Of course 120 film, introduced in 1901 by Kodak, had already become the standard for medium format and too many other manufacturers were committed to that film size and weren’t about to embrace the new format. Some did, such as Argus and Agfa/Ansco, but most of the cameras utilizing 620 during this era were from Eastman Kodak.
This is a nice little folder, which produces a 6x9cm negative on 620 roll film. It was introduced in 1937 and was an improved version of the original Six-20. The Special Six-20 featured several lens/shutter variations; I luckily came upon the top-of-the-line version with a Kodak Anastigmat Special f4.5 100mm lens (non-coated) and the Compur Rapid shutter. The Compur Rapid shutter on this model has a peak speed of 1/400 including B & T settings. The aperture range is f4.5 to f32.
This is an early folder and doesn’t have a rangefinder, but the simple, flip-up, optical viewfinder is more than adequate for framing. Focusing is controlled by the turning the front element to the desired distance, three feet to infinity. There is no depth-of-field scale, just distance marks. The shutter is not self-cocking and must be engaged prior to firing using a small lever on the side of the lens housing; except for the Bulb and Time settings. The shutter is tripped by depressing a small metal button on the top of the camera body that is connected to the shutter release by a linkage system. Simple to use, very well made, and apparently yields quality results.
As with most cameras found on the ‘Bay’ this Kodak Special Six-20 needed some minor TLC. Removing the front and rear lens elements was fairly easy and cleaned up with glass cleaner and a 50\50 mixture or ammonia and hydrogen peroxide. This was used to remove some haze on the inner portion of the rear element. A drop or two of lighter fluid freed up a sticky shutter, and after working it at each speed for several minutes, the Compur Rapid now appears to be fairly accurate. Of course I’ll find out for sure when I run some film through it. Some lighter fluid was also necessary on the shutter release which was a little sticky due to the common green oxidation that builds up around the metal parts of these cameras. In fact the body is in excellent condition except for a couple of the well known ‘brownie bumps’ common on many early Kodak folders. These get their name from the oxidation that builds up on the metal rivets under the leatherette causing small bulges or bumps to appear. My 1A Autographic folder has these all over, so much so it looks like an intended pattern on the camera, but I think it ads to the character. Again, only two or three small bumps adorn the Special Six-20. Otherwise the body and leatherette are in excellent condition for a camera of this age. Generous use of leather cleaner brought a nice shine back to the black leatherette. This is also my first classic Kodak folder that still had the tripod socket screws in place. These are little metal screws that must be removed with a flathead screw driver or small coin, prior to using a tripod. These are usually missing for obvious reasons. There is one on the lens board and one on the bottom of the camera body.
Now that the camera is cleaned up and back in good working order, it’s time to load. Like the Monitor, Kodak decided to place a hinged roll guide on the film supply side of the camera. This prevents the possibility of utilizing a trimmed down 120 spool. If I removed this guide, which seems to be a permanent process, I’d be able to use a trimmed 120 spool, but for now I’ve just respooled onto a 620 spool. I don’t want to start ripping out original parts just yet. There is the standard red window on the back of the camera to view frame numbers, but this model has a sliding window cover so there’s no need to use black masking tape to keep the film from fogging. I also have a Kodak Tourist with the three element Anaston coated 105mm lens and plan to run the same Ilford Pan F (ISO 50) through both cameras, just to compare. I’ve included a shot of the camera, with the original box, case and manual for the Six-20 that were all included in the auction. Once I complete this first roll I will post the results. I just wanted to share some information about this camera now, since I have not found much on the internet. While I was cleaning this camera, my four year old son came into the room, it suddenly occurred to me that my father was his age when this Kodak Special Six-20 hit the market. It blows my mind that I can still use this camera after all of these years and get (hopefully) good results. I seriously doubt my Canon Powershot A75 digital camera will be as useful when my son’s son is four years old. Just another reason why I love collecting, repairing and using these classic cameras.