Kodak Brownie Hawkeye (flash model)

Kodak Hawkeye

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OK I’ll admit I only bought this one so I could have an extra 620 spool for my Reflex II. I figured $2.75 plus shipping was a good deal for a spool with a camera around it. But to be fair, the Brownie Hawkeye is a cute, stylish little Art Deco-inspired bakelite box camera that takes decent 6×6 pictures with its simple meniscus lens. Besides, it was inevitable, really, how can any camera collection be complete without at least one Brownie?

Kodak made a slew of cameras bearing the moniker ‘Brownie’ from roughly 1900 till the mid 1980s, ranging from box cameras to folders and frequently only having the name in common. The Brownie Hawkeye was available first as simply the Brownie Hawkeye camera and then flash capability was added to make it the Brownie Hawkeye Flash camera. Non-PC as usual for Kodak; this required a special Brownie flash called – wait for it – “Kodalite Flasholder Lumaclar Reflector”. Yikes. The original has a metal wind knob, the Flash model a plastic wind knob and the word ‘Flash’ on the frontispiece*. The non-flash model was only made for a couple of years and so is *slightly* more collectible. Maybe worth $10 instead of $5.

(*generally speaking – there were some model year variations as always)

The camera itself is weightier than my other cardboard-and-steel box cameras — it has some heft to it for its size — but on balance, that weight coupled with the large easy-to-press shutter release makes it a more solid shooter in terms of camera shake. In fact its quirky shape feels very good in the hands, and I would have to say that apart from the Clack, which I feel is in a class by itself, it may from a user standpoint be the most likeable box camera I have used. It’s certainly charming. Also, the viewer is a bubble-like lens over a largeish mirror, which makes it easier to see the subject than the little windows in most box cameras. The old Brownie box cameras for instance, had tiny little viewfinder windows. You still have to shield it with your hand in direct sunlight, I find. No note on focal range but I generally assume 6 feet (2m) to infinity unless I hear otherwise.

In terms of film, box cameras were meant for slow film and daylight – if you can find ASA 50 that is about perfect but 125 is fine and even 400 works well (mucho latitude in Tri-X). Sadly, the venerable Verichrome Pan is now discontinued but Plus-X is great stuff. Agfapan APX 100 is good too. 620 means you need to respool 120 film onto the smaller 620 spools, which though relatively simple, is more trouble than most people think it’s worth and is probably one of the reasons these are available for a few measly dollars. (That and the fact that there seems to be one in every attic in America.) I have heard that on some Hawkeyes (earlier ones?) you can fit a 120 spool in the film side of the camera but it’s not true in mine. I can but then it’s too tight to wind on. In fact there is a notation inside mine stating that ‘this camera will not accept 120 film’. So you will probably need to respool (see links below), and don’t forget to ask for the spool back when you drop off your film!

Film Size Followup: I’ve heard from a few people on this subject and from what I can tell, some earlier Hawkeyes actually do fit the slightly fatter 120 spools but Kodak discovered this and revised the camera so they wouldn’t. That way people would be forced to buy Kodak’s own 620 film. (The bastards!) So it’s hit-or-miss I think when trying 120 in the Hawkeye. Don’t count on it, I’m saying.


Cleaned up the exterior with some biodegradable citrus-based cleaner (‘Orange Maid’) and some elbow grease, and used an old toothbrush to get in some of the tricky spots. Then removed the front metal plate and all the glass underneath and cleaned it all with Windex, including cleaning the dirty lens itself with a Qtip while holding the shutter open on ‘B’. Getting it all back together with the loose glass pieces was a little tricky, mind you. I did do a Google search on cleaning bakelite before I started and learned that it is a fairly inert plastic that is easily cleaned with alcohol or ammonia but I chose citrus cleaner, you might think about Simple Green.

After seeing the test roll I was a little disappointed with the softness of the images, so ventured to clean the lens itself. This is actually much easier than cleaning the viewfinders: open the camera and remove the two phillips screws on either side of the lens. Now the cone separates from the front plate, and the shutter mechanism is exposed, feel free to clean up any dust and lightly lubricate the pivot points with watch oil (if necessary). As you go, make notes as to how it all fits together. The lens is housed in a plastic collar and simply sits in a well in the ‘cone’, held in place by the large metal plate and a tension washer, gently pull these apart if they’re stuck from age and clean the lens with Windex and a Q-tip. Take care to note which way the lens is oriented! Assembly is the reverse of disassembly.

Kodak Hawkeye Apart

Tips & Tricks

Film loading: the top opens with a sliding lock not unlike on the Agfa Clack and then the thing comes apart in two halves. It spools backwards from a TLR or even normal box camera: the film goes on top, the takeup spool on the bottom, and the winding on is done counterclockwise. I found it easier to put in the takeup spool before threading the film and winding on. Put in the film, put the back on, engage the lock, and wind on till the number 1 appears in the red window. The shutter release is the grooved button on the right (looking from the back), the left grey ‘button’ actually pulls up and then the shutter acts as a ‘B’ setting, staying open as long as you hold the shutter release down. For other tips read Marcy’s ‘Box Camera Basics’ below.

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