I’ve noticed a lot of search traffic hitting my site specifically looking for information on how to flip the lens of a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye Flash (BHF). While there are probably multitudes of other resources on the interwebs, I figure I’ll just throw my two-cents out there.
For those who don’t know, the BHF is a black bakelite beauty with a top-down viewfinder, single element meniscus lens, shutter speed somewhere around 1/30 to 1/60 & a bulb setting, while it lacks a tripod mount, it has a nifty handle. In it’s heyday, the BHF was a very popular camera. Your grandparents most likely had one. Nowadays, you can find them cheaply at thrift stores, flea markets, garage sales, and eBay, or for a higher premium decorating shelves in antique stores & hipster boutiques.
I got mine for free on Craigslist thanks to a kind-hearted Samaritan who was donating several cameras to anyone who could justify receiving one. I simply wrote “I’ll use it.” It arrived in the mail a couple days later and I’ve been enthralled with it ever since.
Anywho, an unmodified BHF takes a relatively normal photograph, but something magical happens when you flip the lens. It’s like the soft focus of a vintage Diana multiplied to the Nth degree. The lens’ focal point shifts from infinity to about 3 feet in the center, while the edges just melt away into blurry goodness. The effect can be quite surreal.
Flipping the lens of a BHF is actually a simple procedure with a very low-risk of permanently #@$%-ing anything up and is easily reversible. That said, I assume no responsibility with these directions if you somehow manage to accidentally bork your favorite family heirloom.
Ready? Let’s get flipping.
All taken with a flipped lens Brownie Hawkeye Flash, Rollei Retro 400 developed in Diafine.
Flipped lens Brownie Hawkeye Flash, Rollei Retro 400 developed in Diafine.
A folding 6×9 ‘six-20’ camera with two viewfinders (horizontal & vertical), the original Jiffy had a really cool Art-Deco motif; the sequel here just has a plain black faux leather covering. It has a ‘twindar’ lens with two focus settings: ‘5-10ft’ & ‘beyond 10ft’; two shutter speeds: ‘I’ (about 1/60) and ‘T’ (bulb) and two apertures as well.
It needed some TLC after I purchased it. After a thorough cleaning, the biggest problems were a sticky shutter and folding mechanism. Careful application of some ball-bearing oil resolved both issues. As Kodak discontinued its ‘six-20’ film for quite some time now, I trimmed the plastic spindle on a roll of 120 film and used the metal 620 take up spool that came with the camera.
A shot of Ithaca Falls taken with a Holga 120CFN with a vintage Kodak red filter on Rollei Retro 400 film (Afga APX equivalent) and developed in a fresh solution of Diafine. Scanned with an Epson v500, curves slightly tweaked in PS.