How to flip a Brownie Hawkeye Flash lens
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.
What you’ll need:
– A Phillips head screwdriver (magnetic tipped will make your life easier).
– Windex & a cloth (if your BHF is dirty).
– About 5-10 minutes of time start to finish (dependent on your screwdriving skills).
– Take the back off the BHF and set aside.
– Look inside film-gate. See those two screws on each side of the lens? Unscrew those.
– Carefully lift the film-gate from the front of the camera to reveal the lens.
– If the lens has sixty-some-odd years worth of dirt, dust & grime, now would be a good time to give it a gentle cleaning with the a cloth and dab of Windex.
– Now flip the lens, so that the convex side is facing the front of the camera (‘dish’ side up). Make sure you put the spring-washer back underneath the lens.
– Place the screws back in the film-gate holes, then carefully lower the film-gate back onto the lens assembly.
– Look down into the film-gate, is the lens visibly centered in the gate? If not, it’s probably on backwards; rotate the gate the other way.
– Screw everything back together.
– Voila!!! You now have a flipped lens Brownie Hawkeye Flash (fBHF).
– Load it up with some film* & go make some magic!!!
*I should probably note that the BHF was meant to take 620 film, which has a thinner metal spool than modern 120 film. The good news is that most 120 spools seem to fit on the supply-side; the bad news is that you definitely need to use a 620 spool on the up-take.
While Kodak discontinued 620 in 1995, there are still plenty of spools out there, you just have to look. The very places you’d find a BHF are usually the same you’ll find 620 spindles: thrift stores, flea markets, garage sales & eBay. Look inside other old cameras or through piles of photographic detritus; put a word in with your local Mom & Pop photo store (if they’re still in business); or put a note up on Craigslist or Freecycle.