I have two Kodak Brownie Target Six-20 cameras in my collection. One of them is in incredible shape (especially considering the age of the item), while the other is pretty banged-up (see it below). [Related note: For this blog, I’ve decided that I’ll photograph my few banged-up cameras on location, i.e. in some abandoned house.]
The Brownie family of cameras (introduced by Kodak Eastman in 1900) made photography affordable for the first time to the general public. The Target Six-20, one of the later models of box Brownies produced, was marketed between July of 1946 and May of 1952 and could be had for a mere $3.00. It was designed to be used with 620 film, which was discontinued in 1995; however, Brownie fans always find alternate ways to shoot with this camera, the most typical being re-spooling 120 film. Fairly-recent photo samples taken with this camera (using one of these alternate methods) can be seen here. (The sample photos are not mine.)
Much like most other box cameras, the Six-20 looks boring. The vertical-line design on its faceplate makes it cooler than most others out there, though. The one pictured here is the Canadian-made version of the Six-20 – the US version has a slightly different faceplate.
As dull as it looks, this camera makes a very nice display item and a great prop for photography as well.
The design is ultra simple: a box with two viewfinders (one for landscape photography, one for portraiture), a shutter release and a film wind knob. The fixed-focus meniscus lens can focus everything sharply from about 8 feet onward (approx. 2.40 metres). (A close-up attachment, No. 6A, was available to shoot subjects from 3 to 5 feet.) Even if it was intended to be a cheap camera, planned obsolescence was not in Kodak’s engineers’ minds when they designed this one: the Target Six-20 was built to last. (Case in point: when released, this camera’s shutter – at 60 years of age – makes a smoother sound than my buddy’s Scott’s Canon 40D’s shutter.)
The fixed shutter speed is moderately slow (1/50? 1/100?), so shooting in bright light must have been an uphill chore back in the day.
One of the things that made this Brownie camera an upgrade over earlier Brownies is that this one featured two different aperture options (apparently f/11 and f/16) as opposed to one, and the ability to shoot long exposures in bulb mode – the shutter remains open for as long as the bulb lever is held. I wonder if anybody tried shooting startrails in 1946?
If you have any interesting/fun/meaningful details about this camera, please share in the comments (using the link at the top left of this post).
Thanks for reading.