The Kodak No. 2 Folding Cartridge Hawkeye Model B 6×9 folding pocket camera (I think I’ll just call it the Hawkeye from here on out) came to me from a tiny antique store in Rico, Colorado (bought along with the Agfa Ansco PB20 Viking). It is the opposite end of the spectrum, though — it’s in near mint condition and works fantastically.
I paid $45 for it, which is comparable to examples I’ve been able to find on eBay.com, though none have been in quite the same condition.
It’s a great camera to display, but I think it still might be a good camera to use as a working 6×9 snapshot. Of course it would need the bellows repaired or replaced to be a working camera, but the lens and shutter are in great shape, and the form factor is superbly portable. Operation is quick and easy, and 6×9 negatives are a great size.
So of course I had to try it out with a roll of 400TX. At least, once I figured out how to load it. In the end, it wasn’t difficult — just a little unusual.
About the camera
Finding information about the (once more) Kodak No. 2 Folding Cartridge Hawkeye Model B wasn’t east, because there were dozens of other No. 2s, Hawkeyes, Model Bs, Folding Cartridges, and so on. But here’s what I learned:
It was manufactured from 1926 to 1934, and it originally sold for $20 (that was the top of Kodak’s line in 1924; the next-most expensive camera they offered was only $8). That’s about $270 in 2012 dollars, so it’s not quite comparable to today’s top cameras, but technology has come a long way. I found an ad (right) that advertised the first version of this Hawkeye, probably about 10 years earlier, for $8.
It features a Kodex No. 0 meniscus lens with a Kodak shutter (marked “Shutter made in U.S.A. by Eastman-Kodak in Rochester, N.Y.”) with options for Time (T), Bulb (B), 1/25 and 1/50 sec. The apertures on many examples I found were marked in the English system of 1-4 (some sources indicate those equated to f/4, f/5.6, f/8 and f/11), but mine is marked “U.S.” and has options for f/8, f/16, f/32 and f/64.
The camera takes 120 film, which saves me having to re-roll, so I’m all for that.
One of the most interesting things about the Hawkeye is the viewfinder, though. It’s a square, with the four corners notched in (see diagram). To change the orientation, you turn the camera (sounds simple enough), but the same viewfinder, whose orientation changes, serves for both orientations. As you can see, the notched in corners provide two distinct rectangular areas with which to frame your shot. Brilliant.
The lens slides out on a rail after the door is opened and can be locked in one of three positions, corresponding to loose focus distances of 10 feet, 25 feet and infinity. These seem to be guidelines more than hard-and-fast rules. And as you’ll see in a few future posts, eyeballing distance is something I need to keep working on.
About my example
My Hawkeye is in superb cosmetic shape. It shows just a tiny bit of wear on one or two corners in the leather, and all the metal is shiny and where it should be. No parts missing, either.
The lens is clear and shiny, hardly any dust in it all and no fungus or other nasties. The aperture moves smoothly and the blades appear to be oil-free. The shutter is responsive and sounds tight and accurate. The adjusters slide easily and smoothly. The winder winds easily and the frame counter window is still a nice, dark red and works to make the frames very accurately-spaced.
The embossing on the leather has lost a little visibility, as one would expect on a camera that has long been carried and used but always cared for. My guess is that this one was loved for a long time and found carefully packed away in an attic years later.
Aside from a little dust, the camera could almost have just been used. Even the leather handle is supple and sturdy, 85+ years later. The latch that keeps the lens compartment door closed rotates out to become the foot for the camera to stand on vertically, and the ornate brackets that lock the lens open are simply beautiful. The lens and bellows extend smoothly and lock positively in place.
And so, back to the bellows. I candled it in my light-proofed bathroom with a AA mini Maglite by removing the front housing to expose the bulb. Looking carefully, I noticed dozens of pinholes. Not too big, and mostly concentrated on one side of the bottom of the bellows as the camera stands up.
As with the Kodak Tourist II, I’ll have to decide what to do about this if I want to use it further. I could try painting over the pinholes, but that might prevent closing the camera. Losing that portability would be a major drawback. I don’t know, what do you think? There are many inexpensive examples of this and similar cameras from that era. Repairing one in a way that would damage its value as an antique wouldn’t really hurt that much in the long run, I think. Tell me your thoughts in the comments.
As you can see from my test roll, the pinholes are definitely enough to make the camera nearly unusable as things stand. But the experience of making the pictures with it was wonderful.