Brownies - Toy or not?

Discussion in 'Lo-Fi Cameras' started by Akki14, Feb 10, 2007.

  1. Akki14

    Akki14 Member

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    I was looking at the websites selection someone posted here recently and I was excited to see there's a Toy Camera website ring. I looked at the ring's website. It then told me that Brownies are not accepted as toy cameras.

    Why not?

    I recently bought a No. 2 Model E brownie (a box camera made of cardboard) for a few quid from a charity shop and the first negs are drying in my bathroom. They look pretty much in the range of toy camera photography. They weren't especially expensive when they came out as they were photography for the masses, much like other toy cameras out there.

    I think they're a nice bridge between antique and toy camera :smile:
     
  2. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Bear in mind that in the UK it is STRICTLY FORBIDDEN to draw any connection between Brownies and photography; you will be thrown in prison as a suspected paedophile and your house will be spray-painted by readers of the red-tops.

    (Note to the puzzled: Brownies are the junior wing of the Girl Guides, known in the USA, perhaps more realistically and less chauvinistically, as Girl Scouts. Red-tops are the gutter newspapers, and readers of one of the more hysterical red-tops did indeed vandalize the house of a paediatrician. Well, it sounds like paedophile, doesn't it? THIS IS A TRUE STORY!).

    Seriously, I love the idea of toy camera snobs: 'No! Your camera's not crappy enough!' Perhaps the difference is that your old Brownie was well designed and well made, whereas toy cameras, for the most part, aren't. I'd out-snob 'em myself: tell the buggers to go out and buy a decent camera for once in their lives.

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  3. Pinholemaster

    Pinholemaster Member

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    Toy or not is in the eye of the beholder.

    Who cares what you use to complete your photographic vision!

    I understand bears really like the taste of Brownies, so don't go in the woods with your camera or a troop of girl scouts. HA!
     
  4. Kobin

    Kobin Member

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    I certainly consider my Brownie Bullet to be a toy; it's not much different from the old Imperial I used to have. But then I used to call my Zeiss Ikon Nettar 516/17 a toy camera (it cost me less than a new Holga). The Brownie Bullet was gifted me, so it knocked the Nettar out of contention.

    K.
     
  5. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    What I like about my Brownie Hawkeyes is specifically that it does not have the aura of a toy camera: no exotic third world manufacturing in a crappy factory, no light leaks, no magical randomness, in other words, NO IRONY. I like it for what it is. I'm not even mocking secretly the manufacturer.

    It gives me beautifully soft and color-aberratted (what's the opposite of color-corrected?) results on slide film, the kind that arrests the eye because it's not common anymore. It frees me from the Tyranny of Correct Exposure just like a Holga but did so for chump change, and I can use flashbulbs with it.

    It's a classic design, it works as a self-defense tool, has a waist-level finder for that classic Brownie Pose, or for carrying it at waist level in my lowered hand, aimed and operated from a glance into the viewfinder.

    And it has a handle! How many cameras have an integrated handle beside box cameras? Polaroid cameras, and that's about it.
     
  6. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Linhof Technikas, and most press or metal-body view cameras...

    Loved your point about NO IRONY, though.

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  7. Alex Bishop-Thorpe

    Alex Bishop-Thorpe Member

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    A box brownie was the first camera I used for medium format, actually the first camera I used and developed my own film, and I'm still impressed by the results I get from it. They're actually quite accurate little cameras if you can work within their limitations...but since they have no light leaks or full plastic construction, I suppose some people would feel fit to dismiss them as not worthy of toy camera status. I guess like the people who'd laugh at you when I bring playing cards to school instead of the latest trading cards :wink: Just take photos, if anyone complains it's their problem.
     
  8. jovo

    jovo Membership Council Council

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    As my dad was using a Rollieflex at the time, I (a lad of 6 or 7) just felt totally in step with my Brownie Hawkeye because we both looked down at a prism finder. I loved! that camera which may well be the main reason I still love looking in a viewfinder today. I never thought of it as a toy...just a "junior" piece of equipment.
     
  9. Akki14

    Akki14 Member

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    There's Brownie troops in the US (I know location says UK but I was born and raised in the US) and in the UK. People tend to think you're carrying tasty chocolate brownies when you say you have a Brownie in your bag :smile:
    I am quite impressed that, even though my Brownie is a cardboard box, I've only found a tiny lightleak at the top so it's now taped up, just like the Holgas I have (except my Holgas don't leak light and don't vignette! They're useless as "toy cameras")
    I like the handle on my brownie... it feels and looks like real leather (that's where all the money went into making them!) and I can freak out people by holding it like a camcorder :D
    Hopefully I can at least try to scan in some of the negs from the Brownie tonight.
     
  10. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    My first camera was a Brownie Starmatic - a toy? no way!!

    AG1B's at 10 paces, I say!

    (now where is that 127 Kodacolour when I need it?)

    Matt
     
  11. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    Speed/Crown graphics also come to mind, Rapid-Omega RF as well have some kind of handle. But what I like about the Brownie is that you carry it like a lunch box on your first day of school.

    I think the 90s just drove irony into the ground, suddenly one could not like an old country song without listening at it at the seventh degree. But there's no such thing as the second degree. If you have a pleasure in something, it's genuine, and calling it "ironic" or so is just dishonest.
     
  12. gr82bart

    gr82bart Subscriber

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    After reading the first part of your sentence, I thought you would be referring the age old spacial ingredient added to brownies. So I have heard. :wink:

    Regards, Art.
     
  13. gr82bart

    gr82bart Subscriber

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    A lot of Toy Camera enthusiasts, I have noticed, are getting to be quite the bourgois snobs when it comes to the Toy Camera pedigree. I have this feeling they want their narrow definition of a Toy Camera be either a Holga or Diana only. And certainly not any Lomo - the blaphemous infidels.

    I don't know why, but I'd fight back! Let the revolution begin....

    Regards, Art.
     
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  15. Nathan Smith

    Nathan Smith Member

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    One reason they may balk at 'Brownie' is that Kodak used it for such a WIDE range of cameras and formats. Some of them were quite nice, others were, well, made of cardboard with meniscus lenses.
     
  16. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Absolutely! But there are so many snivelling wimps who won't admit to depraved tastes.

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  17. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Add special ingredients to Brownies and you're looking at long jail terms, depending on (a) which special ingredients (b) which brownies (or Brownies) and (c) the means of introducing said ingredients into brownies/Brownies.

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  18. athanasius80

    athanasius80 Member

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    Well this thread is joyfully spinning out of control! Must be eating too many special brownies.

    Let me throw this into the works. A Kodak Brownie camera is something like a Singer 20 sewing machine; a cute little "baby" machine intended originally for children that happens to do its job quite well. Not so much of a toy but more like a CTID (child training/indoctrination device.) Any thoughts?
     
  19. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Only that CTID is a wonderful abbreviation I'd not previously encountered.

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  20. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    You know, said like that, Brownies are probably closer to the usual meaning of "toy" than the Holgas &co.

    Kids who grew up in the middle of the 20th century are much more likely to have had Brownies as toys than are kids who grew up more recently like me (hey, I had a computer!). Lots of kids also had Mickey cameras, cereal box leicas, or whatnot.

    I'm not sure how much the modern "toy camera" are actually used by children in a learning/play context. Does anybody's 8-years old have a Holga?

    I think I would use "lo-fi cameras" as an umbrella term for the class of real toys, Brownies, "toy" camera, chinese/russian crapboxes, Polaroid instant, oatmeal pinholes, etc, if "lo-fi" wasn't already coopted to sickness by the music industry.
     
  21. dmr

    dmr Member

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    If this is the small Singer I'm thinking of (the very primative hand-crank one), the Singer 20 is far under the relative capability of the Brownie.

    My first very own camera was a Brownie Starflash. Although it was quite plain, I always thought of it as a reasonable quality camera and definitely not a toy.

    I think of it more as the 1960 equivalent of the point-and-shoot. It had a decent lens, although fixed focus and I'm sure plastic, and as long as you were outside or had a flashbulb in it, and held it steady, you always got a clean and very clear photo. I remember thinking of it as a definite step up from the other kids' box cameras.

    I also have a great respect for Singer machines. I was lucky enough to learn on my mom's Singer 221 and my grandmother's console Singer. Those hand-cranked ones were nothing at all like the real ones. (My current machine is a cheaper Simplicity, it really does all of what I need.)
     
  22. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    My first camera was a Brownie Hawkeye Flash [circa 1960s cube] without the flash. Rugged and dependable.

    Many years later I started using my kids Fisher-Price 110 camera with flash rather than ski with an SLR and multiple lenses. This was padded and very rugged. Would I consider it a toy => NO! I slipped it in my pocket and took it skiing every time. It handled the cold, falls, ski jumping, and the kids throwing it to each other. Never failed. the photos were always sharp. That is not a toy, yet it was bright yellow and bright blue and it was labled Fisher-Price.

    Steve
     
  23. Kobin

    Kobin Member

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    The proof is in the pudding. The several types of distortion my Brownie Bullet's Dacon lens produces (vegneting, barrel, and a notable lack of sharpness even printed at 4x6) add up to definite toy quality. I think my Mamiya C330 with body cap pinhole would produce sharper pictures at that degree of enlargement, and the lime green all plastic Imperial I shot at the 1964 Worlds Fair (NY,NY) produced much higher quality images than the Brownie.

    K.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 12, 2007
  24. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    As pointed out in this thread before, it depends on which model you are talking about.

    Steve
     
  25. greyhoundman

    greyhoundman Member

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  26. Kobin

    Kobin Member

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    "As pointed out in this thread before, it depends on which model you are talking about.
    Steve"

    Ya, a Brownie Autographic would not be considered a toy most likely, because of the sharp, undistorted images produced by their good glass (and they did cost a decent price back in the day). This is also true of many Brownie box cameras, even the Baby, the Bull's Eye, and the Hawkeye. But the Bullet, Holiday, and such like with Dakon lenses, they make the Dianas and Holgas look good, IMO. Not as bad as the give-me 35mm I once got because I bought a Time magazine subscription, but pretty darn artsy.

    Now, perhaps we can hammer out the difference between an image distorted by crappy lenses and ill-fitting backs, and the artful expression of an inward vision using less than optimal equipment? :smile:

    Naw, lets just take our cameras out and have fun making photographs.

    P.S., Grayhoundman, great images.

    I need to get my Crown Graphic back from Number Two child and try out that 170 mm Rapid Rectilinear I salvaged from a trashed Autographic 3. See if I can make it a big toy. :smile:

    K.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 12, 2007