Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Kodak Senior Six-16

Film: 616
Shutter: Kodex with T,B,1/25,1/50,1/100
Lens: Kodak Bimat f/11, 3 element triplet.
Made: 1937 to 1939.

This is one of a few camera that came from an auction a while ago and had sat in a box for years.  When I got into film again i found myself curious about if any of those cameras would still work. When I checked out the Kodak Senior Six-16 I found that the shutter and aperture still worked fine and the lens was free of fungus and had just a little dust.  The bellows wasn't so fortunate in that it had a lot of pinholes.  Lastly the camera said that it needed 616 film.  That would be a problem since Kodak stopped making that film in 1984. 120 film is close, however the 616 film is just wide enough to be troublesome. Still when I tried a roll of 120 it easily fit, and a piece of foam made it fairly snug.  On the take-up end I would still need to use the 616 spool since a 120 spool isn't wide enough to work without more adjustment than I cared to make.  So I figured while it may not be perfect I could at least get some film to run through the Senior Six-16.

If I was serious about using this camera the bellows would need to be replaced.  Still just for fun I figured I could patch it with electric tape. The tape seemed to work pretty well for ending the pinpricks that I could see.  It didn't look pretty, however I thought it would get me through whatever shooting I planned to do with this camera.  

And now every six months or so I get the urge to take some photos with the Senior Six-16 to see what will happen.  When I put some foam at at the bottom half of the roll the numbers for 16 exposures appear in the red window in the back of the camera.  What I do to space the film is to start at the third exposure and then increase to 6,9,12 and 15.  This gives me five 2 1/4 x 4 1/4 images on the 120 roll.  I waste at least one exposure doing it this way, however the extra exposures I might get by some other method aren't worth the trouble to me.  Since the film is feeding unto a wider 616 spool I need to remove the film in the dark and either re-spool it to a 120 spool or put it into a developing tank.  For myself I would be using a changing bag and putting it right into the tank. As a digression a changing bag is a handy thing to have if you are using old cameras, because sooner or later you are likely to have to open the back up with film still in the camera because of some problem.

This is from my latest attempt.  It makes a nice wide picture.  Still the results aren't such that I am likely to ever shoot with it much.  However it is kinda fun from time to time.  

I was a little confused when I was looking up info on this camera.  All of what I found talked about this camera coming with a f/4.5 or a f/6.3 lens.  There was even a mention of an f/7.7 lens.  Nothing at all about my f/11 bimat.  I know the bimat lens and the Kodex shutter were the Kodak economy brands back in the thirties.  So I figure my model must be such an economy model that no one wants to talk about it.  I wouldn't even be sure this was a Senior Six-16 if it wasn't for that it says so on the camera's nameplate.  

It looks like these cameras sold for between $20 and $33.  That would be $300 to around $450 in today's dollars.  Consider that the average income in 1940 was $1299 and you can see that these weren't cheap.  Although since $1299 would be around $20,000 today maybe it wasn't so bad. Still even my seemingly secret extreme economy model Senior Six-16 probably was not a casual purchase for most people.  And I do think the camera deserves some respect for being able to survive and take pictures in our modern times. 

If you really want to use one of these 616 cameras in a serious way than here are what seem to me to be some excellent instructions for adjusting a 616 film camera to 120 film. 616 to 120 conversion. It might be a good thing to try since there well could be some bargains out there in good 616 cameras. 


  1. I love old Kodak folders, beyond all reason. But whenever I see one with a lens like this, I tend to shy away. I'm no snob; I love a good economy-model Kodak as much as a higher-end camera. But these slow lenses require so much bright, blazing sunlight to get an image that they just aren't that useful.

    1. It is pretty much a full-sun camera. I have only used it to do some landscapes so that isn't much of a limitation. It sure would be a challenge to do anything much else with it. I wouldn't mind getting hold of one of those Kodak cameras with an Ektar lens.