Friday, April 25, 2014


I saw this group of cameras in an antique shop last week.  They are the 1930's equivalent of the more recent point and shoot cameras that are a staple of many garage sales.  I believe the guy was asking $25 for the SIX-16 cameras and $15 for the plain boxes.  Considering their very rough shape I imagine they will sit there for a very long time. 

The KODAK BROWNIE JUNIOR SIX-16 was made from 1934 to 1942.  It is a typical box camera of the time with one set shutter speed and an option for a timed exposure. The ones that I have seen more often have an Art Deco metal plate on the front.  I am not sure why the ones here differ.  The KODAK BROWNIE JUNIOR SIX-16 made six 2 1/2 x 4 1/4 images using 616 film. Kodak introduced 616 film in 1932. 616 is the same as the older 116 film, however it comes on a slimmer spool.  By making the spool slimmer Kodak hoped to be able to make smaller cameras. 

The large negative produced by cameras like the KODAK BROWNIE JUNIOR SIX-16 was popular up until the 1950's because it seems that it was more economical to make contact prints than enlargements. At one time there were some amazingly large versions of roll-film out there.  For example I was surprised to find that the original 110 film, discontinued in 1929, was 5" x 4", and the original 126 film, discontinued in 1949, was 4 1/4" x 6 1/2".  Unfortunately today 120 is the largest roll-film format you can get.

616 film was discontinued in 1985. It takes some doing, however you can use 120 film with a camera like the BROWNIE JUNIOR SIX-16.  I did it a while back with the Kodak Senior Six-16. My guess is that it wouldn't be worth the trouble with a camera like the BROWNIE JUNIOR SIX-16.  Especially since there are a lot of cameras of the same vintage that use 120 film and likely would produce similar results.

The best I can tell the GE console radio above was first made in 1933.  So maybe a BROWNIE JUNIOR SIX-16 once sat upon it. More than likely it played some of the second season of the Jack Benny show. Jack Benny had one of the most popular radio shows starting in 1932 up until TV become dominate in the 1950's.  The peak of popularity for radio shows like Benny's parallels the popularity of film formats like 616 or 620.  Although that parallel seems to be a coincidence more than the result of any relationship between radio and film formats that I can figure out. In today's antique shop the radio and the cameras are in the same booth. Unlike the cameras the radio seems in good shape and it is claimed that it works.  Also unlike with the cameras it is never a good idea to try to see if an old radio works by plugging it in. I suppose the big difference is that no old camera that I know of needs to be plugged into electricity, and therefore it isn't like to be damaged, catch on fire, or shock you.

More on a vintage theme than a photography one are these Christmas lights which I think are from the late 1930's.  Who knows, they could have been on a Christmas tree in the 1930's in the same room with the GE radio and a BROWNIE JUNIOR SIX-16 camera.  I got the lights for a couple dollars at a garage sale last weekend.  Ignoring the caution that I usually have with old electrical things I plugged these in and they did light.  And from the heat they generated I would guess that given time they might have set this box on fire.  I imagine that you would be asking for trouble if you put these lights on a less than fresh Christmas tree.  I suppose the lack of fire threat may be one advantage of collecting vintage cameras.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Meikai 4351

Meikai cameras were actually made by a real camera company in Japan called Tougodo.  The first Meikai was the Meikai EL made in 1963. The Meikai EL has about the same capabilities as the Meikai 4351, however being part metal the Meikai EL looks better. It looks like Tougodo continued making cameras at least up until the late 1980's. They also made flashes and other camera accessories.

Comparing the Meikai 4351 with a camera that I wrote about earlier the, Meikai 4353 SSN , showed me that Tougodo was constantly working on improving their line of Meikai cameras.  That is if by improve you mean to make your camera be a better fake looking SLR. Judging by the numbers I would guess that the Meikai 4353 SSN is a later version than the Meikai 4351.  And the later version Meikai 4353 SSN does look to me more like an SLR.  I do wonder if anyone was ever really fooled by these cameras.  Although when I think of the kind of people we elect to public office, and the kinds of advertising campaigns that people fall for, I wouldn't be surprised if there were at least a few people who thought these were real SLRs.

Still even if they were fooled they would be, unless seriously deluded, unfooled when they got their first images processed.

And if they wondered why it took so long to finish their roll of film they would be enlightened when they saw images like the one above.  Now some cameras like the Meikai 4353 SSN have the tendency at times not to advance the film a full frame on occassion.  This often seems to happen near the end of a roll of film. The Meikai 4351 is the only camera that did this through an entire roll of film. Fortunately I only bulk loaded ten frames to test this camera. I am not sure if this is something that the Meikai 4351 does all the time, or if I may have had the film inserted too loosely.  Still I would guess that if images like the one above are what you have been seeking from a camera, then the Meikai 4351 might be the answer for you.

I wonder if Tougodo was the company that made a lot of the other fake SLRs that now fill up space in thrift stores and garage sales, or did they just stick to their Meikai brand?  If quality is a word that can be used with such cameras I have found some fake SLRs that were better than the Meikai.  The Time Camera that I used last summer probably could even be used for real photography under the right conditions. Anyway you have probably now read more on the Meikai 4351 than has been or ever will be written again.