Box Camera Basics

Marcy’s BOX CAMERA BASICS or

Box Camera 101

For this demonstration I’ve selected a very common Kodak box camera. Box cameras will accept different sizes of roll film. This particular camera accepts 120. Options for loading or purchasing film sizes other than 120 are referenced at the bottom of this page. A variety of box camera features are discussed at the bottom of this page also.

Before you load your camera: Check out its options. Operate the levers and knobs…that is, if it has any. You don’t want to waste exposures trying to figure out which lever does what.

Opening the back: (Click on any image for a larger view.)

Loading the film:

When your roll is finished (camera types have a different numbers of images per roll ; 6 – 8, usually?), wind past the end of the paper. There is NO rewind! When you’re finished photographing on your roll, and have turned the wind knob until there is no longer any paper in the window, open the back. The finished roll will have been spooled onto what once was the empty spool.

Some things you ought to know:

1.) Some box cameras will take one image with one simple click of the shutter. Others will take one image when the shutter lever is pushed down and one image when the shutter lever is pulled back up.

2.) Turn the winder knob after each exposure. That is, unless you plan to take a multiple exposure shot. I can’t think of any box cameras that have a double exposure prevention feature.

3.) After exposing your first roll of film, turn the winder knob until no more backing paper appears in the counter window. Open the camera in the darkroom, or an area with subdued light – the take-up spool may not have wound the film tightly. If the film is more than a bit loose, it may have some light leaks at the edges.

4.) Often, box camera lenses will be located on the inside of the shutter. This is why folks will sometimes state that their cameras are nice, “but the lens is missing”.

5.) Some brands of box cameras come with a few options:

Box camera film options:

Some box cameras accept 120 size film. 120 film is readily available at any good camera store, or through mail order. Others accept 620. 620 film is the same size as 120. Only the spools differ in width. Using either a changing bag or a darkroom, a 120 film spool can be unrolled, then re-rolled onto a 620 spool. I made a how-to video and posted it to Youtube. My gown is crooked and I look like a man, but that’s beside the point.  Click here for the video.