Sunday, January 13, 2019

Things Old Guys Do - The Bullet Camera

The 1940 Kodak Bullet Camera

I do a lot of photography.  Been doing it ever since I was in college.  There isn't a lot of film or formats that I have not done.  4X5, 3X4, 120, 620, 35mm, 35mm (half frame), and of course 127.  

If you haven't heard of 127 film, that is because they stopped using this format near the latter half of the last century (probably around 1960).  So it is considered a dead format.  Ignorant of this fact (ignorance can be bliss when learning stuff), I came across this little camera in the bargain bin of a thrift store about eight years ago.  They were asking .25 cents. 

It intrigued me, because it was super small (you can shove it in your pocket) made of Bakelite and had this cute feature of a corkscrew lens.  For .25 cents, it was a nice paperweight if it didn't work. Of course when I got home, I found that 127 film wasn't going to work, since even the last of the black and white would be bad by now, even if I could find some expired film.  However, while I was searching eBay for film, I came across this rather odd listing

A 100 foot bulk roll of Kodak Porta 160nc Color Negative Film (C41 Process) that was actually in 127 width.  It wasn't even expired, so for some small amount (probably $40), I bought it, figuring I would 'roll my own'.  The only thing I needed were extra film rolls.  These are always metal and hard to find.....but not on eBay!  I managed to scarf up five of them over a few weeks and started experimenting in the dark room. 

I calculated that the 100 foot roll of film would yield about 40 rolls of 127 film (at eight shots per roll).  I have shot and developed about 30 rolls so far and am getting near the end.  This is NOT a great camera, although it does have a certain James Bond quality to it.  The focal length is 6ft to infinity only, so you have to stand back from any subject.  Field of view isn't stellar either.  The shutter is fixed at approximately 1/60sec (they didn't pay a lot of attention to this back in the day) and the camera was never designed to shot 160asa speed film.  So I quickly found out that you needed a LOT of light to get the image right. 

You can expect to see most of the current batch on my Flickr feed in the coming week. 

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