I started off browsing eBay auctions for a rangefinder to use with my Intrepid field camera. Having found what I was looking for and adding the auction to my ‘watch’ list I carried on browsing. It wasn’t long before I spotted a clockwork timer release that would come in handy for the occasional ‘selfie’ with the Intrepid so I added that auction to my watch list too.
My interest in what else I might find was aroused and I carried on browsing the vintage photography section. I was stopped in my tracks when I came across a Kodak Brownie 127 Camera Outfit, complete with its box and instruction leaflet. My mind went back to Christmas morning 1962 and excitedly tearing open a parcel to reveal a box and contents the very same as I was looking at on the computer screen, and the Boxing Day walk with my Dad as I shot both rolls of film that came with the outfit. This was an auction I had to win. There was no escaping the sense of ‘must have’. It was the third auction to be added to my watch list, and I had over a week to wait before the auction would close.
Each day I checked but there were no bidders. Perhaps the seller’s mis-spelling of ‘Kodak’ as ‘Kodac’ meant the auction was missing from searches, perhaps there were others like me who were biding their time before bidding. Whatever it took, I had to have this camera.
The rangefinder auction was first to close. I was lucky – three last-minute bidders but I won the auction and for less than I’d been prepared to pay! The Intrepid has no focus scale but I reckoned I could use the rangefinder to find the distance to what I wanted to focus on and then use tables to find the depth of field for the aperture I wanted to use.
Not long after the rangefinder came the timer and this time I was the only bidder. Second item won and the big one to come. The omens were good!
I logged on a good half hour before the auction was due to end. No-one had yet placed a bid. I couldn’t believe it. The fact that this was a complete boxed set and looking to be in very good condition was surely the sort of thing collectors would be keen to have. As I settled down to watch and wait I was clocking up silly money figures in my mind for what I’d have to bid, just in case. I waited until the last remaining seconds to put in my sky-high daft bid but it seems nobody else wanted to spoil my party. I was the only bidder and got it for the opening price. I just couldn’t believe my luck. More so when a few days later the parcel arrived in the post.
The camera, box and instruction leaflet were as near pristine as a fifty-plus year old camera could be. There are a couple of small chips in the bakelite and a previous owner, probably the original one, had written their name and address in marker pen on the inside of the case. But the shutter mechanism, the only moving part of the camera was perfect. Now all I had to do was get hold of a couple of rolls of 127 film.
127 size rolls of film went out of mainstream production years ago. There have been occasional revivals but never for long. I searched the web and discovered that a Japanese company had started producing black & white 127 film under the name of Rera Pan 100 and it was available through UK retailers. I bought two rolls, each costing about three times the price I’d paid for the camera but who cares when you’re on a nostalgia trip like this one!
That same Christmas I’d been given some book tokens and one of my purchases was “The Boys Book of Photography”. I have no idea what fate befell my first camera but I do still have that book. It taught me all I needed to know and more, about using a camera, framing a picture, developing the film and making prints.
Less than a year after getting that camera I entered a photo in the ‘action’ section of a school photography competition. It was a photo of my young sister on a slide in a now long-gone playpark in Edinburgh’s Saughton Park. It won first prize – the only prize I’ve ever won in a photography competition so not something I’ll easily forget.
Happy memories. And all because I lingered a little on that auction site!
(And I’ve been out and about with the ‘new’ camera – more on that to come).