The Kodak Brownie Hawkeye - Box Cameras with Style!

The Kodak Brownie Hawkeye was one of a long list of cameras called Brownie that Kodak manufactured beginning in 1900 and lasting throughout most of the 20th Century. The Hawkeye model debuted in 1949 and production lasted through 1951.

In 1950, however, Kodak introduced the Flash model which lasted through 1961. The Flash model allowed the use of the accessory “Kodalite Flasholder,” which synchronized with the shutter. Otherwise the two models were the same.

The Hawkeye was a Bakelite box camera designed to produce twelve 2¼ by 2¼ images on 620 film. Boxy though it may be it’s a handsome little camera, with fluted sides, rounded corners and a built-in handle. It’s all very Deco in its styling.

Kodak Brownie Hawkeye Flash Model, by Brian Moore. Polaroid 230 Land Camera with Close Up Attachment #583. Fuji FP100c film.

It’s solid too, and presents a good weight in the hand without feeling over-hefty or awkward.

You compose the image by holding the camera at waist level and viewing the scene through the brilliant finder in the camera’s top.

Focus is 5 feet to infinity, although a close up attachment was available that would allow you to get a subject in focus from 3 to 4½ feet. (Close-Up Attachment No. 13.) A skylight filter was available too.

Equipped with a single-element meniscus lens and a simple rotary shutter, there’s nothing complex about the Hawkeye. Indeed, the camera is minimalist: No meter, a fixed aperture estimated at about f11, a shutter speed of about 1/30th,  and a “B” (sometimes “L”) mode for long exposures.

Bay Theater, Seal Beach California, by Brian Moore. Brownie Hawkeye Flash with Flipped Lens. Tri-x 400 developed in Rodinal.

The shutter only stays open in the long exposure mode as long you hold your finger on the shutter release. There’s no tripod mount, so camera movement or finger cramp would seem hard to avoid over an extended period. Nevertheless, the Hawkeye’s boxy shape has the virtue of providing a stable platform when you want to shoot in dim light.

Film Type
Although designed to use 620 film, one of this camera’s delightful attributes is that you can use 120 without modification or re-spooling. The 120 spools fit nicely in the film delivery side, but they’re too fat for the take-up side so you have to use the thinner 620 spool there.

Birders at Bolsa Chica Wetlands in Huntington Beach, California, by Brian Moore. Brownie Hawkeye Flash. Fuji Acros 100 developed in Rodinal.

This isn’t a problem if you develop your own film, but if you send away for processing, be sure to request your 620 spool back. (I read on somebody’s website that later versions of the Brownie Hawkeye Flash were re-designed to prevent the use of 120 film. Fortunately all three of mine accept 120; I’d guess most do.)

What to Expect if you Get One
You’ll probably find that your newly-acquired Hawkeye needs a good cleaning. Half a century of airborne grime can render the lens and the brilliant finder less than brilliant.

Cleaning is simple, though. The viewfinder glass and mirror are easy to get to, as is the glass that protects the shutter. They’re all held in place by an aluminum plate secured by 4 Phillips head screws.

(Be sure to use a properly-fitting screwdriver, as sometimes the screws can be very tight.)

Getting the lens out is a bit more tricky, as it’s located behind the shutter. You have to remove the film transport bulkhead from inside the camera. But this is pretty easy also as it’s held in position by a pair of Phillips screws.

All the glass will clean up well with a little soapy water.

Saidi, by Brian Moore. Bay Theater, Seal Beach California, by Brian Moore. Brownie Hawkeye Flash. Fuji Acros 100 developed in Rodinal.

For cleaning and disassembly I would recommend viewing the Flickr photostream of Kenneth Dwain Harrelson (Flickr handle: HaarFager), who has posted a very nice set of images showing the Hawkeye in various stages of disassembly. See the link at the end of the article. 

For general use and explanation of the Hawkeye you can view or download for free a copy of the Flash model user’s manual from The Brownie Camera Page. See below for the link.

Common Modifications - Flip That Lens!
I’ve seen some mods that include installing a cable release, or a tripod mount, and even electronic flash.  Google what tickles your fancy and you’ll probably find somebody who has done that. Perhaps the most common mod, however, is the lens flip. 

Couple relaxing at the Getty Villa in Malibu, California, by Brian Moore. Brownie Hawkeye Flash with Flipped Lens. Tri-x 400 developed in Rodinal.

Flipping the lens is easy to do, even if you don’t intend to, as was my first experience. On the Hawkeye the concave side of the lens normally faces outward. This was counter-intuitive to me at the time, so when I reinstalled my freshly cleaned lens (convex side facing out—as I thought it should be) I ended up with pronounced distortion on my first roll of images. Details on how to flip the lens HERE.

Surprised? Yes. But also delighted as I found I quite liked the look.

When it was introduced in the middle of the last century retail price for the Brownie Hawkeye Flash was $6.95. More than 60 years later you’ll find plenty of them on E-Bay or Craigslist, usually perfectly functional, for prices hovering around $10. Often less.

Find yourself a Brownie Hawkeye, give it a good clean-up, and shoot with it. You’ll discover it to be an efficient, fun and reliable example of mid-century Kodak design, and you'll be helping to keep film photography alive.

Oh yeah,’ll find its capable of decent pictures too!

Sunlight Falling on A Chair, by Brian Moore. Bay Theater, Seal Beach California, by Brian Moore. Brownie Hawkeye Flash. Tri-x 400 developed in Rodinal.

More Information

620 Film for your Hawkeye Flash HERE!

FPP Tested Vintage 620 Film Cameras HERE!

Link to Kenneth Dwain Harrelson’s (HaarFager) images on disassembly and cleaning

Link to the Hawkeye Flash User’s Manual on The Brownie Page

About Brian Moore: Brian writes mostly about soccer, in particular the European soccer leagues and especially the English Premier League. However, he has been an unapologetic camera nut since his early teens and although he never fully engaged with the digital camera world, he is delighted that he has recently been reawakened to the virtues of film photography.

Brian Moore's Flickr Photostream




Michael's picture
Still have a few frames left on my Brownie. They do get dirty. I did find The Brownie Experience
brian m's picture
Shoot those few last frames, Michael! Thanks for your comment and thanks for posting that site. brian
Michael Raso's picture

Hi Brian,

I was feverishly testing a few different Brownie Hawkeye Flash Cameras earlier this year. Results varied but were were a bit dreamy (as seen below):


Macs Diner


Kodak Brownie Hawkeye Flash (camera test #32011B)
Fujifilm Reala100 (exp 4/2005)


Brownie Hawkeye Flash / Macs Diner


Kodak  Brownie Hawkeye Flash camera (Test 32010) on Kodak Portra 160nc

brian m's picture
Very dreamy indeed. Did you clean the lens or the glass in front of it, Michael?
Michael Raso's picture

I did clean the lens. The problem (or joy)  lies within.

fish_kite's picture

My first camera! (Well, my Mom's camera, but I borrowed it a whole lot! ^_^) I still have it, but it's in about the same shape as Michael's above. It's great for "glowing people" photography. ^_^

brian m's picture
Good stuff, fish_kite. Thanks for your comment. I'll check your Flickr stream for "glowing people" images! lol brian
alex luyckx's picture

Box cameras are wonderful things! I use an Agfa Box (Circa 1956) that was given to my Opa (Mom's father) when he moved with his family to Canada from the Netherlands.

Very similar to the Hawkeye, except it takes straight up 120 film making it a little easier to shoot. I found that I get great results using ISO-50 b/w film in it (Such as Ekfe R50)

Bus Stop, Bus Stop

1235 (Agfa Box with Efke R50)

brian m's picture
Thanks for your comments Alex. I like the pictures you posted. I'll have to try some slow speed film in one of my Brownie Hawkeyes.
Mike P's picture
Yup, with the Brownie Hawkeye Flash, both the glass in front of the lens and the lens itself need a good cleaning. The easiest way to clean the front glass, viewfinder and mirror is to only take out the front two screws and bend the metal faceplate all the way up. This will give you access to clean the mirror and viewfinder with a cotton swab and the glass in front of the lens will just lift out. I've read that the top two screws can be very difficult to get out, so I just leave those alone. Once you've cleaned the front glass, bend the metal faceplate back down and replace the front two screws.
brian m's picture
Thanks for your comment, Mike P. You are absolutely right that sometimes the top screws can be very difficult to remove. I have 3 Brownie Hawkeyes and on two of them the top screws came out easily. On the 3rd one, however, I had a lot of difficulty. Does the metal retainer not become creased or otherwise defaced when you bend it as you described? Thank you.
Mike P.'s picture
The metal is fairly pliable, so you shouldn't have any problem. Just bend the plate up slowly and a little bit at a time, to the point where you can get the front viewfinder lens out. After you clean that, then you can use a cotton swab (bent near the middle at a 90 degree angle) to clean the inside of the top viewfinder lens and the mirror (use glass cleaner or something similar). After you've cleaned all the viewfinder parts and the square glass in front of the lens, replace all the parts and bend the metal plate down slowly. You might have a tiny bit of trouble getting the plate to come down over the front viewfinder lens and the black plastic lens hood properly, but with a few tries, everything will fall right into place. Once you've replaced the front two screws, you'll never be able to tell that the metal plate had been bent at all. Cleaning it this way, you'll also never have to bother with removing the mirror and it's associated parts, which I've also read can be a bit of a pain to get back in properly. By the way, I've seen the f stop for the camera listed at anywhere between f/11 and f/16, but in an old photography magazine that I have from the 50s, I believe it's listed as f/14. I might have to check on that, though. I have four of the BHFs and had some fun cleaning each of them. You can easily tell when yours was made by looking for the four letter code inside the camera (for example, YERE). Write down Camerosity and then the numbers 1 through 9 under the first nine letters and 0 under the y. I have ones made in 11/52, 1/54, 4/54 and 3/55 and they all easily accept 120 spools in the supply side, so no need to respool 120 film to 620 spools, like you mentioned. The change from B to L on the long exposure switch seems to have happened sometime between 11/52 and 2/53 and then it was changed again to LONG sometime in '55 or '56. As some other sites have mentioned, you really cannot get good focus at a distance of 5 feet with this camera. I try to be at least 10 to 15 feet from the subject to get better results. I also got the close-up lens with one of my cameras, but I haven't tried it out yet. Like you said, it's supposed to be good for subjects between 3 and 4.5 feet.
Jim's picture
I bought one of these last year and found a roll of exposed film still in it. I sent it off for processing and found a bunch of shots of a family's vacation to Niagara Falls in (judging by the cars in one photo) about 1969. Check it out:
Ken Dickinson's picture
I was given one of these new in the box for Christmas about 20 years ago. "New in a box," you say? Yes. I worked with a fellow who was friends with someone who was helping clear out an old corner pharmacy that had finally been forced to close its doors after 50 or 60 years of business. Behind one of the cabinets was a Brownie Hawkeye, still in the box it came in. It had apparently fallen back there years ago when the pharmacy was selling those cameras new, and there it lay, unsold and waiting. I still have it in the box, and I occasionally take it out and look at it. I've thought about selling it from time to time, but somehow the thought of getting a mere $10 or $15 for it seems...insulting. I may have to dig it out and actually use it now, after giving the glass a good and proper cleaning. Now, to locate some 620 spools....
Brian Moore's picture

Ken,...thanks for your comment. Sorry to take so long to respond. Don't sell it! (Unless to me. LOL.)  Seriously, though, the camera should have come new in box with a 620 spool. You only need one, and you'll use that as the film take-up spool. However, they ARE available on E-Bay if you really need one. Good luck and happy shooting with the Hawkeye. 

Greg's picture
this was the first film camera i ever bought, and thankfuly aside from 5 generations worth of dust, and a little grime on the flasholder, it was in perfect shape! Im working on cleaning the glass now and am having issue removing the screws on the front plate, what size screwdriver works best?
Brian Moore's picture

Greg,...I don't actually know what size screwdriver. I would merely suggest that you use whatever one fits best,...meaning most snug and without extra wiggle. Any wiggle, combined with a tight screw, and you are asking for trouble, since the heads of the screws are a softer metal than your average screwdriver. If you start to run into problems getting the screws out, I'd suggest you take the camera to a repair guy for CLA. (Clean, Lube, Adjust.)

A friend of mine did that and I think it cost him $20 or so. (I know that may be two or even three times what you might pick up another Hawkeye for off E-Bay or whatever, but to me personally it would be money well-spent.) Thanks for your comments and good luck. 

Anonymous's picture
Hi, I am a total newbie at this film camera stuff. My only experience with vintage cameras is using Polaroid but they obviously have Instant Film! I just unknowingly bought this exact Brownie Hawkeye Flash, 2 Spartus Vanguard cameras, and an Imperial Mark XII Flash when I bought a cute old camera bag for $3. I didn't really care what was in it at the time. I am curious how much it costs to actually get the film developed and I can't seem to find that in my last hour of online searching. Can you tell me what it would take to develop a roll of film that goes in the camera? thanks!
Kenny Harrelson's picture
Hey, thanks for the mention of my Brownie restoration article on Flickr. Flickr has gone haywire, so I don't know how long that article will be there. But, I do have it up somewhere else as well. It is featured as an article on Ipernity. Here is the link to it there, which you might want to add or alter in your article:
pothman's picture

Just got a flash for mine. Wasn't working at first, until I realized I had read the directions for the batteries wrong, oops, wow that first burst of flash was bright

DaCosta's picture

Great camera if you want medium format at a budget price.  I've tried 120 spools with fair success.  However, I may have to order 620 spools for the future and be safe.

rodirwin's picture

I am Seventy now I got a Hawkeye for Xmas one Year in the 1950's. Used it till I joined the Navy in 1962. Was thrown out by someone in the Family? Currently useing Pentax 645Nii.

PolacolorFan95833's picture
This was my first camera-remember it well. Still have a number of the prints and negatives in my archives. It was a durable, simple workhorse that survived my youthful abuse!
Earle Bridger's picture
Anyone know how I can open the back of a Kodak Sterio Hawkeye Model 4 folding camera. It is in good condition and I do not want to force anything. Earle

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.