June 20th, otherwise known among certain circles as “620 Day,” is the one day each when some of us (who can remember) have an excellent excuse (as if we needed one) to dedicate ourselves to enjoying the pleasures of shooting 620 film on any one of literally millions of excellent classic cameras designed for this specific film format.
The one I chose to shoot this year is the Kodak Duaflex IV pictured above. I picked up this very nice little camera for only a few bucks at Goodwill. It has a single shutter speed estimated to be about 1/30th of a second but offers three apertures, f8, f11, & f16 and has a zone focus dial. Considerably more complex than a simple box camera it looks and works like a twin lens reflex camera (TLR) although not nearly as sophisticated as a true TLR.
The 620 film format was introduced by Kodak in 1931 as an alternative to the 120 film format and probably intended to help them capture more market share by using this “proprietary” film format in all their subsequent medium format “roll film cameras.” Kodak stopped making cameras for the very popular 120 film format and started making only 620 film cameras. Although used mainly by Kodak cameras, it became very popular and remained in production until 1995 when it was discontinued. The 620 format is essentially the same film as the 120 format film but on a thinner and narrower all-metal spool. 120 film was rolled onto a wooden spool at the time.
In the battle of the medium format films, 120 eventually won out and remains “The” medium format film today but only after 620 had a very successful 60+ year run at it. Dedicated mainly to simple box cameras and a few noteworthy exceptions that were designed for the professional or serious amateur photographer, this film is now only available from the Film Photography Project, Blue Moon Camera and perhaps a few others as re-spooled or otherwise modified 120 film. That is, 120 film that has been re-spooled onto 620 film spools or had the 120 spool modified to fit 620 film cameras.
The Film Photography Project (FPP) actually has brand new 620 film spools manufactured and uses them to re-spool their 120 film onto them for resale as 620 film. They currently offer nearly two dozen film stocks available for sale in the online FPP store. They also sell the 620 film spools for those who want to re-spool their own film. All profit from FPP sales goes to support the FPP’s mission to promote traditional film photography. You can check them out at http://filmphotographyproject.com/
While images from 620 film cameras are frequently not quite up to par with images from 120 film cameras it is not because of the film. Most 620 film cameras are simple box cameras and do not have high quality optics but a similar camera using 120 film will yield exactly the same kind of results. Still, like the 127 and 828 cameras used for millions of family snapshots over several generations these 620 box cameras provide photographs that have a unique look and are absolutely beautiful.
Next week I will have the film back from this little 620 gem and will be able to let you know how the pictures came out. If experience is any guide I’m betting they will be excellent indeed.