The Brownie Starflex was a rather late model, twin lens Brownie, produced from 1957-1964. It’s all molded plastic, with a plastic Dakon, fixed, rotary-type shutter, and two apertures, labeled 13 – Color and B&W – 14. Originally, the shutter probably fired at about 1/60th, and the apertures were probably something like f/11 and f/16. It takes 127 roll film (no longer made, but hand-cut 120 is available from jrdnmrk on the ‘bay).
The bottom-mounted winder cocks the shutter to prevent multiple exposures, and in addition to the locking mechanism, there’s a folding sports finder that I played with some, but didn’t use, because the finder is perhaps the most brilliant thing I’ve ever seen. It’s huge and clear, and oh so colorful.
I was really looking forward to shooting this camera, and so I ordered 3 rolls of cut-down Ektar from jrdnmrk, and loaded up a roll to shoot the last week at the office. Everyone was really impressed with the camera, and all agreed that it’s just about the cutest thing.
Sadly, upon developing, I realized that the shutter is broken. In 14 – Color mode, the shutter hangs open for a random length of time. You can dislodge it sometimes with a gentle nudge (or hard whack) to the body, but it doesn’t always respond. And on B&W – 13, the shutter lags, clocking in at maybe 1/15th or 1/8th.
It’s a shame really, since the roll cost me $15, but especially because it’s such a damn cute camera.
A couple on B&W mode came out ok, but I shot most in Color mode.
As you can see, the film plane isn’t flat and isn’t centered over the lens. Plus, jrdnmrk cut the film a little bit short, maybe a couple of mm, but enough to mess with the registration and lead to some light leaks.
Some of the results came out interesting. This one looks almost like a view of an Island resort, looking out over the ocean or a sea.
And I tried mightily to get usable images from the mess, but it was really difficult, and maybe not even worth it.
I tried to take the camera apart, to see if maybe I could bend a bit of wire back into place, or to increase tension on the springs, but the shutter on this camera was actually riveted to the body, and the main part of the body is securely glued together. I could get the finder and front cover off, and, of course, the bottom comes out, but I couldn’t get into the shutter assembly to find what was broken or attempt to fix it. So, sadly, I probably won’t be shooting it again.
You can find Starflex cameras, still in the original box, with flash and flashbulbs, for under $30 on the ‘bay, and you can find solo cameras for under $10. I think the lens renders nicely: it’s sharp enough, and has a pleasant character. And the camera is super easy to use, assuming the shutter fires properly. So except for the defunct film format**, it’s really something of a winner: cute and functional.
Thanks again to Elizabeth for passing on all the Brownies and other cameras to me!
*It takes one turn to cock the shutter, and two turns to advance the film fully, so there are some possibilities…
**I have some interest in maybe breaking the shutter out and installing a pinhole; I also have some ideas for some Jon Wilkening or Todd Hido-style long exposure stuff, and this camera, with its mostly unpredictable Color aperture/shutter, combined with a tripod, and some 35mm film rolled into the 127 spools and backing paper I now have, might just work well…