I received a camera for Christmas this year. My wife gave me the Kodak Six-20 Model C. Made in 1933, it’s a 6×9 folding camera that takes 620 film. 620 film is the same size as 120 film except that the spools holding the film are smaller. This means that you cannot fit 120 film into a camera designed to take 620 film. Kodak did this intentionally to prevent camera owners from using film that was made by their competitors. Fortunately, there are a few hacks to make a 120 spool fit — more on that later.
I had been eyeing the Kodak Six-20 for a few weeks on eBay with the goal of taking it apart and using the lens as a replacement on my Lomography Belair X 6-12 Jetsetter. The Belair comes with two terrible lenses, and while a toy camera is supposed to have bad lenses, the Belair’s are worse. I hate them. To address the issue, I decided to put a real lens on the Belair. As I was planning how to do this, I discovered a camera mod by Nick Lyle from the Homemade Camera Podcast (which, by the way, is an excellent podcast). Nick placed a Voigtländer lens on his Belair and got some very cool photos. I wanted to do the same and so I asked my wife for the Kodak Six-20 for Christmas.
When it arrived, it was in better shape than I had anticipated. Naturally, I had to run a roll of film through it first. As I mentioned earlier, 120 spools are larger than their 620 counterpart. By making the 620 spools out of metal, Kodak was able to reduce their size and so, by comparison, the flanges on each end of a 120 spool are wider and thicker. Having no desire to re-roll 120 film onto a 620 spool, I needed to make a roll of 120 fit. To fit 120 film into a 620 camera, the first thing you need to do is trim the top and bottom flanges on the plastic spool so that they are flush with the film roll. You can use a pair of nail clippers to accomplish this, but if the clippers aren’t sturdy, they might break — which is what happened to me.
The next step to modifying a 120 spool is to sand the ends of the spool to make them thinner — but I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS! As you can see from this demo, sanding down a spool will create a lot of plastic dust and this dust will get into your film and into your camera. Your photos will end up with black spots all over them.
As you can see from my photos, there are a lot of black spots. But this wasn’t from sanding a 120 spool. I skipped that step and modified my camera instead. The black spots in my photos are from 88 years of dirt inside the camera. And I certainly didn’t want to add more! As I said, I solved the issue of thicker flanges on a 120 spool by modifying the camera. Looking inside the Kodak Six-20, I noticed that the crafty designers at Kodak had bent the metal flanges on the film holders to prevent anyone from loading 120 film. So I took some pliers and strainghtened out the flanges on the film loading side. Problem solved! I can now load a trimmed (but not sanded) roll of 120 film in my Kodak Six-20.
But I noticed that straightening the film holder flanges on the take-up side would not work and so I left them alone. Since the camera came with a metal 620 spool, I simply use that spool on the take-up side. This means that until I buy some spare 620 spools from the FPP, I can’t shoot a second roll of film without first developing that first roll to retrieve the 620 spool.
These photos are the results from that first roll of film. (The last photo was from the day after we received 40cm of snow!) Apart from the black spots caused by dirt lurking inside the camera, I’m quite happy with the results. So much in fact, that I’ve decided to keep the camera as is instead of removing the lens and sticking it on the Belair. The Six-20 was a lot of fun to play with.
The Kodak Six-20 Model C is in decent shape for an 88 year old camera. There are no light leaks in the bellows and while the lens has some haze, it’s not enough to bother me. The only real issue is the Compur S shutter. It works well at faster speeds, but has a long delay at the slow speeds. This is not uncommon with old shutters. Dirt tends to build up inside the shutter over time and with some gentle cleaning and lubricating using lighter fluid, I figure I can coax it back to life. All in all, I’m quite happy with my little art deco folding camera and look forward to shooting some color film next.
Foodie, oenophile, traveler, hockey player, husband & teacher. I am many things, but at my core, I am a writer and photographer. Give me a notebook, a camera and a pocketful of film and I’m happy. Going Lomo is where I share my love for film photography, because a photograph not shared, only speaks silence.