sometimes you just have to STRAP IT ON.

Pictured above are 18 film cameras from my personal collection.  Their birthdates range from the 1920’s to the 1990’s.  Close friends will notice a new guy in the group, in the top left corner of this photograph:  The KODAK TOURIST II, introduced to the public in 1951 .

This blog is a tutorial for any of you lucky enough to own one of these gems. 

Your Kodak Tourist isn’t just a decoration piece for your home —  with some slight changes to a roll of 120 film, you can actually USE this antique to create stunning and unique photographs.

The Kodak Tourist and Tourist II  were both designed for use with rolls of 620 film.  Good luck finding any 620 out there — they stopped making it decades ago.  A comparable (but inferior) product can be found if you search hard enough, but even IF you find it, you will pay upwards of $25 for a roll (and only get about 10 shots!)…and that’s WITHOUT the cost of developing it.

Eff that noise.

All you need is a roll of 120 film, a couple of easy-to-find tools, and a few spare minutes.

Many bloggers claim that you need to completely RE-SPOOL 120 film onto a 620 spool, and they present an arduous and nearly impossible task that involves fumbling around and re-spooling in total darkness.

Screw that, too.

Leave the lights on (but not TOO bright), and gather the following:

  • Roll of 120 film (TWO if your camera doesn’t have a take-up spool on the left side) –  whichever type you prefer
  • Your Kodak Tourist or Tourist II camera (duh)
  • A sheet of sandpaper, a sanding block (shown above, top right), or other sanding/finishing product
  • a heavy-duty pair of nail-clippers, shears, or scissors (I’ve found that clippers work MUCH better)
  • Good music  and good coffee – optional.  Nevermind.  Good coffee and good music should NEVER be optional.  For this tutorial adventure, I’ve chosen Kurukahveci Turkish coffee and “Push” (from the album “Head on the Door”) by THE CURE….

There.  NOW we’re ready.  Let’s do this, babyluvs.

Step 1:  Open up that lovely antique — The back of the camera is hinged at BOTH sides, and therefore can be opened at either end OR removed completely.  You only need to open one side, really (I opened the left).  To open, you unlock the catch by pulling UP on the tiny silver slide at the top using your thumbnail…OR you can push/slide the little edged section in the middle of the silver UPWARD, until the catch releases.  Both pieces of the mechanism do the same thing…it “pops” and swings open.  Then you’re looking at THIS:

Note that my camera has ONE empty spool in it already (in my hand, above) and it is 620 size.  It’s from the last roll of 620 that a previous owner used decades ago.  It will now go on the left side and be the TAKE-UP spool.  A new, MODIFIED 120 spool will be going on the RIGHT side.  If you have a 620 spool left over, as I do, you can still use it — the 120 film will wind onto the 620 spool just fine as you take your photos and wind the film.  Just remember that if you want your 620 spool BACK, you must tell the employees who develop your film that you want your 620 spool returned to you after developing!  Also, if your Tourist camera does NOT have a 620 spool left inside it for take-up, no worries:  a modified 120 spool will work just fine for take-up also, and I’m about to show you how to make the necessary changes…

Step 2:  Remove the top and bottom “lips” from a new roll of 120 film — using a tough pair of nail-clippers, carefully clip off the extended “lip” of the spool completely until it is flush with the film (middle section)…

Make sure you clip/cut all the way around the spool

until there is NO overhang.

Don’t forget to flip the roll over and cut the bottom lip as well.

The excess on BOTH ends must be removed.

Step 3:  Sandpaper the hell out of your newly-cut 120 roll — after cutting, the edges will be rough or sharp, and tiny bits of the lip may still protrude.  This is where your sanding block (or paper) comes in.  First you’ll go around the edges quite a few times, both to smooth the jagged spots and to keep shaving some circumference off your spool ends.  Do this for both the top and bottom of the spool…

 Next, you’ll take the sanding block/paper straight across the top and bottom of the spool. This time, instead of taking off the circumference, you are subtracting from the total LENGTH of the spool. You’ll need to sandpaper hard and for quite some time on the ends, or else the spool will be too long and will fit too tightly into the space for film inside your camera — or it won’t fit at all. So buff the ends like you are insane!…

Above is a before/after shot.  After cutting the lips, sanding the edges, then sanding the ends vigorously, your modified 120 roll should look like the one on the RIGHT — much smaller around, much shorter, and smooth.

Now you’re ready to use your film in the Kodak Tourist or Tourist II camera.  Simply insert the mod 120 into the right side, and continue to load and advance the film as you would in any other camera that uses 120 film (like the Holga or the Diana F+)…

Make sure the film is carefully aligned and inserted into the slot of the take-up spool on the left, then turn the winding knob slowly two or three times to bind the paper to the spool.  Once the paper is straight, securely bound, and begining to turn, carefully close the back of the camera.  The red window should be toward the bottom right of the Kodak Tourist II when closed.

Once the back is closed, flip up the metal piece that covers the red window, and slowly turn the winding knob past the dots and arrows until the number “1” shows clearly in the middle of the window.  NOTE:  If your modified film did not fit into the camera or would not comfortably roll/advance to the number one, that means you did NOT cut and/or sandpaper your roll enough to match 620 film spool size.  But no worries — if at first you don’t succeed, have some more coffee and try, try again!

If your modified 120 film DID fit and it advanced properly without too much strain or effort…CONGRATULATIONS!  You are now ready to go out and use your groovy 1950’s camera to take photos of a flower vase, your birthday cake, your new haircut, your tits, your cat’s asshole, your crazy neighbors…whatever you wish.  Knock yourself out.

Dammit people, this blog was a lot of work.  I just drank like 20 cups of coffee and listened to the song “Push” on repeat about 100 times.  I went to the restroom, and when I peed it smelled like someone was brewing a fresh pot of coffee and THIS PROBABLY ISN’T A GOOD THING.  This blog had better change the life of at least ONE person on the planet, so help me God.  But, you know — I do it for the money.  Not really.  I don’t get paid a dime.  I actually do it for all the penis that gets thrown at me.  Just kidding.  I do it for the love.  The love of FILM.

Enjoy your Kodak Tourist II cameras.  They’re a lot of fun.  Until next time,

—  Jenn


3 thoughts on “sometimes you just have to STRAP IT ON.

  1. I’ve got a TLR that takes 620 film, but I’ve only used it a couple of times. I did the sand-the-plastic-down-on-a-120 trick too. It works and it is good exercise! My TLR is an Argoflex. I like looking though the “live LED” screen — which is of course just mirrors rendering a reflection of your scene. No digital delay!

    I want to get one of those 35mm cameras that would take only a half a regular frame — thus you can get up to 72 exposures on a single roll. With modern neg scanners the resolution wouldn’t be so bad.

    1. Yes, modification methods/tricks are great because these old film cameras shouldn’t go to waste. Your Argoflex sounds great! I’m sure it’s fun to use 🙂 I hope you’re enjoying the holiday season…

  2. I guess I haven’t used the argoflex much b/c of the film issue. I forgot to mention that I use a steel sanding type file and not sandpaper. You can really get some leverage going with the steel file! Have a good holiday season yourself. I know you aren’t looking forward to the bowls 😉

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