The inexpensive Kodak Brownie was the first camera to bring photography to the masses. The simplicity of its design meant anyone could figure out how to use it with little difficulty. Because it has essentially no controls to learn—there’s just a shutter button, viewfinder, and film winder—it’s even easy to use in comparison to today’s cameras.
Millions of Kodak Brownies were made over the course of its 60-year lifespan beginning in 1900, and its build quality means many of them survive in good working order. A Kodak Brownie is also a good option for custom modifications—it’s easily available on eBay or at tag sales, it’s simple to hack, and it’s cheap enough that it doesn’t matter if things go wrong.
My original plan was to build a variant on the pinhole digital camera I’d previously made with a Raspberry Pi and a webcam. I had an extra Raspberry Pi Zero that needed a purpose and a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye, the variant from the 1950s with a case made out of Bakelite instead of wood or cardboard, which I’d bought for less than £5 at a local tag sale. The only key missing piece was a webcam.
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