Why 127?

In this day and age of digital photography, high speed film emulsions, and extremely perfected analog film cameras of all sorts that use 35mm or 120 film, why should a group be interested in going back to a format that offers limited outlets of ISO 100 film only in either b&w or color and limited commercial processing labs at reasonable prices if you choose not to process your own film? Well, beyond the thoughts put forth by Ian Stephenson, the site's founder, and the historical article by David Silver, I would like to offer a few of my own.

I entered the world of photography in 1938 with the receipt of a gift of a Brownie Six-20 Junior, which still sits with my other collectibles, and remember how my father taught me to light my subject by using the sun as my floodlight; i.e., behind me and over the shoulder necessitated by the very slow shutter and film speeds of the day. As a child (yes, I was a child in 1938), I was fascinated that I had to consciously integrate nature into the mechanical process of taking photos.

The other fascination I have with the format is that it runs the gamut from toy camera to mechanical perfection. I have been involved with toy camera photography where Diana and her clones are the darlings and the recent addition of the Holga has brought newcomers into the fold. However, they are 120 format cameras where it is standard to use ISO 400 with all its forgiving qualities. I have also used 35mm toys which allow the photographer the same latitude. Not so with 127.

127 demands different things of you depending on your equipment. Readily available Baby Rolleis, Primo Jrs.(aka Sawyer Mark VII), and Yashica's line of "44s" allow you to shoot with the perfection rivaling the best 120 TLRs. However, when you want to go retro, you have other considerations. No light meter usage as can be done with the aforementioned 127 TLRs - sunny rule of 16 at best or sun over the shoulder as taught by dear old dad.

Then there is the question of what you want to achieve. Do I want that perfect print, or do I desire the snapshot of old which fills so many family albums? Those old albums were shot with many a 127 piece that demanded an outlay of from $1 to $3.

My own interest lies in the substantial quality TLRs and the non-bellows cameras that fit everyone's purse.This allows me the refined, subtle print as well as the retro look with which I grew up as well as the surprises that these cameras often deliver which today can be called "toy." In fact, many of these very affordable 127s had plastic lenses which is the sine qua non for toy camera purists and Kodak was among them with its "dakon" lens which they termed "acrylic moldfed." And Kodak sold a lot of cameras!

Also, there is the plethora of inexpensive half-frame 127 pieces made with both glass and plastic lenses and allow for some very creative shooting/composition on one print as those of you who have used the 35mm Olympus versions of this configuration well know.

My own arsenal of 127s is many and varied and covers all areas mentioned above. The only problem I have when I go out to do a "shoot" is which two or three to take along. The format itself allows for so much creativity.

Advice? Try it; you'll like it and join in with the rest of us.

Martin Leichter

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