Oddly enough, the Brownie's lens, shutter and bellows seemed fine. I cleaned up the thing as best I could and put a roll of 120 film through it. I had little expectation of getting interesting photos from it, but I thought my friend might like to see something come from one of the few surviving cameras. To my surprise, the images were quite sharp and had a great depth of tonality. A close examination of the outer rim of the lens showed it to be a Rapid Rectilinear. That was a lens popular early in the Twentieth Century with the f64 Group, and used by people like Adams and Weston. While the uncoated lens does impart a particular character to the tonal quality of images, I decided that the large 6x9 negatives were probably the main influence on the richness of the tonality that came from the camera. I had seen something approaching that from some of my previous box camera images, but the combination of tonal range and sharpness from the Brownie was a real eye opener.
a comparison table like the one available on the Kodak Classics site.
Another oddity of the exposure values on the shutter's face is the wording attached to the numeric values, terms like "Clear", "Brilliant", "Distant View", "Marine", "Clouds". This was Kodak's Autotime Scale, an exposure system intended to assist the amateur photographer in choosing the proper time and aperture settings based on lighting conditions and subject matter. The system depended on the fact that film speed choices were very limited in those days, and it seems now to be more quaint than practical. In any case, once you understand the relationship of the Uniform System exposure values to present-day usage, it is possible to ignore the wordy jumble and proceed as you might with any camera.
Since the top shutter speed on the Brownie is 1/50th of a second, a tripod is good insurance, though not absolutely necessary if you are careful not to jiggle the camera during the exposure. Even when hand-holding the camera, I have found it useful to use a cable release in order to avoid the need to manipulate the release lever out on the end of the long bellows. Given the large negative format, there is no real penalty in terms of grain in using 400-speed film which permits small f-stops and good depth of field, along with superior tonal rendition.
I have since acquired a fair number of Kodak and other folders with more advanced capabilities and more complex lenses than that on the Brownie, but I don't honestly think they have made better pictures for me.
Some sample images from the Kodak No.2 Folding Autographic Brownie: