Pickwik Reflex Test Roll

Pickwik Reflex with Cat I picked up the Pickwik Reflex at a garage sale for $4. As I recall, the woman assumed a camera that old (circa 1940) would only be good for decoration; she was surprised when I told her it looked like it would actually work.

It’s a pseudo-TLR box camera that takes half-frame photos on 127 film (aka Brownie film). No settings other than Instant / Time (Bulb) for long exposures. Online reviewers of this camera generally mention that the half-frames tend to overlap, and that the focus is iffy. Given the heads-up, I was able to wind the film so that the “A” exposure was at the very leading edge and the “B” was at the very trailing edge, so I only got two instances of overlap: the very first four exposures, which were my test of winding the film “correctly” versus intentionally overcorrecting.

As far as the iffy focus, I’m convinced it’s a film plane issue. Each of my exposures were out of focus in one place or another, and they weren’t consistent — not like other toy cameras that have specific sweet spots.



Not only that, but some images were actually warped where the film buckled, giving a funhouse effect to my placid riverfront photos.



The manual (Thanks, Mr. Butkus!) states that the camera focuses best at eight feet or more, and that the shutter “has been carefully adjusted to give the maximum utility for the greatest number of standard shots,” noting that “failure to hold camera absolutely still while taking pictures may result in a blurred photograph.” So, I’m guessing the shutter speed around 1/50 sec, maybe a smidge faster, as I didn’t see any perceptible blur from camera shake. (Although who can really tell, with the film plane issues?)

When all the stars aligned and a relatively in-focus shot was relatively well-exposed, this little half-frame wonder actually took passable pictures.




Is this the camera I’d want to have on hand at, say, an outdoor event like a concert or an art fair? While walking around a downtown area? Only if I could rectify this film plane shenanigans, and feel secure that the images wouldn’t come out looking like a funhouse mirror. I do enjoy composing through the “periscopic viewfinder” of a pseudo-TLR, but I also have other small cameras that give the same film effect on much less expensive film than the near-extinct 127 the Pickwik Reflex takes.

Bottom line? Functional, sort of. Attractive in that art deco sort of way. Cute and novel. I might pick up some of the others in the Pickwik line if I come across them, but I’m not going to seek them out on eBay, or pay more than a few dollars for one. Glad I found one for cheap and didn’t have high expectations for it.

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