Box Camera · film photography · Vintage Camera Reviews

The Capitol 120 Box Camera

The Capitol 120 box camera was made by the company Metropolitan Industries in Chicago, Illinois around 1930. It came in two versions: one with a silver faceplate and black letters and one, like mine pictured below, with the black background and white letters.

Capitol 120 Box Camera
Capitol 120 Box Camera

It gets its name from the Capitol building pictured on the front. When I researched the camera I couldn’t find much info on it. There is a bit of mystery behind the manufacturer of this camera, as well as some debate of whether it was a real factory or just a brand name slapped on to different model cameras. If you know anything about it please let me know in the comments.

The Camera

Like most box cameras, the Capitol 120 has a fixed focus meniscus lens. It takes 8 exposures 6x9cm on 120 film.

Capitol 120 Inside
Capitol 120 Inside

It is a surprisingly heavy box camera when compared to other boxes I have shot with. I think that is because the whole camera seems to be made of metal where as Kodaks, for example, are usually a mix of cardboard and metal.

Capitol 120 Box Camera side viewfinder
Capitol 120 Box Camera side viewfinder

There are two frosted glass viewfinders, one on top and one on the side for landscape style photos. There are two settings, instant for snapshots and time for long exposures. There is also a leather strap on top.

Capitol 120 Box Camera top handle
Capitol 120 Box Camera top handle

My Experience

I began this review back in January of this year and put it off for reasons I can’t remember. The following is the experience I had then and then my recent experience is at the end.

This camera is pretty rare. I bought it back when I was strictly buying film cameras for display, because film wasn’t available like it is today. Once I got back into shooting film, of course I had to dust this box off and try it out.

I ran an initial film test as I do with all my vintage cameras, and just took pictures around my yard. I used expired Fomapan 100 and had the lab push it 2 stops to compensate for the expiration.

During my first test, it had been the first time I shot with a box camera. All of the pictures came out blurry and dark. I then read that box cameras tend to have slow shutters so I thought maybe I could try using a tripod. There’s not a tripod mount on the bottom, but I sat it on my tripod as best I could and it seems to have helped.

Taken with expired Fomapan 100

These pictures came back in better focus, but I’m still not crazy about them. They do have that haunting, vintage look I like when using these old cameras. You can see the usual vignetting and soft focus in the corners, but the center is sharp.

Taken with expired Fomapan 100

Next, I decided to test it one more time with some non-expired film so that there would be one less unexpected variable in the mix. I took a few pics with my girlfriend (now fiancé) around our yard.

Fomapan 200

I used Fomapan Creative 200 film. I like the look of these better than my first roll.

Fomapan 200
Fomapan 200

Fast forward to November, I thought given that this month is Election 2020 I would shoot again with my Capitol 120 box camera for Project Box Camera.

Kodak TX 400

I chose Kodak TX 400 which wasn’t a good ISO choice with such a slow camera. I was rushing because I wanted to take photos on Kelsey’s lunch break for our usual walk. At 2pm the sun is pretty bright, so a lot of the shots were over exposed because of the 400 ISO film.

Kodak TX 400

It wasn’t too bad though, I was able to adjust the exposure and contrast in post.

Kodak TX 400

I really like the wide photos this camera takes. It reminds me of the shots I took with the Kodak Premo No. 2.

Final Thoughts

There isn’t really anything special about this camera other than the nice design on the front plate for decoration on a shelf. The shutter release is pretty clunky, and the frosted viewfinders are frustrating. Especially in bright conditions. Even when I shielded them with my hand, I was basically shooting blind.

The 6×9 frames are nice, and I like that it takes 120 film, but the vignetting and soft focus is not something I would want regularly in my photos.

If you’re a collector, I hope this review helped you decide if you want this one displayed on your shelf. If you just like film, I hope you have enjoyed my shots.

Please like and share this article and don’t forget to sign up to get my articles delivered straight to your email as I post them. Until next time, stay motivated and keep shooting.

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4 thoughts on “The Capitol 120 Box Camera

  1. At blog size, these are sharp and contrasty images. Given that people probably had contact prints made off the negs back in the day, which would be similar resolution to what the blog shows — that ain’t bad performance!

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