Signet 40

My mom hails from upstate New York — Rochester to be exact. With Eastman Kodak’s headquarters in Rochester, it is not surprising that my grandfather once worked for the photography company. My mom still owns several of his cameras, but recently gifted me his Signet 40 and Brownie Super 27. I posted a photo of the Signet 40 about a year ago, and a few people encouraged me to grab some 35mm film and give it a go. Well, it took me 11 months, but I finally did it!


First, I had to clean the camera. It had a bunch of dirt and grime on the lens and viewfinder. Once that was done, I went to Roberts Camera to grab some 35mm film. It was a bit surprising to find how expensive film is now, although I’m sure it’s driven by the drop off in film photography. Roberts has a great selection and so I grabbed a 400 ISO roll.

Next, I was lucky to find the original manual for the Signet 40, which walked me through loading the film and actually taking photos. I also found a great YouTube video in Japanese that walked through loading the camera and taking photos. Considering I was a little skeptical I was winding the film correctly, I was relieved to find the video. I was ready to go!

Over the course of a week, I used the Signet 40 to capture architecture spots around Indianapolis. I really had no idea what to expect when I had the film processed. The camera was 60 years old and we had little knowledge of its prior condition.  I took the photos to be developed and had to wait a long, long week to get the photos back.

Unfortunately, some of the photos did not turn out the best. I think I need to do a better job cleaning the camera. I need to do a better job learning the right settings when I take a photo with the camera – aperture, distance, and shutter speed. Since the Signet 40 is essential a manual camera, you have to really know your stuff! I’m trying to better educate myself on these subjects through watching other YouTube videos and reading articles. Also, since the camera is a fixed distance (i.e. no zoom), sometimes I just was a little too close and cropped out part of the subject.

Here’s a sample of the results.

I hope to grab another roll of film soon and give it another try.


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  1. What a special treat to have your grandfather’s cameras. My grandfather was a photographer during WWII and for the Smithsonian for many years. I wonder where his cameras are?? I think I need to e-mail some family members! I think your pictures turned out great. So long since I have used film but of course when I did it was with a point and shoot camera, so I didn’t need to worry about shutter speed, etc. I have a DSLR now and am learning about aperture, shutter speed, exposure, etc. but it’s a slow process. So much to know and practice. I especially love the snowy house. It looks like it’s in black and white – did you edit?

    • That’s really cool that your grandfather was a photographer for the Smithsonian. How amazing! You definitely need to try and track down his cameras. I bet he had some cool stuff.

      I agree — learning about aperture, shutter speed, exposure is a SLOW process. I keep watching YouTube videos and they are a great help. I am slowly learning and noticing when I do have the right settings I get clearer photographs. how cool is that!?

      The snowy house — no, it is not edited… it was just a grey day and that house is grey and white! But it kind of looks edited, doesn’t it?

      • I thought it might be because your other pics were color, so I thought maybe you used a B&W filter! It came out really neat and definitely looks like a vintage photo! I’ll let you know if I track down any old cameras. I have one particular aunt and uncle who leaved near them and I feel like they hoarded a bunch of his stuff :-/

  2. This is so so cool! You must bring that camera with you to NYC one time.

  3. Yes, I will — either in February or definitely in April! I need to clean it up some more — I got a camera cleaning kit — and hopefully it will take better photos!

  4. Glad to see you gave your Signet 40 some use! I’ve owned two and they are actually quite capable. Anymore when I shoot an all-manual camera I use a light-meter app on my iPhone to tell me how to set aperture and shutter speed. I’ve tried Sunny 16 and it works well enough for me in a pinch, but I like being more precise. And as for 35mm film, get thee to Meijer, where Fujicolor 200 can be had in multipacks for under three bucks a roll. That consumer-grade film is plenty good, especially for testing out an old camera.

    Here’s my review of this camera, with photos from my test roll:

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