The MFBOXCO rating isn't about how much we like a box, it's about the overall usability of the camera in the 21st century.
When we were figuring out how to rate the many box cameras that have come through the doors of MFBOXCO, we decided to try to remove as much subjectivity as we could from the equation, and focus on the features themselves.
We blame it all on the Kodak Beau Brownie No. 2. It's one of the most beautiful cameras ever made in any type or format - designed by a legendary master, Walter Dorwin Teague, and made in 5 colorways - but it's really just not so great to use today. At least, it's not as good when compared to a number of other 120 cameras.
We quickly realized that a rating system must be based on far more than aesthetics. Our purpose here at MFBOXCO is to help you make beautiful 85 megapixel negatives using these simple machines, and so functionality must trump everything else.
Using functionality as a starting point, we came up with these basic categories and subcategories (and their weighted number):
- BODY - Bakelite (.5), Cardboard (.75) or Metal (1)
- APERTURES - the number available
- FILTER - the number available
- SHUTTER TYPE - Always On (.75) or Always Off (1)
- SHUTTER CONTROLS - the number available
- FORMATS - the number available
- LENS - the number of focal lengths, plus Internal (1) or External (.75)
- FILM HOLDER - Metal (1) or Cardboard (.5), plus one if Integrated
- VIEWFINDERS - Easy to Clean (1) and Not Easy to Clean (.5)
- FLASH - Accessory Unit (.75) or PC Connection (1)
- AESTHETICS - +1 only if it's truly special (see below)
- EXTRAS - a tally of features included but not otherwise covered
We doubt that this is THE most scientific method. Some of the ratings are binary; 1 if the feature is present and 0 if not. Other ratings are simply a count. And as you can see above, some of the ratings carry different weights based on the quality of the feature. For example, Bakelite cameras are far more likely to be broken in critical spots than Cardboard or Metal cameras. Cardboard cameras are somewhat less durable than Metal cameras. So in terms of usability, metal is best, cardboard is great, bakelite is riskier. As a result, our lowest rating on the site is a 7 for the Ansco B2 Cadet - and our highest is 21.5 for the Zeiss Ikon Box Tengor 56/2.
Yes, we had to include a +1 for really beautiful cameras because the aesthetics are what attracts some of us to boxes in the first place. It has little to do with functionality, but maybe you will use it more, simply by attracting attention and conversation in public... This is our justification for including this metric to the list, and we stand by it.
We are open to hearing suggestions about modifying this system to be more objective and less subjective. For example, as long as the shutter fires, perhaps no one cares about the style and it can be removed entirely. Perhaps some of you have different experiences with internal versus external lenses. Maybe someone will help us with the math required to morph our ratings into a 1-10 scale, or a letter grade? And most certainly there will be disagreement about the aesthetic value we assign (or not).
As we say on nearly every page in this site - your contributions are valued!!