RoBoT II, Back from the dead!

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by rick_van_nooij, Feb 10, 2014.

  1. Last Christmas I was given a broken Berning Robot II camera body from Kris Bocheneck through Dave Carroll (Thank you for your generocity, gentlemen).
    This particular model is German Airforce gun/reconnaissance camera, correctly marked with "Luftwaffen-eigentum" and the serial number starts with an F.

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    The large knob on the top deck houses a double spring-unit, which allowed the camera to shoot about 50 24x24mm photos on one full wind. Enough for one full 135-36 roll. The single spring unit versions, like the pre-war civilian ones, only allowed you to shoot half as many frames on a full wind.


    These cameras were used as an alternative to the EK-12 16mm cine gun cameras and could be installed in the left wing of the Focke-Wulf FW-190 fighter aircraft. It was less frequently used on the Messerschmitt BF-109. It was hooked up to a solenoid that would repeatedly depressed the shutter button when the guns were fired. It is said that it could shoot about 4 to 5 frames per second, but I feel it was probably closer to 2 or 3 per second.
    The camera was also used by the photo reconnaissance versions of these two fighter aircraft.
    Or it could be shot by hand by the crew of other military aircraft.

    A special aerial reconnaissance Robot 375 camera was used with an extended magazine and electric drive that could take 375 photos on 10 meters of film.

    After the war many of these luftwaffe cameras were converted to civilian cameras by the Berning Robot Company. But as this one was a GI bring-back it never underwent this conversion, hence it still has the original top deck without a viewfinder built in.


    Now, my particular example had a stuck shutter and the springs in the winding unit were broken. I cleared the jam myself, but couldn't source new spring units. After asking around on some forums I was pointed towards Robot-Kameradienst.de : A repair service run by Fritz and Andreas Kergl. Both are (former-) Berning Robot employees and acquired all the spare parts when the Robot Company stopped manufacturing non-industrial cameras.
    After emailing back and forth I decided to have the camera serviced and shipped it to them shortly after new-year.
    I was rather surprised when it came back within 2 weeks. IN FULL WORKING ORDER! o_O
    Little movie of the working shutter
    Of course, a working camera is nothing without a lens or the 2 required film cartridges. So the hunt was on.
    One of my regular camera goodie dealers had a RoBoT Junior on offer, with a 40mm lens and the 2 cassettes. Unfortunately, it had sold a few days earlier. Darn!
    However, he did have a nice Schneider 7.5cm f/3.8 Tele-Xenar on offer. And better yet, it was also marked "Luftwaffen-eigentum".

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    Okay it wasn't in a black finish, but I could live with that. So I jumped on it.
    It arrived a few days later:
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    The special "N" take-up cassette came from a Dutch 'ebay'-like site and the "T" feed cassette came from a German seller on Ebay (together with an Agfa reloadable cassete).

    I Macgyvered together a viewfinder from some left over plasticard and loaded the camera with some Agfa Superpan 200. The viewfinder wasn't particularly accurated so I had to do some serious cropping in the end.



    Remembrance ceremony at the Capelse Veer
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    Not too bad. The viewfinder has been adjusted now and there's still a little haze in the lens I want to clean up in the near future.
    I will run some more film through it soon and hopefully get some better compositions.

    Another classic manual camera saved!
     
  2. Wow, what a find...that really is a classic. I have never owned a Robot camera but have been tempted on many occasions...must resist!
    The TeleXenar looks to have a nice soft quality and will make a great portrait lens when you get that VF sorted :)
    Well done for persevering with this camera..takes some dedication.
     
  3. Almost €300 worth of dedication! >_<
    Hahaha :)
    I've read that the Tele-Xenar isn't quite as good as the 7.5cm Sonnar, but those are a lot harder to find.
    I suspect it will be a little less soft once I've cleaned the internal glass surfaces (if I can get to them).
     
  4. Well done.
    This one deserved recovery. Fantastic.
     
  5. SCL

    SCL

    I always thought the Robot was such an oddity...it is so nice to see how you brought this one back to life. Great job and nice shots with it.
     
  6. Epically cool!
     
  7. Outstanding!
     
  8. Well done!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Thanks for saving such a historical camera.
     
  9. Small correction:
    Where I said "EK-12" it should read EK-16 / BSK-16 "Ballistic Shot registration Camera". Mea culpa!
     
  10. Nice rescue and great results. Thanks for posting.
     
  11. Installed as a gun camera in a Focke-Wulf FW-190 or Messerschmitt BF-109 fighter aircraft. That had to built withstand some major vibrations!
    Outstanding rescue and restoration job! Certainly looks like the results merit the work put in too!
     
  12. Great job! I love to see these cameras restored like this.
    Kent in SD
     
  13. Camera clearly got to the right place. Thanks for posting the pics Rick - I never actually got to see it.
     
  14. I almost bought a Robot like this in 1960. If you looked into a hole in the side of the camera, it was a right-angle viewfinder. So you could point the camera out the window facing at right angle from you and see what you were photographing. Love your camera!
     
  15. Really fascinating, Rick. That's a truly rare and classic piece of equipment. Thanks for an enlightening post.
     
  16. Thanks All,
    I never even dreamed I would one day own an actual military Robot Camera. Guess I should start saving up for a plane....

    Now, I've never actually seen war-time images taken with these cameras. If you go searching for Luftwaffe Gun Camera stills or footage on the web, you only get to see the 16mm stuff. :(
     
  17. Excellent post, always thought these looked cool, just never had any interest to pick one up. Thanks Rick.
     
  18. WOW!!! Excellent! I am so happy to see it restored and working.
     
  19. Hi Rick,
    This is the camera my grandfather brought back from the war. When he returned to Kansas he apparently tried loading it with film and using it as a civilian camera, but never used up the roll or even got what he had shot developed. He lost interest, but kept it the rest of his life. And so it sat, film in place, until he passed ten years ago at my parents' home in Tennessee. My father found the camera while sorting out his Michigan estate and gave it to me. I kept it for about ten years not realizing there was film in the camera until my parents mentioned it.
    I have a colleague at work, Kris, who I knew to be a camera aficionado, and I brought in the camera to show him one day. I mentioned that there was film still in it and asked whether he knew how to develop it. He agreed to give it a shot and what developed were some eerie, ghostly photos of my grandpa's life on a Kansas farm. Really cool. Perhaps Kris will share them.
    He really liked the camera, and it seemed to me such a waste to leave it set and degrade over time, so I arranged a trade with him for some military surplus cans. After all, I was mainly interested in the memories it contained and would never have gotten it restored anyway.
    So it really pleases me to see the work you've done bringing it back.
    Keith
     
  20. Hello Keith,

    Glad to hear the effort is appreciated. I'm certainly going to use it more often, and it is one of the prize pieces in my collection.
    I would love to hear what unit your grandfather served with.
    It's always wonderful to hear the background stories of these sort of GI bring-back toys. It's amazing how many cameras were appropriated by the US soldiers in Europe. Lewinsky mentioned in his book "The Camera At War" that as many every one in two GIs carried one by the end of the war.
    They definitely were a popular commodity to trade and barter with.


    A full roll of 135-36 film does take a good while to fill up with the 50 or so images. I have the same problem with my Mercury II camera. I can understand why people lost interest.


    More photos from the same roll
     

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