Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by gatorgums, May 26, 2007.

  1. Hello everyone.

    I hope this question is within the topic of this forum.

    A lot of the photographs in the book i am reading give credit to
    the USNA , or other branches of the US military.

    Could someone please tell me the type of camera commonly used
    by WW2 photographers ?

    More specifically, during and after the Normandy invasion, D-Day,
    many photos were taken of landings, beach scenes etc.

    They must have used pretty decent cameras because the photos i looked
    were relatively clear with good contrast.

    Hope this is not a stupid question!

  2. I know military photographers were issued Speed Graphics till after the Korean War. That's what my Dad used. I'm sure they used whatever got the job done.
  3. Probably the most famous photos from D-Day were made by Robert Capa (who later died after stepping on a land mine in Viet Nam.) He was using "several Contax cameras" at least one of which was a 35 mm Contax and a apparently a 6x6 because he took some rolls of 120 film that were ruined. As often noted, all but 11 of his images were ruined in processing ... perhaps the most famous loss of photographic history ever. But his images from the actual D-Day landing are fairly blurry (perhaps from nerves, action, or the overheating in processing.) See: http://www.photo.net/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=00DdLJ . There were also a lot of Graflex Speed and Crown Graphics cameras used by military photographers (if you can imagine carrying one of those heavy beasts into the war zone) but they took (and still take) very nice sharp pictures ... which may be the ones you're seeing.
  4. Robert Capa used a Zeiss Ikon Contax II or IIa 35mm rangefinder for his famous shots on Omaha Beach. (His archives also contained over 10,000 6x6 negs shot with his Rollei TLRs.)
  5. Navy Officers where issued a Kodak Medalist camera ,which is a large rangefinder that shoots a 6x9 neg.They were to use the cameras to document navy life, and things like boating accidents.
  6. They must have used pretty decent cameras because the photos i looked were relatively clear with good contrast.
    No *X&$#**X&$#**X&$#**X&$#*! As the others pointed out, military photographers used Graflex Speed Graphics ("Combat Graphics") or Super D Graflex SLRs -- these are large format cameras, if the term means anything to you. Add fine-grained film and you get stunning, sharp and detailed pictures with extreme resolution. I guess not even the most expensive digital back available today will beat such a large format negative in terms of details and "megapixels" -- to say nothing of "bokeh" and the nice, diffused look of large flash bulbs.
    And of course the film wasn't processed by the local one-hour photo minilab with a bored high-school-age minimum wage worker, but by dedicated professionals with decades of experience (Capa's misfortune was caused by an excited and new lab technician... I always wonder what happened to him).
    In Germany and Europe Rollei TLRs and Leica and Contax 35mm rangefinders were predominant. Robot cameras were used as gun cameras, and soldiers and civilians used any mix of 35mm and medium format folders, box cameras and probably even plate cameras.
  7. Robert Capa used a Zeiss Ikon Contax II or IIa 35mm rangefinder for his famous shots on Omaha Beach. (His archives also contained over 10,000 6x6 negs shot with his Rollei TLRs.)
    The Contax IIa was not introduced until well after WWII, so it would have been a Contax II.
  8. I read some books and from some of the photos, I can see that they were using Rolleifelx.
    Speed Graphics were commonly used for newspaper reporter during that time.
  9. I suspect that most processsing in WWII was done by pimple-faced GI's in the quartermaster area that might be in their late teens...
  10. As I understand it US forces in WW II had both military photographers who used military issue still cameras such as the Kodak medallist cited above, and also embedded press photographers such as Capa, Rosenthal etc who used whatever cameras they wanted. In the case of Rosenthal's 'Raising the flag on Iwo Jima' a Speed Graphic was used while another photographer used a cine camera to film it.

    UK forces photographers originally were issued with press cameras which they found unsuitable for combat conditions. Later they were issued with German-made Zeiss Super-Ikontas wafter a shipment had been 'liberated'.

    There was also some 'unauthorised' photography. A couple of RAF pilots in the far east competed to get the best picures of rockets from their Beaufighter aircraft hitting their targets. The results were spectacular though I can't lay my hands on an example at present. I expect this sort of thing happened all over the place.
  11. There was also an interesting lighter and sturdier version of the Speed Graphic, called the Combat Graphic, which eliminated bellows focusing and replaced it with a focusing mount on the lens. Seen on ebay occasionally.<P>The standard issue for cinema was the 16mm Bell and Howell.<P>The "kid" who ruined Bob Capa's D-Day photos eventually became one of the best known Life photographers (whose name somehow escapes me).<P>I believe that German WW2 photographers used Leicas and 9x12 press cameras such as the Voigtlander Avus.
  12. Larry Burrows, was the name of the "kid", who later became the leading war photographer after Capa.
  13. No, Rick, a 15-year-old "Dennis Banks" was responsible, and there cannot be found anything else about him on the internets.

    So there were three kinds of photographers in WW2: Military photographers and official war correspondent (Americans: big cameras like the Medalists, Graflex and Graphics), "embedded" photo journalists (Rolleis, Leicas, Contax and similar), and soldiers and civilians taking pictures -- unofficially and often against no-photography orders (mostly contemporary amateur gear, but also high-end cameras like Leica, Rollei and Super Ikontas).
  14. I'm not certain whether Capa used a Contax II or the III which was the metered version.
  15. The standard Kodak 35 (1938-1848) was also made as a Kodak PH324 in dark colors for the US Army Signal Corps. If you Google it there are a lot of references. I don't know how many were made or how they were used.
  16. If you'd like to do some more reading on the subject, I can suggest the floowing books:

    1) "Combat Cameraman" by Jerry Joswick and Lawrence Keating. This is mostly about movie photography with the Army Air Force. Joswick seems mostly to have used a Bell & Howell Eyemo. The rear cover on my paperback (Pyramid Press 1963) copy shows a GI in cobat gear using a Speed Graphic.

    2) "Armed With Cameras" Peter Maslowski (Free Press 1993) Eyemos and Speed Graphics appear prominently in the photo section.

    3) "Yankee Nomand" by David Douglas Duncan (Holt, Rinehart, & Winston, 1967). There are a couple of photographs of Duncan with what appears to be a Super Ikonta. In the Korean War and later, Duncam was well known for using a Leica.
  17. Jezus, Mike, that old Contax is beautiful.
  18. Ah yes, I found the reference to it on Wikipedia now. My source was "The Camera at War" by Jorge Lewinski from back in the 70s.
    I stand corrected, Sir Bueh B.
  19. I believe Robert Capa used a Leica during the Spanish civil war and went to a Contax II and Rollei in WWII then to a Contax IIa after the war. When he went to Japan, just before his fatal trip Viet Nam, he evidently was impressed with the Nikon RF and was carrying both the Contax and Nikon RF's when he was killed in 1954. I would guess that the Nikon was a gift from Nikon.
  20. The Kodak 35 in military trim was in Kodak adverts in state side maqazines during WW2. These cameras were used for less pressing quality images. In the USA a common 116/616 or 120/620 folder was way more common than a TLR. After the warthe rumor was a zillion speed graphics and kodak 35's military cameras were crushed so the stateside camera market would not be ruined via a mess of surplus cameras. At home most non military folks used folders, Argus 35mm sometimes. Contact printing was normal. Kodacolor came out during WW2; 8 exposure 620 2x3" cameras shot 6 exposures with Kodacolor. Laler the full roll was used.
  21. If I had to judge just by the pulitzers from the time period I'd have to say Graphics all around.
  22. jtk


    I used to work for David Lomasney, a British stringer who, after escape from German POW camp, somehow trailed MacArthur in the Pacific. David used a Speed or other Graphic that he'd had custom-built of aluminum.

    He had to compete with MacArthur's large, personal PR staff, which included the vainglorious general's makeup artist as well as several photographers. David reported processing his own film in jungle conditions.

    He was later captured in Burma by the Japanese (I met two of his fellow POWs in San Francisco, as well as a former OSS man who'd been tortured by the Germans in France) ... David and his POW friends joked about British vaudville in Japanese camps (think "Bridge on the River Kwai" http://history.sandiego.edu/GEN/filmnotes/bridgekwai.html )
  23. Thanks for all of the input.
    Very fascinating.
    I asked in part, because l wondered how anyone
    could lug some of the larger cameras around,
    while in battle conditions and take photos.
    Now l know.
    The krauts would have been just as happy to
    hit the camera guy as the paratrooper coming down l suppose.
  24. Some of the surplus military cameras were given to other federal agencies and in the early 1960s I used both a Kodak 35 variant and the Combat Graphic (the 4x5" Speed Graphic enclosed in a wooden, OD box, with a drop down flap on the front). There was a later 70mm "Combat Graphic" camera that was another thing altogether (1953 Korean War vintage model KS-6(1)).I was taking pictures for the Smithsonian in archaeological projects in the northern Plains. It is my understanding that most of the motion picture film shot and much of the smaller still photography was actually shot in color film and turned into B&W for newsreels, newspapers, etc. Discovery or one of the formerly historically-oriented cable channels (pre-UFO days) had a series on WWII in color that used much of this.
  25. From what I've read I suspect 90 percent of the photos shot by American military combat photographers and embeded press photographers in WWII were with Speed Graphics. As far as the size factors--it's all a matter of what you get used to using. Someone who really knew how to handle a 4x5 could crank out shots pretty fast even using cut film holders. They used a lot of "film packs" where you advanced to the next film sheet (thinner than cut film, by just pulling a tab. Something like 12 shots to a pack I think. There were some people packing 35mm but the film in those days was pretty grainy and slow. Plus, the 4x5 would have been a lot easier to repair in the field. 35mm really didn't get into war photography in a major way until Korean when civilian correspondents discovered Nikkor lenses. Some credit Capa and other Horace Bristol--a long time LIFE photographer--they and others all probably played a role. Even up until the early 1970s the Army still had Speed Graphics in the TOE (Table of equipment). In fact we still had one in our public information detachment after they issued us brand new Canon F1s and Made in Canada Leica M4s.
  26. I have a quote here that I saved in wordpad last year,
    but for the life of me can't recall where I got it from...:

    Interesting show... I was a Army Photographer 1954-56. Most of time I used, from
    left over WW2 stock, a Kodak 35 (non rangefinder) Military Model. These were
    finished in O.D. with all metal parts in black. The lens was a 3.5 with all
    numbers and lettering in white. There was one exception, we called
    "combat" settings, these were the shutter speed of 100, f:8 and the
    distance of 25'. These were marked in red. By using this combination there
    was no need to focus each time and you were able to obtain useable negtives
    under most conditions. The film I used was Kodak SuperXX that had a speed of
    100 daylight and 80 tungsten. I still prefer B&W today.

    KOREA...The Forgotten War

  27. I was an Army combat cameraman between '69 & '71. In training we used WW II era Speed's. The green ones you see every so often on a well known internet auction site. The government must have bought a bazillion of them. There is no better learning tool for photography. I had already been in the business when I was drafted. We stepped up through Rolleis and Leicas as training continued. In the field you used what was on hand. The boss liked a big neg so the grip-and-grin's were shot on Linhoff's and Tri X film packs. There were Singer/Graphlex 2 1/4 rangefinders but they are an unhandy camera but are OK if you set it up before hand and have all the time you need to adapt it to the job at hand. He liked big negs but he used his own Rollei. I used my own Nikons. Never let me down. Still tying every bundle. Maybe some of my pix are stored away somewhere captioned 'US Army photo'. After they left the lab they were just 'gone' and you went on to the next assignment.

    I look at WW II pix and for the most part they were taken by hairy legged soldiers just like me going where they were sent and doing their jobs. Hoping there would be an end to end this thing and go back home.
  28. The Kodak 35 of the WW2 era has a 4 element lens of Tessar type design. Its not an Ektar; but one that focuses by moving the front element. This means the performance is not as uniform as a Tessar over all distances. Usually one sets the best design point at moderate distances say 10 to 15 feet; and allows the infinity and super close performance drop due to SA. A true Ektar like on the Signet 35 focuses by moving the entire group as one unit; it has better performance over all focused distances. When stopped down a few stops the WW2 Kodak 35 delivers an excellent quality image. Panatomic-X during WW2 was equalvalent to an asa of 25, Plus-X was 50, Super-XX was 100. In bright sun with Panatomic-X one can shoot at 1/125 @F8 an get a fine shot. The WW2 era negatives of my fathers done with Panatomic-X have a decent fine grain. The images shot with Super-XX in the ww2 era have a decent amount of grain. Both of the shots below were developed in D-76<BR><BR>Here is a WW2 era shot with a 1941 Kodak Bantum with a F2 ektar and Super-XX/D76 scanned with a real film scanner; a Canon 2710; not a flatbed.<BR><BR><img src="http://i4.photobucket.com/albums/y148/ektar/Bantum828/tripods-414.jpg?t=1180365886"><BR><BR><img src="http://i4.photobucket.com/albums/y148/ektar/Bantum828/tripods-415.jpg?t=1180366078"><BR><BR>Here is a shot from 1971 using Tri-X/D76 with a Konica Auto S2 @F5.6 ; scanned with an Epson 2450 flatbed<BR><BR><img src="http://i4.photobucket.com/albums/y148/ektar/teletach/tripods-244.jpg?t=1180366492"><BR><BR><BR><BR><img src="http://i4.photobucket.com/albums/y148/ektar/teletach/tripods-189.jpg?t=1180366544"><BR><BR><BR><BR><img src=""><BR><BR><BR><BR><img src="http://i4.photobucket.com/albums/y148/ektar/teletach/tripods-190.jpg?t=1180366593"><BR><BR>Sheet film Tri-x was introduced in WW2; roll film Tri-x came out in the 1950's. Note the less grain on the tri-x shot of 1971 versus the grain of the Super-XX ww2 shot. Larger formats were used when one could not use panatomic-x in 35mm. The Bantum/828 shot is with a 28x40mm negative; only about roughly 24x36mm was scanned; the amount seen by the canon 2710 scanner.
  29. Here is what Kodacolor from 1944 looks like; full frame of a 616 negative; shot with a Kodak 616 folder. The asa was Twenty Five/ 25. A zoom closeup of the mystery camera the woman has shows a tad of grain;) <BR><BR><img src="http://i4.photobucket.com/albums/y148/ektar/Kodacolor%201944/tripods-216.jpg?t=1180367708"><BR><BR><img src="http://i4.photobucket.com/albums/y148/ektar/Kodacolor%201944/tripods-217.jpg?t=1180367916"><BR><BR><img src="http://i4.photobucket.com/albums/y148/ektar/Kodacolor%201944/tripods-218.jpg?t=1180368013"><BR><BR><img src=""><BR><BR><img src="http://i4.photobucket.com/albums/y148/ektar/Kodacolor%201944/tripods-220.jpg?t=1180368064">
  30. If anybody knows what the mystery camera is please guess; I am not sure.
  31. Many amateurs of that era used Verichrome, which could be processed under a red safelight to determine proper development time. This might hve been an advantage for military use also. Any info?
  32. What a great, interesting thread.
  33. The KE-12 Speed Graphic was the primary still camera used by Signal Corps photographers, and the one you see in most of their training materials. The military version of the non-RF Kodak 35 (aka PH-324) pops up, but I haven't been able to tell how commonplace it was. Some of the smaller ad-hoc photo sections in the Signal Corps used pretty much whatever they could get their hands on.
  34. There were military versions of the Kodak Signet 35, Argus C4, and Bolsey B (obviously these too late for WWII). All in dark colors. Google and see Stephen Gandy for more info. Also Kardon cameras were apparently asembled from Leica parts and Kodak lenses for the miltary, after WWII.
  35. WOW!
    OF HISTORY, AND MECHANICAL THINGS. I Have to know everything,
    but knowing that l never will, l keep reading.

    WHAT AN INCREDIBLE THING THAT WAS; the whole d-day operation. fascinating to view the photos and read as much as i can on the Normandy invasion.
  36. Out on the Net, the name escapes me now, is a page of WW2 US Navy photographs taken by a photo-minded crewman with a Navy-issued Kodak Medalist. Probably Google on Navy, Medalist, and Photos would find it fast. The same content is on 2-3 sites. Very good site, informative about the difficulties in getting film and chemistry at that time as well.

    The collection of photos has been a treasure trove for historians, because a lot of photography wasn't permitted. But on that particular ship, the crewman in charge of photos was an enhtusiast, and the captain gave him a lot of leeway. As a result, some of the photos are the only records of day-to-day life aboard a WW2 US Navy ship.
  37. Thanks for that link.
    here it is http://desausa.org/uss_oflaherty_history.htm

    The photo of the hound on that canon is too much.
  38. Hi all,

    I joined the Navy in '48 through 57, a couple of years after WWII, before, during, and after Korea. there was no money for anything after the war so I can guarantee you that WWII stuff was till around. I was a Navy Corpsman including 3 years as a combat corpsman with the USMC. Graduated from USN Medical Photography School in 1954, NNMC Bethesda, MD, and naturally all of my photo credits were "Official USN Photo". Name credits in the military didn't take place until well into the 1960's!

    For the Navy and Marines, the primary combat cameras were 4x5 Graflex Speed Graphic, Graflex Crown Graphic, and to a lesser extent a few Medalist's (one of the greatest cameras ever designed or produced). Aboard ship there were some times black body Bolsey B2 35mm cameras, a pretty amazing camera with good Wollensak lenses and lousy Alphax shutters (some of these were also made for the Air Force in grey body). In the Navy and Marines, there were precious few Graflex 70mm Combat Graphics and nobody liked them anyway, the loading and processing were a pain. For studio photography 4x5 Graflex View I and View II together with some 4x5 Kodak Master View cameras (later to be purchased and redesigned intelligently by Calumet).

    I was a medical photographer at Bethesda and then chief photographer at USN Hospital, St. Albans, Queens, NY (where one of my fellow corpsman and Korean War vets was Bill Cosby, in those days were were both skinny).

    At Bethesda we used 4x5 Speed and Crown Graphics with 3 lenses each, 200 WS portable Ascor electronic flashes, in the studio we used 8x10 Deardorffs with a Petzval type portrait lens, plus a full complement of Goerz Apo Artars, 4x5 Graphic View II's and Commercial and Wide Field Ektars.

    At St. Albans we shot 8x10 Eastman View, 4x5 Graphic View I and II, Commercial and WF Ektars, 4x5 Crown Graphics (90mm, 127mm, 240 Tele), 2 Exaktas, 2 Leica 3F, and 1 Leica 1F. for slide production, I used any of the Leicas with reflex housing, bellows and 135mm short mount Hektor. We also used Polaroid b/w slide film for use with the press camras to produce lantern slides. This was a huge teaching and research hospital (as was Bethesda) and our 35mm slide production ran from 50,000 to 100,000 yearly. We never had repair problems with our Leicas but for every 4 or 5 thousand Exakta exposures repairs would be needed, after 2 or 3 repairs we'd throw the cameras away. Interestingly, we still used "Lantern Sldes" in the 50's, 3 1/4"x4", glass mounted and of course my hands were cut up all the time from processing and mounting glass slides. For motion picture film I had Kodak Cine special cameras and a full complement of Kodak lenses for 16mm motion pictures.

    At the end of 1957, I took my second Honorable Discharge, and used my Korena War GI Bill (such as it was, and it wasn't much) and went to Brooks Inst. in Santa Barbara. This was my third school of photograpy and my tenth year as a photographer starting at Brooks.

  39. i read the the "kine exactas" were prized bu us submariners for shots of sinking japanese ships thru the perisopes.
    they must have grabbed many slr's from civilian hands duirning WW II
    to supply the sunmarinerrs.

    I also heard there was a swap of rubberized curtain material for leicas, one of the very few swaps between germany and the united states. can anyone confirm this?> some say it was red, not black in color.
  40. During WWII soviet military photojournalists usually used leicas and FED's (most mass soviet camera of the time for exception of Fotokor) and usually with standard lens. From leicas most popular model was IIIa. Of course there were many other models in use, including format and MF, but these were most relaible and comfortabe in hard battle conditions. Amateurs used what they have.

    In my collection I have Welta Weltur 645, which was captured by granfather of my friend in Austria in 1945 :)
  41. Here's an image of Capa and fellow Magnum founder George Rodger in 1943:


    Capa has a Contax II, and Rodger a Leica III (or IIIa, etc.), and what looks like a Rolleiflex (which Capa is also known to have used). Take a look at both photographers' pages on the Magnum site for many examples of their wartime work on 35mm and 6x6 (but don't judge their technical quality on the basis of Capa's melted D-day photos!). Of course neither of these photographers was exactly typical, and the Magnum founders were a bit ahead of their time in routinely using 'miniature' formats for serious journalism (though they weren't the first to do so).
  42. Reposting of an earlier post lost in the crash: Old government equipment had a way of being passed on to other government agencies. One result was that I was given some kind of Kodak 35 and, more interestingly, a Marine Combat Graphic by the Smithsonian Institution in the 1960s for archaeological documentation. This was the real thing, a Graphic embedded in a wooden box, not the 70mm later Combat Graphic of the Korean War. Here's a picture of me and the Combat Graphic at work in the Oahe Reservoir area in South Dakota.
  43. The flag raising on Iwo Jima was taken with a Speed Graphic. Some civilian photogs may have used 35mm or 120 but the military combat photographers used Speed Graphics.
  44. The Speed Graphic wasn't the only camera used by official military photographers:<p>
    <img src="http://www.dogfacesoldiers.org/photographers/images/03.jpg"><br>
  45. Here is a link to a photo of famed combat photographer David Douglas Duncan, shot by none other than Navy Lt. Cmdr Richard M Nixon!

  46. Cool stuff Lynn. Cosby must have tended to Korean vets instead of being one; he was 13 when war started. Lantern slide projectors were still sold new in the 1970's; higher end ones are/were popular for movie work and theater backgrounds. During WW2 my dad used a giant folder, a prewar 35mm Retina and an argus A series when working in the defense industry. My grandfather used a 8x10 camera in working for the railroad in that era; contact prints are abit rich with detail.
  47. I guarantee you that Cos spent nearly 4 years in the Navy, we discharged him 3 months at early at St. Albans (1957) so that he could go to Temple University (football scholarship), he was tall, skinny, and very funny, in minor trouble from time to time and he was certainly older than 13!. In his Junior year he had a knee injury that prevented him from continuing football. We liked the guy very much and were surprised when in about 1967 or so he was on the Tonight show for the first time with Johnny Carson doing his routine on martial arts.

    Shortly after Cos, I took my discharge after 9 years and went to Brooks.

  48. There are several pictures of General Patton using a Leica with what appears to be a Summar lens. Wonder what ever happened to his WWII pictures?
  49. Thanks for all the interesting stuff.

    For some reason, I have a fascination with WWII cameras.
    Hogan's Heroes, a TV series about life in a Stalag shows lots of cameras. They use everything from Leicas to Speed.
    I'm especially astounded by the espionage cameras.
    They were tiny and seemed way ahead of their time.
    For example, with some of the sub-miniatures, there was no need to advance the film.
    And there was one that looked like a Minolta although it came with a protruding lever, presumably to advance the film.

    Could anyone please let me know more about these cameras, or where I can find out more.

    Many thanks,
  50. rdm


    Wow JDM, i didn't know there was another version of the Combat graphic. From everything i knew about the combat graphic, i never came across a version that looked like the one you had. I always thought this was how a combat graphic looked.
    Designed by Hubert Nerwin who also designed the Contax IIa and IIIa before he came to america to desighn the Combat graphic, wich explains the similarity in look to the Contax. This Contax like camera is a 70 mm film format creation that had interchangeable lenses.
  51. Kelly,
    the Kodachrome-womans mystery camera might be a Tahbes, a 1950s camera from Dutch origin.
    You can read more about it here . There were other models as well with an integrated finder, more dome-shaped, like the picture shows.
    How this got in a picture like that is beyond me.

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