Two Cameras in 1944

November, 1944, The National Mall, Washington, D.C. – Guys are training with military cameras.  What are the cameras?

Camera #1.

Tentative identification is a large-format Graflex Speed camera, possibly a PH-47-E or PH-47-F.  Please do not form the impression that I know anything about cameras; this ID is a result of clumsy stumbling through the results of a search made with the most generic of terms: “WWII US Army camera.”  Since I am ignorant of the names of any of the parts, a more elegant search phrase is beyond me, while a page like this or a table such as in here just result in crossed eyes.  Can any Ratburger camera geeks help me out?

Graflex Speed camera owned by a professional photographer

The claim has been made that a Graflex C-3 was taken apart and the flash gun modified into Luke Skywalker’s first light-sabre.  A person could spend all day deciding on the ethics of such a move; luckily there is too much else to do.

Camera #2

This is a complete mystery to me. Does the big rectangular viewfinder mean that it has to be a still camera?  Or could it be a movie camera with the reels contained completely within the cubic-rectangular body? That might be advantageous for jumping.

We know he took some 16mm footage; we actually have some.  But that might have been taken with this or with another camera.

Do all those lenses click around on a rotary base? (That would be striking, as Dad survived the war and became an optometrist, clicking trial lenses around a rotary base and asking Which is better, #1?  or #2?)

I’d be grateful for suggestions as to search terms for this camera, as  “WWII US Army movie camera” is evidently too general.

(Backstory to these photographs is available here, and here, plus here, and oh yes here, for anyone interested.  I am going through all posts in my family history blog, reviewing and revising, preparatory to resuming the research-and-archive job.)

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18 thoughts on “Two Cameras in 1944”

  1. Here is a brief description of the Cunningham, also from the Imperial War Museum site:

    The Cunningham Combat Camera was named after Harry Cunningham, the camera engineer who designed and built it during the Second World War. Made from magnesium, it was a lightweight design which made it ideal for filming live combat footage. Features included special grip handles and a rifle stock which ensured it was steady enough for hand-held use in the field. It was electric-powered and ran off small batteries, had a four-lens turret and lenses robust enough for use in tough conditions. However, the camera was not widely used and only came into service late in the war.

    Thanks, @ctlaw.

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  2. 10 Cents:
    Thank you for these pictures, jzdro. I bet your dad was an amazing photographer. Did he take a lot of family photos?

    Photo portraiture was something both he and his own father enjoyed messing with.  Now I have cartons of unlabeled prints, unlabeled, dating from 1915-1955.  It’s been real fun trying to figure out which ones are relatives and which ones are wedding-photography clients of my grandfather’s.

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  3. jzdro:

    10 Cents:
    Thank you for these pictures, jzdro. I bet your dad was an amazing photographer. Did he take a lot of family photos?

    Photo portraiture was something both he and his own father enjoyed messing with.  Now I have cartons of unlabeled prints, unlabeled, dating from 1915-1955.  It’s been real fun trying to figure out which ones are relatives and which ones are wedding-photography clients of my grandfather’s.

    Do you like cameras? I didn’t for a long time because my dad was always taking photos.

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  4. I have always looked like a mafia hit man, so for a long time I avoided having my picture taken. As a result there are few pictures of me in my younger days. Lately I am less affected by that, so I get in the yearly family Christmas picture.

    But back when my kids were about 9 & 13 we had a professional photographer make a portrait picture of our two kids together. It is one of my favorite pictures. We have one hanging on our wall, and I have a smaller version framed on my desk.

    I got into cameras while in the hospital in Yokosuka. I ended up buying a Nikon FTN, back in 69 a professional grade camera. For many years I took pics with that, generally in slide format. I have numerous boxes of slides from 69 to maybe 85. Lately  I have taken to taking the pics then having them put on a disc rather than prints.

    Edit: I forgot to mention I shoot film still. No “modern” digital shooter.

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  5. Devereaux:
    Lately  I have taken to taking the pics then having them put on a disc rather than prints.

    I had to explain to #3 baby the reason her image was not on the walls as much as the images of her brothers.  Well, sweetie, shortly after you came to us they invented digital cameras.  So your pictures are on computers more than they are on the walls.  Thus we move through tech transformations.

    On inheriting a collection of celluloid film from the ancestors, I took it all to a professional outfit to have it transferred to DVD.  (Since then, a nephew has taken the DVD uploaded to youtube; see how it goes?)

    Anyway, some of the footage was about WWII and the invasions of Poland; unsurprisingly the ancestors were going to acquire and retain such documentation.  So I went to pick up my transferred footage on DVD.  They proudly played footage for me, to demonstrate their transcribing and editing work.  The title page of the Poland films had, as bullet-point icons, RED STARS.  That was their idea of the right thing to do!  They thought:  Poland – commies – RED STARS.

    What would you have done?  I was just shocked; I paid the bill and took off with my swag.  Should I have raised hell instead?  You tell me.

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  6. One of the reasons the “Speed Graphic” was speedy was that it incorporated a rangefinder so that photographers could rapidly focus upon their targets without trying to guess the range.  Officially “speed” came from the focal plane shutter, which could provide an effective shutter speed of 1/1000 second (usable only in bright sunlight, but superb for sports).

    Most of these cameras were made for the 4 by 5 inch sheet film format, which was the standard for news photography from the 1920s into the 1950s.  Negatives in that format could be used directly without enlargement in many newspaper layouts.

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  7. John Walker:
    One of the reasons the “Speed Graphic” was speedy was that it incorporated a rangefinder so that photographers could rapidly focus upon their targets without trying to guess the range.  Officially “speed” came from the focal plane shutter, which could provide an effective shutter speed of 1/1000 second (usable only in bright sunlight, but superb for sports).

    Most of these cameras were made for the 4 by 5 inch sheet film format, which was the standard for news photography from the 1920s into the 1950s.  Negatives in that format could be used directly without enlargement in many newspaper layouts.

    The negatives from the camera was used directly to etch/make a plate for printing?

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  8. jzdro:

    Devereaux:
    Lately  I have taken to taking the pics then having them put on a disc rather than prints.

    I had to explain to #3 baby the reason her image was not on the walls as much as the images of her brothers.  Well, sweetie, shortly after you came to us they invented digital cameras.  So your pictures are on computers more than they are on the walls.  Thus we move through tech transformations.

    On inheriting a collection of celluloid film from the ancestors, I took it all to a professional outfit to have it transferred to DVD.  (Since then, a nephew has taken the DVD uploaded to youtube; see how it goes?)

    Anyway, some of the footage was about WWII and the invasions of Poland; unsurprisingly the ancestors were going to acquire and retain such documentation.  So I went to pick up my transferred footage on DVD.  They proudly played footage for me, to demonstrate their transcribing and editing work.  The title page of the Poland films had, as bullet-point icons, RED STARS.  That was their idea of the right thing to do!  They thought:  Poland – commies – RED STARS.

    What would you have done?  I was just shocked; I paid the bill and took off with my swag.  Should I have raised hell instead?  You tell me.

    I would have explained and have them change the graphic because it would have been easier to do so. It does make for a great story.

    I come from a family of 5 boys. The first two got more pictures. They got silver cups  and spoons with their names on them. Once a person hits three it is not quite the same. Life is busier and those things get looked over is my guess.

    How many children did you have?

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  9. John Walker:

    10 Cents:
    The negatives from the camera was used directly to etch/make a plate for printing?

    Sometimes, but in other cases they were enlarged or reduced to fit the composition of the page.

    Do you mean a larger or smaller negative was made? Other than printing does anyone enlarge a negative?

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  10. 10 Cents:
    Do you mean a larger or smaller negative was made? Other than printing does anyone enlarge a negative?

    It depends upon the process used to make hot metal printing plates.  Usually a positive paper print was made to the size prescribed by the editor, and then that was used to make a half-tone for printing.  Having a large negative meant you preserved more quality when cropping for publication.

    Eventually, the convenience of 24×36 mm film cameras won out, and everything you saw was an enlargement.  Improvement of film played a large part in this: better film formulations permitted the same resolution on a much smaller frame.

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  11. Speaking of WWII photos, perhaps THE most iconic photo taken was of the flag raising on Iwo. That was taken by Joe Rosenthal. He did not know what he had gotten at the time as he had just gotten up on Surabachi when they were raising the flag and he just blndly shot the pic. He put all his film in the satchel that went to AP. in the Philippines. There a film developer saw the shot, recognized the drama, and sent it out for publication. It hit the Sunday edition and it was the cover photo on EVERY newspaper in the US. It was a huge moral booster at a time when the nation needed something as all the news for the week previously had been about the terrible casualty rates on Iwo.

    Joe Rosenthal has (or had – not sure he’s alive still) that negative. He was guest of honour at a Marine Scholarship Ball. He made up a bunch of copies of the shot and gave them out to the organizers. My best friend from the Corps was in charge of the gala, so he had Joe autograph a copy to me. I have it framed in my study.

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