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1940s Camera

Discussion in 'Classic Models & Marques' started by EliseLeveque, Sep 26, 2012.

  1. 0lybacker

    0lybacker In the Stop Bath

    If you choose to be a civilian photographer, then a 5x4 'plate' camera would be the thing: the Speed Graphic comes to mind. Other posters might be kind enough to confirm that is right. I seem to recall they produced a 'Press' model.

    A military photographer might have also used that. But in a combat zone (and for an attached civilian in such circumstances) a Leica or a Rolleiflex would be more appropriate, especially the former. A Leica 111A or C model would be the one to go for and if used with a lens other than 50mm you will need a supplementary viewfinder to 'look authentic'.

    Have fun!
  2. gray1720

    gray1720 Well-Known Member

    The advantage of going for the Leica/Contax look (I suspect you'll find that you can afford a Fed/Zorki/Kiev rather than the real thing - though I believe some of the period Contaxes are relatively inexpensive compared to Leicas) is that you will be able to use 35mm film if you choose to really take pictures (I suspect that whatever your feelings, you will get asked to see what you've taken rather a lot!) -having said that I'm not sure if you can use a standard 35mm cartridge, though - which might render the rest of my statement above obllocks... If you want to use the 5x4 (or the Purma I mentioned upthread), you'll need to either develop your own or find a sympathetic developer. That might be too much like hard work.

    An early Kodak Retina would be ideal as they were designed by the German Nagel company who Kodak bought out in about 1935 just after they'd invented a cartridge for loading 35mm film in daylight - yes, the modern 35mm cassette. They were a genuine professional quality camera despite the Kodak name, and you could use easily available B&W film.

    Do note that my suggestions are all biased in favour of something you can use - as I like to use my oldies - so feel free to ignore of you don't want to go down that route!

    Any help?

  3. stevejs

    stevejs New Member

    I recall that when Alan Whicker made a TV series a few years back about his time in the Army Film and Photography Unit during WW2, he mentioned that they were issued with Super Ikontas. He did not seem greatly impressed!
  4. Ben Myerson

    Ben Myerson Member

    Yes they did.
  5. photogeek

    photogeek Well-Known Member

    Well my two oldest cameras are a Leica III and a Zeiss Ikon 515/16 (120 film) and both would be good for the period - both being from mid 1930's, the big bonus for the Zeiss is it looks big and old and I picked mine up for less than £20 . The Leica is an engineering marvel but cost a lot more

    Hope this helps
  6. Craig Vanrooy

    Craig Vanrooy Active Member

    A really late response but I have have been researching for a similar answer and this post helped so thought I would add my findings.....

    As mentioned the press (British and US) almost always used plate cameras - Mainly Speed Graflex. There were eventually military versions but there is very little evidence to suggest they were used in the field.

    The British army had the AFPU department (Army film and photographic unit) whom were (usually) trained photographers and cine film operators and were attached to whatever main unit they served with. They were primarily issued with Super Ikonta 530/16 & 532/16 although there was cases where others were issued.

    Many military photographers also used personal cameras - I have seen many cases of Contax IIa's and Leica III's in use. Regular soldiers also had unregulated personal cameras - These varied from folding and box brownies all the way to commando ensigns with others in between.
  7. Fishboy

    Fishboy Well-Known Member

    I think you might mean the Contax II rather than the Contax IIa - the IIa wasn't introduced until 1949 whilst Contax II had been in production since 1936.

    I recently acquired a contax II and a couple of 1940s Speed and Crown Graphics with a view to attending a some 1940s events in costume and using authentic kit - the problem I found wasn't the cameras but all of the other stuff! You wouldn't believe how much people want to charge for an authentic pair of 1940s glasses to my prescription!

    Cheers, Jeff
  8. Craig Vanrooy

    Craig Vanrooy Active Member

    Ahhh Yes, Jeff you are correct. Indeed re-enacting can be an expensive affair! as it stands I portray British airborne and none of the kit is cheap! I managed to acquire a '44 Mk IV original sten gun and webbing. The Dennison smock, trousers and everything else is repro - I'd wanted to get away from taking my DSLR with me as it ruins the theme hence why I moved into film photography. Last year I was using a folding brownie but the lens board does not seem to align properly. this year my Fiancee treated me to a Leica IIIa which I am looking forward to using and I acquired a box of my uncles cameras which happened to have another (better spec) folding brownie which i presume was my grandads (really cant wait to test that one out!!!) Finally, last week I won a 532/16 for £80. After some tinkering I've managed to free up the aperture and just need to loosen the focusing ring. Because of this I've decided to portray AFPU too and picked up a webley holster and AFPU badge for the uniform.
  9. Terrywoodenpic

    Terrywoodenpic Well-Known Member

    There is a great deal of difference between a military photographer and a press photographer in the forties. Press photographers used plate cameras almost exclusively, especially Speed and crown graphics, Newman and Guardia press cameras from the late 30's and Thornton Pickards. especially in the provinces. and not forgetting the very nice Van Neck london press cameras.

    The MPP press did not join the fray till 1951. But by the mid 50's Rolleiflexes had taken over almost completely in the UK.
    At that time 35mm was never used for serious press photography, except perhaps by a few stringers.
    By 1956 Plate camera use for press use had all but vanished, except by some old timers.
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2017
  10. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    The danger of flat statements is that they are always misleading. I knew a gent who worked for Associated Press in London who used the Leica he had been issued in 1948. There was also a German or Polish man who worked for the Evening News and he used a Contax that was bought by the newspaper around 1955. I also knew at least three press men working in London in 1963 who were using either MPP or Graflex press cameras.
  11. Terrywoodenpic

    Terrywoodenpic Well-Known Member

    There are always exceptions....But those you mention are all well after the war.
    I started my photographic working life in in London in the mid fifties. I was told by two papers not to send in films smaller than 120 as they could not process and print them. ( obviously they were able to, but did not choose to.)
    I was at college at the time, and we were "Banned" from using 35mm for college work.
    Victor Blackman was about the only press man advocating 35mm for press work but then he wrote for the AP. Even Jane Bown was still using her Rolleiflex.
  12. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    So our experience is different. I like to think that the more people who share their different experience the more useful the forum becomes because it reflects how diverse things have always been in photography.
  13. John Farrell

    John Farrell Well-Known Member

    I have an interesting book, written by a fellow called Lancelot Vining, who used a Contax for press photography (theatre photography) in 1936. After the war, he switched to a Voigtlander Prominent.
  14. Roger_Provins

    Roger_Provins Well-Known Member

    Lancelot Vining was the Daily Mirror photographer and wrote at least a couple of books (which I have) My Way with a Miniature and Sports and Games. Had a column "Miniature Camera Gossip" in AP for many years. Very well known and respected in his day.
    John Farrell likes this.
  15. David Traynor

    David Traynor Member

    The fact the British Government (through the armed forces, dealers and directly) during WWII were advertising to purchase for wartime use Leicas, Contaxes, etc., might be a hint that 35mm cameras were wanted and used.

    If the "more economical" option be aavailable, could I suggest a Soviet era Leica copy be considered (though for showing - not, if you want quality, for using).

  16. swanseadave

    swanseadave Well-Known Member

    Don`t know if you noticed David but this thread is 8 years old!
  17. Fishboy

    Fishboy Well-Known Member

    Interestingly enough, yesterday was the annual 1940s day in a town local to me, and once again I had a look beforehand to see whether I could pick up any appropriate kit to wear so that I could wander along with my 1937 Contax II and 1940s Crown Graphic (since both are currently in full working order and loaded with film!), but I'd left it too late.

    Over the next few months I might actually take the plunge and order myself a reproduction set of US Navy warm weather gear (Think Jack Lemmon in Mister Roberts). Of course then I'll have to buy the appropriate insignia, oh, and track down some authentic-looking glasses. Oh yes, I'll also have to arrange for my flowing locks to be chapped back into a 1940s short back and sides...and I suppose the beard will have to go.

    Cheers, Jeff

    PS - I wish I could remember where I read it, but I seem to recall reading a run-down of the equipment requirements for a press photographer at some time in the 1940s (possibly American) which specified that they should use a 5x4 camera - and recommended a Graflex - and went on to say that the photographer should also carry a 'miniature' camera such as a Leica or Contax as a back-up.
  18. steveandthedogs

    steveandthedogs Well-Known Member

    Why not RN - you could keep the fungus.

  19. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    Several of us replied last year so there's nothing wrong with reviving it yet again. I can easily imagine there wll be threads started now that people will be extending in many years time. That's the whole point of a forum IMO
    David Traynor likes this.
  20. Fishboy

    Fishboy Well-Known Member

    My beard and moustache is more in the mode of George Armstrong Custer. In order to pass as RN I'd need a proper full set - and therein lies the problem: When I try to grow a uniform beard over the rest of my face it ends up looking like a lawn that's badly in need of feeding.

    Cheers, Jeff
    steveandthedogs likes this.

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