During WW2, the men and women covering the war used various cameras. As I obtain information about the equipment, more information will be online.

Let’s start with probably the most famous one…

The “Speed Graphic”

Produced by Graflex in Rochester, New York, the “Speed Graphic” is commonly called the most famous press camera. Although the first Speed Graphic cameras were produced in 1912, production of later versions continued until 1973; with the most significant improvements occurring in 1947 with the introduction of the Pacemaker Speed Graphic (and Pacemaker Crown Graphic, which is one pound lighter but lacks the focal plane shutter). It was standard equipment for many American press photographers until the mid-1960s.

Despite the common appellation of Speed Graphic, various Graphic models were produced between 1912 and 1973.The authentic Speed Graphic has a focal plane shutter that the Crown Graphic and Century Graphic models lack. The Speed Graphic was available in 2¼ x 3¼ inch- 3¼ x 4¼ inch and the famous 4 x 5 inch. Because of the focal plane shutter (backshutter), the Speed Graphic can also use barrel lenses.

The Speed Graphic was a slow camera. Each exposure required the photographer to change the film sheet, focus the camera, cock the shutter, and press the shutter. Faster shooting can be achieved with the Grafmatic film holder, which is a six sheet film “changer” that holds each sheet in a septum.Photographers had to be conservative and anticipate when the action was about to take place to take the right picture. The cry, “Just one more!” if a shot was missed was common. President Harry Truman introduced the White House photographers as the “Just One More Club.”

Perhaps the most famous Speed Graphic user was NYC press photographer Arthur “Weegee” Fellig, who covered New York in the 1930’s & ’40’s.

The 1942-1954 Pulitzer Prizes for photography were taken with Speed Graphic cameras.

The company name changed several times over the years as it was absorbed and then released by the Kodak empire, finally becoming a division of the Singer Corporation and then dissolved in 1973. The award winning Graflex plant in suburban Pittsford, New York is still standing and is home to the MOSCOM Corporation.

Kodak Ektra

The Ektra was a very advanced 35mm rangefinder camera launched by Kodak USA in 1941. Before World War II, Kodak presented some really advanced cameras under the supervision of Joe Mihalyi, among which the Medalist, Super Six 20 and Bantam Special.

The Ektra was a 35mm coupled rangefinder camera. The shutter was of the focal plane type, from 1s to 1/1000, with horizontally traveling cloth curtains. The Ektra had a system of interchangeable magazine backs, allowing to change film in the middle of a roll. The advance lever was at the left of the magazine back, and needed two strokes. The release button was at the left of the top plate. It is said that Mihalyi was left-handed, so all the camera was designed to be used by a left-handed person. However this theory is contradicted here.

The viewfinder incorporated a zoom device, from 50 to 254mm. Only the 35mm lens needed an external lens to be put in front of the finder. The viewfinder also had a diopter adjustment, from -3 to +3 diopters. The rangefinder of the Ektra had a very large base, but it was not integrated in the viewfinder.



The Ektra had interchangeable lenses with a breech lock mount engaging a fine screw thread. All the lenses were named Ektar. The available lenses were the following:

■ 35/3.3

■ 50/1.9, seven element

■ 50/3.5, four element

■ 90/3.5

■ 135/3.8

■ 153/4.5

All the lenses were coated, at first only on the internal surfaces, and later on all the lens elements. A 254mm lens was planned but apparently never produced. About 2000 of the 35mm, 90mm and 135mm were made, and 400 of the 153mm. The lens cases were very nice cylindrical aluminium boxes.

About 2500 Ektra were sold, and it was advertised until 1948.

Cineflex PH-330

This is the American copy of the Arriflex 35 II (1937), the first industrially produced 35mm camera with reflex system.

The Arriflex 35 II camera was produced in Germany and used during WWII. During the war, US soldiers brought back captured Arriflex cameras to the US, and produced a nearly identical copy, the Cineflex PH-330 manufactured by the Cineflex Corporation NY for the US military.

Bell & Howell 16mm Filmo – Eyemo Camera

The Filmo camera series started with the 1923 Filmo 70, beginning a series of models built on the same basic body that was to continued for more than half a century. It was based on Bell & Howell’s brilliantly designed 1917 prototype for a 17.5mm camera intended for amateur use. When invited (along with Victor) into Kodak’s 16mm plans in 1920, the company was quick to see the advantages and immediately set about redesigning the 17.5mm camera for 16mm film.

The Filmo 70 was the first spring motor-driven 16mm camera. In 1925 the Eyemo, a hand-held 35mm camera based on the design of the Filmo 70 was offered. It was also spring driven, but could be hand-cranked as well. Bell & Howell introduced the first 16mm turret camera with its Model C in 1927. A beautifully ornate and much more compact 16mm camera, the Filmo 75, marketed primarily as a “watch-thin” ladies’ camera, was offered in 1928, followed in 1931 by a nearly identical counterpart designated as the Filmo Field Camera, offered initially in a plain covering, but also available with the ornate decorations of the Model 75, and in that form indistinguishable from the earlier version except for the nameplate.

When Kodak introduced 8mm film in 1932, Bell & Howell was slow to take up the new format, and when it did so, it was not in the form of the Kodak standard. The first 8mm Filmo was offered in 1935 as a single-8 camera, the Filmo 127-A. However, single-8 did not appeal to the market as well as double-8, so the design was modified for double-8 as the 134-A in 1936. Production of Filmos around this body type continued into the 1950s. During WW2, the military was at first not interested in the small 16mm format, since 35mm was standard for everything, so it was not until the 1930’s that the more compact size of camera and film began to draw attention to efficiencies in size and cost that worked in favor of the cameraman and the government’s pocket book.

Built as tough as the Sherman Tanks it would be used to film during WWII, the B&H 70 was one of the most rugged, well designed and thoroughly dependable 16mm motion picture cameras ever built. Weighing in at six pounds sans lenses, it was one solid mass of steel and magnesium with hardly a plastic part other than the speed dial and footage indicator. The simplistic beauty of the camera was its ability to just run and run. A Filmo that has been locked away for five or ten or more years can be taken out of storage and, after a few drops of oil, put right back into service. In fact, at one time Bell & Howell sold their Filmo’s with a lifetime warranty against failure!

Thank you to Michael Cleveland for his imput. (

Zeiss Contax II

Introduced in 1936, the Zeiss Contax II was a completely different camera from the series of Contax cameras (now collectively referred to as “Contax I”) that had preceded it. It was only four years since the original Contax’s introduction, and only 10 since the formation of Zeiss Ikon itself. The Contax II was the company’s tour de force, offering features that would not appear elsewhere for decades.


The Contax’s shutter also offered unique advantages. Based on the Contax I design, the vertical shutter used only a single pair of ribbons to carry both the opening and the closing curtain, relying on the friction of the ribbons to hold the closing curtain in its proper place during travel.


While this seems odd at first, the advantages far outweigh the drawbacks. The primary problem with a typical focal plane shutter is the difficulty of making both curtains travel at exactly the same speed, as even a small difference can cause fading at high shutter speeds. With the Contax system, fading is impossible as there is only a single transport mechanism carrying both curtains.


This unique advantage allowed the Contax shutter to operate at the unheard-of top speed of 1/1250 second with perfect reliability. The shutter design also allowed all speeds to be set on a single dial, this being combined with the film winding knob to create a very streamlined package. And, unlike the Leica, the shutter dial did not rotate during exposure, eliminating the risk of a shot being ruined by a misplaced fingertip.

Good info can be found here :

Kodak 35

The Kodak 35 was introduced in 1938 as the first 35mm still camera of Kodak. It has its antique look from the lens/shutter unit that it inherited from earlier Kodak folding cameras.
The camera’s black body with rounded sides plus that lens/shutter unit and the top with two film advance wheels and the collapsible optical viewfinder give it a characteristic look.

The camera solidly crafted out of Bakelite with numerous metallic panels, inserts, and fittings. The back removes completely for film loading.
When first introduced, the Kodak 35 was offered in two different versions, varying in the lens/shutter offered:

  • Kodak Anastigmat 50mm f/5.6 (3 element triplet) in a three speed Kodex shutter (1/25 to 1/100 plus T and B)
  • Kodak Anastigmat Special 51mm f/3.5 (4 element Tessar design) in a five speed Kodamatic shutter (1/10 to 1/200 plus T and B)

During the war, the Kodak 35 was produced in an olive drab version for military use.

The black knobbed f/5.6 version was not produced after the war. Instead, the Kodak 35, now with flash synchronization, was re-introduced in two new versions:

  • - Kodak Anastigmat 51mm f/4.5 (3 element triplet, redesignated Anaston in 1947) in a four speed Flash Diomatic Shutter with speeds from 1/25 to 1/150 sec plus B and T
  • - Kodak Anastigmat Special 51mm f/3.5 (4 element Tessar design) in a five speed Flash Kodamatic shutter 1/10 to 1/200 plus T and B)

The Kodak 35 was consistently outsold in the marketplace by the Argus C series, which sold for substantially less and featured a coupled rangefinder and a much more “high-tech” appearance.
To counter the Argus, in 1940 Kodak introduced the Kodak 35 RF, which featured an awkward appearing but extremely functional coupled rangefinder.
Despite these improvements, and the optical superiority of the Kodak cameras, they were never to challenge Argus’ market domination.

The Kodak 35 originally sold in 1938 for a list price of $40 USD.


Kodak Medalist I

Kodak Medalist IThe Kodak Medalist was an unusual design for a medium format camera when it was introduced in 1941.
A Heavy and awkward rangefinder camera, known as “the professional’s heavy tank’.

A Kodak Super-Matic shutter to 1/400th.  F3.5 100m lens. Unusually for pre-war cameras, the lens was coated.

The Medalist was offered with a fair number of accessories.
The most unusual feature–the back design–allowed use of roll film, sheet film packs and cut sheet holders.
The back can be opened from either side or removed completely.
An auxiliary ground glass back can be fitted to allow critical focusing and, when this is in place, 6×9 film packs or 6×9 sheet film holders can be used. 620mm film 8 exposures.

The British Army’s AFPU manual stated that this camera ‘should only be handled by an experienced photographer’.
It was mainly used for used for color and infra-red photography from 1944 onwards.


Vinten Model K “Normandy” 35mm cine camera

Vinten Model K Normandy 35mm cine camera

This camera was designed and manufactured by the firm Vinten, The Model K Normandy was designed for the British Army “Army Film and Photographic Unit”, also known as “AF&PU” during the Second World War.


It featured a triple lens turret, 100 or 200 feet daylight loading spools of film and was originally painted in camouflage green.
The camera could be driven by a choice of clockwork, battery or mains electrical motors.


 ZEISS Ikon Super Ikonta B 532/16

A camera which was also widely used during WW2, is the ZEISS Ikon Super Ikonta B 532/16 model.

The camera is a folding rangefinder camera (120 roll film, 6cmx6cm) with 80mm f2.8 Tessar lens; the shutter is a Compur Rapid 1 – 1/400 sec.
The metering system was selenium cell mounted on top middle of camera body, protected by a flip-up metal cap.
Full manual exposure. Measure EV values from light meter then transfer EVs to lens body using EV guide on camera top.
The Super Ikonta was standard British Army issue to the AFPU’s stills photographers.


The Contax II was released in 1936 and was the successor of the Contax I.  It was the first camera with a rangefinder and viewfinder combined in a single window. Its chief designer was Hubert Nerwin.




The Contax I proved to less capable of competing with the Leica II(D) and III(F) models due in part to the comparatively unreliable Contax shutter, unsatisfactory rangefinder design, and the difficult ergonomics.  These and other problems were addressed by Nerwin at ZI and the Contax II and III models introduced in 1936 were to become very successful.  The new design continued through 1942 and reappeared after WWII as the improved Contax IIa and IIIa which were sold through 1961.







Robert Capa used the Contax II and later the IIa throughout his career until his death in Viet Nam in 1954.



by Patrick Brion