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Apollo Cameras

Edited and annotated by Eric Hartwell - Last updated March 22, 2006

The Apollo 17 mission carried four 70MM cameras, and 23 magazines of film. A total of 3584 images were taken, 1645 in black & white, and 1939 in color.

Apollo 11 Hasselblad Cameras

by Phill Parker

The camera equipment carried on the Apollo-11 flight was comprehensive. In addition to the usual TV and small-film cameras on board, there was a special camera for near-distance stereoscopic shots of the moon. And, of course, there were also the cameras which, for this article, are the most important, viz., three Hasselblad 500ELs.

Apollo 11 Hasselblad 500EL cameras: CM (left), LM, Data (right) [Phill Parker Archives]

Two of the 500ELs were identical to the ones carried on the Apollo-8, -9 and -10 flights. Each had its own Zeiss Planar f-2.8/80 mm lens. A Zeiss Sonnar f-5.6/250 mm telephoto lens was also carried. One of the conventional 500ELs, along with the telephoto lens and two extra magazines, was in the Apollo-11 Command Module throughout the flight. The other conventional 500EL, and two extra magazines as well, were placed in the lunar module. Also in the lunar module - and making its first journey in space - was a Hasselblad 500EL Data Camera, which was the one to be used on the moon's surface.

The Data Camera, like the other two 500ELs, was a modified standard 500EL camera but differed from the others in several ways:


Apollo 11 Hasselblad 500EL data
camera showing Reseau plate.
[Phill Parker Archives]

  • The Data Camera was fitted with a so-called Reseau plate. The Reseau plate was made of glass and was fitted to the back of the camera body, extremely close to the film plane. The plate was engraved with a number of crosses to form a grid. The intersections were 10 mm apart and accurately calibrated to a tolerance of 0.002 mm. Except for the larger central cross, each of the four arms on a cross was 1 mm long and 0.02 mm wide. The crosses are recorded on every exposed frame and provided a means of determining angular distances between objects in the field-of-view.
  • The Data Camera was fitted with a new Zeiss lens, a Biogon f-5.6/60 mm, specially designed for NASA, which later became available commercially. Careful calibration tests were performed with the lens fitted in the camera in order to ensure high-quality, low-distortion images. Furthermore, the lens of the camera was fitted with a polarizing filter which could easily be detached.
  • The Data Camera was given a silver finish to make it more resistant to thermal variations that ranged from full Sun to full shadow helping maintain a more uniform internal temperature. The two magazines carried along with the Data Camera also had silver finishes. Each was fitted with a tether ring so that a cord could be attached when the Lunar Module Pilot lowered the mated magazine and camera from the lunar module to the Commander standing on the lunar surface. The exposed magazines were hoisted the same way.
  • The Data Camera was modified to prevent accumulation of static electricity. When film is wound in a camera, static electricity is generated on the film surface. Normally, this electricity is dispersed by the metal rims and rollers that guide the film, and by the humidity of the air. In a camera fitted with a Reseau plate, however, the film is guided by the raised edges of the plate. As glass is a non-conductor, the electric charge that builds up at the glass surface can become so heavy that sparks can occur between plate and film - especially if the camera is used in a very dry environment or in vacuum. Sparks cause unpleasant patterns to appear on the film and can be a hazard if the camera is used in an atmosphere of pure oxygen. To conduct the static electricity away from the Reseau plate in the Data Camera, the side of the plate facing the film is coated with an extremely thin conductive layer which is led to the metallic parts of the camera body by two contact springs. Contact is effected by two projecting silver deposits on the conductive layer. The Reseau plate, or register glass, is not a new development in photography. What is most remarkable, however, is that the group of Hasselblad staff working on NASA camera projects in collaboration with Carl Zeiss was successful in applying the idea to a small camera - like the Hasselblad 500EL Data Camera. This camera is not only useful in space photography, it is particularly suitable for all kinds of aerial photography. The special cameras produced in the past for aerial photography were large and intended for a large negative-format - frequently meaning high prices. The Hasselblad 500EL Data Camera with its Reseau plate produced a small and comparatively low-cost camera which gave satisfactory results in aerial photographic work.

Finally, The film used on Apollo-11 was the same type carried on the other flights - a Kodak special thin-based and thin emulsion double-perforated 70 mm film - which permitted 160 pictures in color or 200 on black/white in each loading.

Apollo 11 Hasselblad 500EL 70mm camera magazines: CM magazines with Zeiss Sonar f5.6/250mm telephoto lens (left);
LM double-perforated film magazine - 160 color / 200 black-and-white images (center), Lunar Surface magazines (right)
[Phill Parker Archives]

70mm Hasselblad Electric Camera (HEC)

Apollo 16 Flight Summary: Apollo 16 Photographic Equipment

The 70mm camera is primarily used for high resolution still photography and is hand-held or bracket mounted. Camera features include inter changeable lenses and film magazines. The standard lens is an 80 m f/2.8, and 250 mm f/4 and 500 mm f/8 telephoto lenses are provided for photography of distant objects. Two types of 70mm film magazines are provided, one for standard-base films, the other for thin-base films.  Camera accessories include filters and a ring sight.

Some specific uses of the camera are as follows:

  • Verify landmark tracking
  • Lunar landmark and mapping
  • Record Saturn IVB separation
  • Photograph disturbed weather regions (hurricanes, typhoons, etc.), debris collection on the spacecraft windows, SLA separation, LM during rendezvous and docking, terrain of geological and oceanographic interests, and other space equipment in orbit
  • Act as a backup to the 16 mm sequence camera
  • Record in-cockpit operation, e.g., normal positions of suited crewmen.

A built-in 6.25-vdc battery-powered, electric-motor-driven mechanism advances the film and cocks the shutter whenever the actuation button is pressed. An accessory connector permits remote camera operation and shutter operation indication for time correlation. The weight of the camera, with 80 mm lens and 2 batteries, without film magazine, is 4.04 pounds.

70mm Hasselblad and accessories

The camera accessories are:

  • 80 mm f/2.8 Lens.  Standard or normal lens for the 70 mm camera with 2-1/4 x 2-1/4-inch film format.  Used for general still photography when a wide angle or telephoto view is not required.  Focuses from 3 feet to infinity.  Has built-in shutter with speeds from 1 second to 1/500 second. Field of view, each side, is approximately 38 x 38 degrees.

  • 250 mm f/5.6 Lens. A telephoto lens that is primarily used for photography of terrain and distant objects.  It produces a 3X magnification over the standard 80 mm lens. The relatively narrow view of this lens necessitates careful aiming of the camera to ensure that the desired scene is photographed.  A mount is available for mounting the camera and lens at the right rendezvous window to view parallel to vehicle X-axis. The lens focuses from 8.5 feet to infinity, and has built-in shutter with speeds from 1 second to 1/500 second.  The field of view is approximately 13 x 13 degrees. The weight of the lens is 2.06 pounds.

  • Remote Control Cable.  The function of the remote control cable is to actuate the shutter from the left couch while sighting targets through the COAS in the left rendezvous window.  The cable is 48 inches long with a handle, button, and control knob at one end and a connector at the other. The control knob has settings of TE (time exposure), 1, 6, 12, and 24 fps.

  • 70 mm Film Magazines.  Two types of film magazines are used, one for standard-base film, the other for thin-base film. Either film magazine attaches to rear of camera and is locked in place by a lever-actuated clamp. The type 100 film magazine is for standard-base film and its capacity is 100 2-1/4 x 2-1/4 inch frames. The type 200 film magazine is for thin-base film and its capacity is 200 2-1/4 x 2-1/4 inch frames. Each film magazine contains gross-film indicators for frame count.

  • Lunar Surface 70 mm Film Magazine.  The lunar surface 70mm film magazines are standard 70 mm magazines that have a thermal protective coating. They are stowed in the 70mm magazine LM transfer bag.

  • 70 mm Magazine LM Transfer Bag.  The 70 mm magazine UI transfer bag is made from Beta cloth, has a capacity of three magazines, has and a flap cover to restrain them. The magazine bag with exposed 70 mm magazines is transferred from the LM to the CM for return to Earth.

  • 70mm Camera Mount for 80 and 250 mm Lens.  For the purpose of photographing parallel to the CM X-axis, the camera mount is used.  It is T-shaped, the stem being 7 inches long and the bar 6 inches. The stem inserts into a socket mount along the right or left side of the hatch frame, marked EHC MOUNT ATTACH (80 MM/250 MM LENS, approximately 7 inches from the TV socket mount. The T-bar portion has two quick couplings (lower and upper) that attach to the camera. The lower quick coupling is for use of the camera with the 250 mm lens and will align the camera parallel with the X-axis. The upper quick coupling is for use of the camera with the 80 mm lens and is pitched upward 122 from the CM X-axis during pre-launch alignment to give the camera an unobstructed view. The couplings are labelled on the back of the mount. To use the mount, the 70mm camera is assembled, adjusted and set. The camera can be attached to the appropriate mount quick coupling by sliding it to the stop and locking by rotating the (flag) lever 90 degrees. Failure to position the camera all the way to the stop before locking may result in the window aperture obstructing the camera view. The stem is inserted into the socket mount near the hatch frame until the latches snap in.  The intervalometer cable is then attached. The camera is sighted by using the COAS and orienting the CM X-axis toward the target. To use the 80 mm lens, the COAS elevation scale is set to +12 degrees. The camera can be momentarily displaced (swung out of the way) by pressing the latch levers and rotating until the latches reseat.

    Camera bracket (Hasselblad Camera Adapter) for mounting a Hasselblad camera in the Command Module. Allowed a camera with 250mm telephoto lens to be aligned with the spacecraft +X axis (looking forward). A camera with 80mm normal lens would be aligned 12 degrees above +X to get a clear view through the forward window. Attached to a socket next to the hatch frame. Credit: Historic Space Systems

  • Intervalometer.  The intervalometer is a remote control device for taking sequential pictures. It is extremely useful for making a strip map (vertical stereo strip from rendezvous window, oblique stereo strip from side windows, etc.). Its control box is 2.5 x 2.5 x 1 inches and has an ON/OFF switch. A 120-inch cable connects it to the camera accessory connector. The intervalometer is preset at 20-second intervals and is powered from the Hasselblad electric camera battery pack.

  • HEC Timing Cable.  The function of the HEC timing cable is to route the HEC shutter activation signal , generated by the intervalometer, to the RHEB panel 227 which is then routed to the PCM junction box. The HEC timing cable is 41 inches long with a 3-inch tee in the center. A large connector on one end is labeled P1 and connects to RHEB panel 227. The tee connector is labeled J1 and connects to the intervalorneter cable. The HEC connector is labeled P2. When not in use, the cable is coiled, secured with a utility strap, and stowed.

HEC Operation.  During preparation for lunar orbital photography the HEC, cable, and mount are unstowed. SC1 INST PWR switch on panel 227 is verified OFF and HEC cable (P1 connector) is connected. The HEC and the intervalometer are mounted. The HEC cable (Ji) is connected to the intervalometer and the P2 connector to the NEC battery pack. It is not necessary to turn the panel 227 switch on. The intervalometer switch is placed to ON to begin photography. When photography is completed, the intervalorneter switch is turned to OFF, HEC timing cable is disassembled in reverse order, and stowed.

Selections from Ulli Lotzmann's Apollo Sketch Book
Apollo Lunar Surface Journal Contributor Ulrich Lotzmann has been a close friend of both Pete Conrad and Alan Bean. He is co-editor of the Alan Bean Gallery and writes, "It was Al's artwork that motivated me to buy an easel, brushes, and acrylic paints - I had never painted before." An example of Ulli's Bean-inspired paintings can be found in his ALSJ bio.

In December 2002, Ulli began to produce sketches which, for us, capture the spirit of Apollo better than any body of work other than Al Bean's paintings.

Ulli writes, "The sketches are my personal tribute to the men and women of International Latex Corp. and of Hamilton Standard Devision of United Aircraft Corp., who designed and manufactured the most special 'spaceships' ever built - the Apollo Space Suits with their portable life support systems (PLSSs)."

Drawing Copyright by Ulrich Lotzmann. All rights reserved. Sketch completed 25 May 2003

The lens on each of the Apollo 12 lunar surface Hasselblads is a German-made 60mm f/5.6 Zeiss Biogon.

133:09:11 Bean: Is the front of my lens clean?
133:09:12 Conrad: Relatively speaking. Nothing else is.

[Bean, from the 1969 Technical Debrief - "I would like to say something about the camera. We got a lot of dust on ourselves and also on the outside of the camera. We kept looking at the lens to see if there was any dust on it and to see if it was going to degrade the pictures. Neither Pete nor I could see it on each other's camera (lens), although the other parts of our cameras were covered with dust. We'll have to take a look at the pictures that we returned (which look okay). If it does turn out to be a problem, we're going to have to come up with some sort of brush we can use to dust off the lens, because I don't see any other way (to clean them). We were trying our best to keep the equipment clean; but just moving around, trenching, leaning over, and all the other things tend to get dust on the equipment."]

[Later crews tended to be even more active than Pete and Al and, consequently, fell more often and otherwise covered themselves and the cameras with dust. They carried a small, soft-bristle brush for lens cleaning and regularly put it to use on the Hasselblads and on the Rover TV.]

Drawing Copyright by Ulrich Lotzmann. All rights reserved. Sketch completed 10 August 2003

Ulli writes: "The sketch shows Neil rescuing the one and only EVA Hasselblad magazine (Mag S, PN SEB 33100082 SN 415) used during the EVA."

From the Apollo 11 Lunar Surface Journal:

111:31:04 Armstrong: Uh oh! The camera came off. I mean the film pack came off. (Long Pause) 111:31:30 Aldrin: Okay. Just ease it down now. Don't pull so hard on it. All right, let it go. (Pause)

[With the SRC (Sample Return Container or rockbox) up to the porch, Buzz asks Neil to ease the tension in the line so that the rock box will drop down enough to come through the hatch and into grabbing range.]

[Armstrong, from the 1969 Technical Debrief - "Concerning the LEC (Lunar Equipement Conveyor), I had neglected to lock one of the LEC hooks, which normally wouldn't have caused any trouble. You would expect to proceed normally whether that was locked or not. However, for some unknown reason, when I got the SRC about half way up, the Hasselblad pack just fell off. I can't account for that. I just took the pack on up and attached it, and ensured that it was locked when I put it on the SRC the second time. When it fell onto the surface, it was covered with surface material."]

[Aldrin, from the 1969 Technical Debrief - "I'm sure there is a lot of inertia with any package like that and, with that low gravity, it tends to swing back and forth; and if there is some tendency to reach an unlocked position, it will."]

111:31:46 Armstrong: While you're getting that (rock box out of the way), I've got to get this camera (actually, the film mag, which dropped at the foot of the ladder).
[Armstrong, from the 1969 Technical Debrief - "There was no problem (picking up the film magazine) because the ladder was right there. So I just leaned over and down to the ground and picked it up. I had the ladder to hold on to."]
111:33:53 Aldrin: Roger. How's it coming, Neil?
111:33:56 Armstrong: Okay. I've got one side hooked up to the second box and I've got the film pack on.
111:34:01 Aldrin: Okay. Good.
Drawing Copyright by Ulrich Lotzmann. All rights reserved. Sketch completed 9 February 2003

Ulli writes "The motif - dealing with something that happened sometime between 134:01:06 and 134:03:59 GET - is a true nightmare for every Hasselblad and Zeiss fan.

Pete threw Al's Hasselblad camera away (Grrrrrrr).

I have drawn the camera without the magazine - that they removed and put on Pete's camera at 133:32:05 - and the broken camera handle - that was removed at 134:03:54."

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