Japanese Photographic Reconnaissance Cameras

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This page will be updated as fresh information is found

At the beginning of the war, aerial reconnaissance was undertaken usually by JUDY scout plane. However, with the faster MYRT entering service, practically all reconnaissance was flown from this carrier based aircraft, with the camera being mounted in the rear and operated by the rear observer.
Towards the end of the war, camera research and design trended to be telephoto type systems for oblique coverage at high altitude. This was due to the fact that vertical reconnaissance was becoming very difficult as air defences improved.

Japanese Navy
The Japanese Navy used just four main cameras models for general reconnaissance and mapping. However, testing was also undertaken on various aerial camera designs mainly looking at the use of long focal length lenses. Also, training cameras for torpedo attacks and gunnery training were used.
It is interesting to note that in the first years of the war, both the Japanese Navy and Army were using the American Fairchild camera. They were used for reconnaissance and as the basis for Japanese camera design.

The K-8 was reported as the main camera used by the Navy for vertical reconnaissance and mapping. It came in two versions, 25cm lens fitted, used in the MYRT aircraft at altitudes between 13,000 and 23,000 feet. The other version was fitted with a 50cm lens, again fitted into a MYRT, but used between 20,000 and 30,000 feet.

Other details are:

Lens Focal Length - 25cm / 50 cm
Lens Aperture - f 4.5 / f 5
Image Format - 7.25 x 9.5 inches
Shutter - Leaf Type
Shutter Speeds - 1/60 to 1/400 sec : 1/50 to 1/100 sec

The F-8 camera was used for oblique photography and was a direct copy of the US Navy F-8 camera. Fitted with six glass plates within a magazine, it was used before and in the early stages of the war. The camera was upgraded to roll film early during the war and this was used exclusively thereafter.

At the beginning of the war, the F-8 was employed as a vertical camera, a number of camera mounts were produced for the MYRT. However, the camera did not perform as required so was used as an oblique hand-held system.

The F-8 was also fitted with a lever for focus compensation for the use with infra-red sensitive film.

Other Details:

Lens Focal Length - 25 cm
Lens Aperture - f 4.5
Image Format - 5.25 x 7.25 inches
Shutter - Focal Plane
Shutter Speeds - 1/60 to 1/400 sec
Japanese F-8 Camera

Navy Type 99 camera
The Type 99 Aerial Camera, this system was a small, hand-held camera, very similar to the US Navy Type K-20, it was used entirely for oblique imagery.
There were two versions of the camera, the first was equipped with a f 3.5 lens. However, more of the second type, with a f 4.5 lens, were used. The Type 99 used a film winding system operated by turning and cocking the shutter together. Perforated film was used for better advancement.

Other Details:

Lens Focal Length - 15cm
Lens Aperture - f 3.5 of f 4.5
Image Format - 3 x 4 inches
Film Roll Size - 20 Exposures
Shutter Type - Focal Plane
Shutter Speeds - 1/25 to 1/500 sec

Other cameras systems, but with limited use.

Type IV 70cm Reflecting Oblique Camera
Only approximately 20 of these cameras were ever produced for the Navy, with some going for testing with the Japanese Army. The used a 70cm lens (approx 27.5 inches) with a 70 degree reflecting mirror in the path of the lens helping to reduce the overall length of the camera, thus it could be used in the hand-held oblique mode.

The pilot would hold the body of the camera in his lap and then sight it through a x7 monocular finder, the overall weight of the camera was 17kg (38lbs).

The camera was designed in the latter part of the war for high altitude photography and was reported as being used in the Okinawa campaign. Due to the weight of the camera and the design it made the use of camera at high altitudes and in the oblique mode very difficult.

100cm (39.25 inch) Telephoto Reconnaissance Camera
This long focal length camera was tested during the early stages of the war. But was not suitable for operation use. It was equipped with a 90 degree reflecting mirror head which could be attached to the end of the lens to adapt the camera for oblique or vertical photography.

The main problems with the camera were, the angle of field of a 100cm lens with only a 3.25 x 4 inch image format proved way too small for practical use, then, the total length of the camera was too large for the small reconnaissance planes of the time, particularly for oblique use. The Navy did try and mount the camera (fitted with the mirror) flat on the deck of aircraft for vertical use, but again this was not practical and the design was discarded for operational use.

70cm (27.25 inch) Telephoto Oblique Camera
This camera was considered out of date at the start of the war, only glass plates were used. It was designed as an oblique camera for small reconnaissance aircraft and there are some reports that it was used in operations over China.

25cm (9.75 inch) Hand-Held Oblique Camera
This camera was used before 1941. However, it's used was negligible, being replaced by the F-8. The camera was produced with a replacement focal plane shutter unit and used only glass plates. There were two versions, one fitted with Zeiss Tesar lens and the other with a Konishi Hexar lens.

German Rb50 and Rb70 Reconnaissance Cameras
These two cameras were aerial mapping cameras acquired by the Japanese Navy from Germany during the war. However, due to them being too large for satisfactory installation into Japanese aircraft, they were not operationally used.

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Japanese Army

Type 96 Japanese Army Aerial Camera
The Type 96 Small Aerial Camera was produced for the Japanese Army, but had a very short service life. It suffer from a number of reliability problems. However, that said the camera was one of the most sophisticated produced for the Army. It was fitted with heater elements in both camera body and the lens, it was also equipped with two light projectors for recording the tilt of the camera onto the film.

It used 18cm (7.25 inch) sheet of roll film and was mainly used by the Army for mapping. It could be used mounted into an aircraft or hand-held.

The Army Type 99 was the smallest Japanese camera of its type. Using only 120 roll film it could take a maximum of 11 exposures, with an image format of 6 x 6cm. The camera was operated my winding a small crank on the bottom of the camera which automatically moved the film and set the shutter. The camera had a shutter range of 1/100 to 1/500 of a second.
Japanese Army Type 99

Type 100 Japanese Army Camera
The Type 100 was the most produced and the most used hand held camera by the Japanese Army. The camera made by Konica, used roll film and could be fitted with different focal length lenses, which be 20cm, 40cm and a 50cm f5.6.
The image format was 12.5 x 16.5cm giving 36 exposures per roll. It was fitted with a focal-plane shutter which had 3 speeds 1/200, 1/300 and 1/400 of a second.

The Mk.1 automatic aerial camera was used by the Japanese Army for aerial mapping and strike reconnaissance imagery. It could be fitted with a 25 or 50cm focal length lens and also could be fitted with insulation jackets for high altitude missions.
With shutter speeds of 1/50, 1/100 and 1/150 of a second, the camera could be operated by hand or a 24 volt motor. It was fitted with 24cm (9inch) roll film, with a 16 x 24cm image format. Again this camera was mainly produced by Konica, with some made by Nippon Kogaku (Modern day Nikon)

The image on the right shows the camera with it's jacket fitted.

Japanese Army Mk.1 Camera

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