Aerial Cameras
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AERIAL CAMERA TYPES K-17, K-18, K-19B, AND K-22

The 20th did nearly all its aerial photography with two camera types: the K-17 and K-18. The K-17 was a 9" x 9" format (negative size) mapping and reconnaissance camera. It had three major components: a body, containing most of the mechanics and controls; a detachable magazine for 9 1/2" wide roll film; and a lens cone, with 6", 12", or 24" focal length options. The K-17, like the other three cameras in this section, was developed and built by the Fairchild Camera and Instrument Company.

The K-18 reconnaissance camera differed markedly from the K-17 in construction. The K-18 body and lens cone were built as a single unit housing a 24" focal length lens. Film format was 9" x 18".

A handful of night photography missions were flown with K-19B cameras in June and July 1945. The K-19B had a 12" lens, was of 9" x 9" format, and had a shutter that was operated by an attached photocell unit. The K-17, K-18, and K-19B all employed between-the-lens shutters.

The squadron was provided an abundance of K-22 cameras, but never used them for a combat mission, having found them "...unsuitable for mapping and not entirely satisfactory for reconnaissance..." (Interestingly, the F-7A's and B's were designed for a pair of K-22's to be mounted at the camera bay split vertical station.) The K-22 was a 9" x 9" format camera with lens cone options of 6", 12", 24", and 40" focal length. Unlike the others, its shutter was a focal plane type.

All these cameras were normally operated from a 24 VDC electrical source, but could be manually operated by a hand crank and shutter lever (the K-22 was electrical only). Each was fitted with a connector for an intervalometer that fired the camera at an interval set by the aerial photographer.

All used a vacuum applied to the film magazine to flatten the film surface before each exposure.

While these cameras were normally clamped into mounts, a pair of handles and a viewfinder could be fitted to K-17's and K-18's for hand-held operation. What "hand-held" meant is subject to interpretation, as these cameras were not lightweights. With a 200 foot roll of film, the A-5 film magazine used with the K-17 weighed 30 pounds. A complete K-17 with 12" lens cone and a full magazine weighed about 55 pounds. With a 24" lens instead of the 12", the weight climbed to near 75 pounds.

All four of these cameras used 9 1/2" wide Eastman Aerial Safety film. Film emulsions were Class L and Class N. Class L was the "normal" high-speed panchromatic film. Type N was labeled extra high-speed panchromatic, and was used for night photography in the K-19B's. The common lengths of film rolls were 200 feet and 75 feet. (Two hundred feet was the maximum film load for an A-5 or A-5A magazine. The A-7 magazines used with K-18 cameras held a maximum of 75 feet.)

K-17 Reconnaissance and Mapping Camera Data

The K-17 was the most common--and versatile--of the Army Air Force aerial cameras. With the 6" focal length Metrogon lens, it was the standard mapping (also called charting, or cartographic) camera of its day--and its day extended to long after the war. This was the combination used by the 20th in its trimetrogon setups.

The 20th did some reconnaissance photography with the K-17 and 12" lens late in the war, but for the most part the K-17's were used for mapping with the 6" Metrogon lens. (The combination of a 6" lens and 9" x 9" negative remains the mapping standard in the U.S. to this day.)

K-17 aerial camera with 12 inch lens
K-17 with 12" lens cone and A-5 or A-5A film magazine.

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Format:      9" x 9"

Lenses:      6" f.l.  - f/6.3 - 73.74 x 73.74 view angle
             12" f.l. - f/5.0 - 41.11 x 41.11 view angle
             24" f.l. - f/6.0 - 21.24 x 21.24 view angle

Shutter:     Between the lens
             6"  - 1/50, 1/100, 1/200, 1/300 second
             12" - 1/75, 1/150, 1/225 second
             24" - 1/50, 1/100, 1/150 second

Control:     Manual or intervalometer

Cycle time:  3 seconds, frame-to-frame

Magazine:    A-5 or A-5A  - 200 feet - 250 exposures
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K-18 Medium to High Altitude Reconnaissance Camera Data

The K-18 was one of the two workhorses of the 20th CMS--and of the Army Air Forces in general. (The other was the K-17.)

The 20th generally installed two K-18's in the camera bay; one each at the vertical and split vertical stations. Orientation was with the 18" image dimension transverse to the flight path.

K-18 (actually K-7C) aerial camera
The description is of a K-18, but the photo is actually of the K-18's manual-operation-only predecessor, the K-7C.

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Format:      9" x 18"

Lens:        24" f.l. - f/6.0 - 21.24 x 41.11 view angle

Shutter:     Between the lens
             1/50, 1/100, 1/150 second

Control:     Manual or intervalometer

Cycle time:  8 seconds, frame-to-frame
             K-18A (late-war): 3 seconds, frame-to-frame

Magazine:    A-7 - 75 feet - 45 exposures
             A-8 - 390 feet - 245 exposures
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K-19B Night Reconnaissance Camera Data

A few night photography missions were successfully flown using the K-19B in 1945. The June 1945 Squadron History report cites success at 12,000 feet with the flash bombs (used to illuminate ground targets) set for 3,000 feet. Shutter speed was 1/50 second. The shutter in K-19's was triggered by a photocell which detected the flash bomb ignition.

K-19B aerial  camera
K-19B with A-5A film magazine. Photocell unit is attached.

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Format:      9" x 9"

Lens:        12" f.l. - f/2.5 - 41.11 x 41.11 view angle

Shutter:     Between the lens
             1/25, 1/50, 1/100 second

Control:     Light-activated via photocell

Cycle time:  3 seconds, frame-to-frame

Magazine:    A-5 or A-5A  - 200 feet - 250 exposures
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K-22 Reconnaissance and Charting Camera Data

The K-22 with 24" lens cones were the cameras delivered in the split vertical mounts of all F-7A's and B's the 20th received new--but the squadron never used them for a combat mission.

K-22 aerial camera with 12 inch lens
K-22 with 12" lens cone and A-5A film magazine.

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Format:      9" x 9"

Lens:        6"  f.l. - f/6.3 - 73.74 x 73.74 view angle
             12" f.l. - f/5.0 - 41.11 x 41.11 view angle
             24" f.l. - f/6.5 - 21.24 x 21.24 view angle
             40" f.l. - f/5.0 - 12.84 x 12.84 view angle
             40" f.l. - f/5.6 - 12.84 x 12.84 view angle
             40" f.l. - f/8.0 - 12.84 x 12.84 view angle

Shutter:     Focal plane
             A curtain: 1/135, 1/300 second
             B curtain: 1/400, 1/800 second 

Control:     Manual or intervalometer

Cycle time:  3 seconds, frame-to-frame

Magazine:    A-5 or A-5A  - 200 feet - 250 exposures
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OTHER FAIRCHILD AERIAL CAMERAS: K-20 and F-56


K-20 Low Altitude Oblique, Hand-held Camera Data

There is no mention of the K-20 being used in any of the 20th's monthly reports, but they were probably carried and occasionally used for hand-held oblique shots.

K-20 aerial camera
K-20 hand-held aerial camera.

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Format:         4" x 5"

Lens:           6.375" f.l. -  f/4.5 - 34.84 x 42.83 angle of view

Shutter:        Between the lens
                1/125, 1/250, 1/500 second

Control:        Manual

Magazine:       Part of camera, 20 feet - 50 exposures
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F-56 Reconnaissance Camera Data

The Navy's F-56 series was not generally used by the Army Air Forces, but is included here to round out the stable of large aerial frame cameras that Fairchild built during WW II.

F-56 aerial camera with 40 inch lens
F-56 with 40" lens. Both the 20" and 40" versions used telephoto lenses. (Telephoto lens designs are generally shorter in physical length than the focal length.)

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Format:      6 5/8" x 7" (roll film)

Lens:        5.25" f.l. - f/6.3 - 64.50 x 67.38 view angle
             8.25" f.l. - f/4.0 - 43.75 x 45.98 view angle
             20"   f.l. - f/5.0 - 18.81 x 19.85 view angle
             40"   f.l. - f/8.0 -  9.47 x 10.00 view angle
             
Shutter:     Between the lens
             1/35, 1/50, 1/100, 1/150 second

Control:     Manual or intervalometer

Magazine:    A-1A - 120 feet - 200 exposures
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This page was last updated August 2, 2010