View Full Version : The Carl Zeiss RMK 30/23, RMK 21/23, IRU, aerial camera system.

26-May-2013, 18:46
Looking around craigslist recently I found a very odd listing. I have been looking on ebay for quite some time now for an aerial camera or lens to put on a 4x5 or 8x10 camera, but never did I think I would find something on craigslist. After communicating with the seller I decided to go have a look at the cameras. I had seen pictures of them on the listing, but seeing them in person was quite shocking and it only took me a few moments of considering to decide to buy them. I do not have photos of the 30/23 at the moment, but I can post images of all the other equipment I managed to pick up.

From what I heard the story of the camera is that it was orginally bought and used by the US navy. From there at some point the USGS acquired the cameras, I have no idea if that means they got a plane that had the cameras mounted in them ( I think this is likely because the metal cases that these cameras were often transported in are missing. ) or the camera's themselves. From what the seller said these cameras were used in one of the USGS survey updates of the USA that they go periodically ( I think he said they update them every 12 years. ) . From there somehow the seller's grandfather got a hold of the cameras ( I assume the USGS surplussed the cameras after moving to a digital system is my guess. ). From there the seller obtained the camera from a storage unit his grandfather left him, and now I have obtained. it.

The camera: 95812

There are a lot knobs, plugs, and instruments on the back of the camera. Some are rather obvious what they are for, say the bubble level, and meter for the current vacuum pressure. There is also a knob that controls the aperture, but a few others baffle me, my guess would be one controls shutter speed and likely one plug is there to power the system and other plugs likely interface with the various other instruments.

In one of the open doors on the side is a motor that you can remove and replace with a motor from another camera or some of the other support equipment. It looks like the motor in the IRU unit there appears to be the same motor for instance. In the other door there appears to be lights that light up small area to give the operator a work space, and inside is a zeiss timer as well as what I think is an altimeter.

The lens: 95813

The text on the lens states this is a " Carl Zeiss Toparon 210mm F/5.6 " lens. I have had a very hard time finding any information on the toparon lens. The lens is also massive and aperture is controlled though some sort of linkage system built into the camera. I assume the lens is designated "topa" as in topographic? But I can only guess, again, there is little info on the net to find out much about them.

The film magazine: 9581495815

As far as I can tell the film magazine has a 9in x 9in film opening for 10 inch film. ( I think the the "23" in 21/23 is referring to 21 cm len and 23 cm squared negative image format. The back is motorized to advance the film, and I believe it also used the motor or the motor in the camera body to make a vacuum in the magazine to suck the film as flat as possible on the film plane. The magazine also has a cloth curtain that can be deployed or retracted to act as a dark slide.

The IRU unit: http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/802/dsf72001.jpg/ http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/13/dsf72011.jpg/ http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/209/irulensdsf72011.jpg/

I looked at the IRU camera for quite some time baffled, It has a 180mm F/4.5 zeiss tessar that projects onto a ground glass on the back. Inside the ground glass in is a frame in the middle that looks similar to a 35mm film strip, with lines flanking the sides and squares inside of the lines. I thought for a while this might be a video camera, but after doing some research, my guess is that this is actually a unit that is designed to allow the crew to compensate for the forward motion of the aircraft and to allow them to know exactly when to take a photograph to give them the best negative stitching possible. The controls on the back of the unit I think control the speed in which the squares move in the frame of the ground glass. The operator would change the spend of the moving lines until they moved at the same pace in which the terrain below was moving. This would not only tell the camera how to communicate with the stabilizing mount the camera was sitting in how to compensate for motion, but also when to take the next frame to allow for a continuous stitching without gaps.

The filter box: http://img707.imageshack.us/img707/3010/dsf72071.jpg

These filters are really impressive, they are almost an half an inch thick, extremely flat and have a very nice coated central ND gradation in the center to correct for the large leaf shutter. This set has a haze, yellow, and orange filter, it looks like one is missing, I would assume either some deep red filter or perhaps an IR filter.

The other camera, the RMK 30/23 has a 305mm F/5.6 Topar lens and just about everything else seems just about the same as the RMK 21/30. In total this set came with 4 film magazines, two IRU units, the two cameras, and the filter set. I would love to know more about this camera and what I have, but most importantly I am interested where I might be able to take this camera to sell. While I think I have a very interesting camera and I could have two very interesting lenses for a LF portrait camera, in all honesty I would much rather have the money that this set might be worth. I graduated college last june and I am trying to save for graduate school. So if anyone could help me come up with how much this set might be worth and some kind of aviation supply store or network, or business that might want these cameras that would help me a lot.

Also please don't suggest ebay, I might do that, but to ship this would cost me a fortune, so if I used ebay it would be for local pick up only. I think if any one knows of places in the Pacific Northwest, so Washington and Oregon, then that would be the best solution to where to possibly take these.

If anyone has any questions I can try the answer them, but again, I likely have just as many questions as you do if not more so I don't know how helpful I will be beyond what I have already explained.

Dan Fromm
27-May-2013, 06:59
Do a little googling around. There are aerial photography bulletin boards on which cameras and parts like yours are offered for sale.

If the price was low, you've found buried treasure.

If you fail to find the bulletin boards I mentioned -- sorry, I don't have bookmarks -- you can extract the lenses and offer them via eBay. Some aerial camera lenses bring silly money. A few sellers, e.g., Thomas Mueller, who sells on eBay as aerozeiss, asks silly money for complete aerial cameras (relatively modern ones, like yours) and lenses extracted from them, sometimes gets it. Look at his current and old listings, visit his site http://ultrahighresolution.de/

27-May-2013, 07:59
That is a vertical view aerial camera - the kind used to make the images maps are built from. West German make, not too old - when new, in film days, higher priced than a small plane. The camera will be missing the control system (which has to be integrated into the inertial navigation system and pilot's control panel of the platform aircraft, and usually was kept on when the cameras were replaced by a digital module), and would need power at the somewhat funky voltages common on aircraft, so it is pretty useless, unless you already have a aerial-readied aircraft to hook it up to.

The lenses will be very high resolution, apochromatic down into infrared, and perfectly corrected at infinity - but for general purpose photography they are not superior to the contemporary (or current) offers from Schneider and Rodenstock. Used prices are all over the place, depending on who else is attending the same govt. surplus auction - I know people who have carried out similar things well below scrap value. But unless the Chinese lens collector's tulip mania has recently moved on from fast to apochromatic, don't expect prices above any other decent lens set of similar focal length even at the highest.

27-May-2013, 09:24
Aircraft voltage is nominal 400 VAC 120 volt 3 phase delta (no wye = no neutral ) 3 hots. Aircraft DC nominal 28 volt. Likely 24 volts may be enough. Mating connectors will be pricey if new.

Bernice Loui
27-May-2013, 10:23
This web page might help..



27-May-2013, 11:44
One of the most useful websites I have found so far if people want more information on them is http://www.antarctica.ac.uk/bas_research/instruments/aerial_photography_camera.php these people have used the camera and they have photos of the camera mounted in a plane. It looks like the only two pieces I am missing from a full set is the mount, which someone has already stated generally stayed in the plane, and the navigation sight, which the seller still has and if I really wanted it for sale.