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How Hasselblads ended up on the moon
Old 07-14-2019   #1
dourbalistar
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How Hasselblads ended up on the moon

I don't think there's a post about it yet, but a few days ago, NPR posted an interesting article about how Hasselblad cameras came to be chosen for the lunar missions:
https://www.npr.org/2019/07/13/73531...-how-we-see-it

One of the things that surprised me most was the number of photos taken during the course of the Apollo program, over 18,000. That's a lot of film!
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Old 07-14-2019   #2
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Great link Dourbalister!

I was too young to remember the moon landings, but I recall my father talking reverently about Hasselblads as the great cameras that went to the moon. The images are just iconic - I didn't know about the cross hair screen, so that was wonderful to learn.

I'm assuming the film was Kodachrome? 18,000 sounds a lot, but nowadays it would be millions.
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Old 07-14-2019   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CharlesDAMorgan View Post
Great link Dourbalister!

I was too young to remember the moon landings, but I recall my father talking reverently about Hasselblads as the great cameras that went to the moon. The images are just iconic - I didn't know about the cross hair screen, so that was wonderful to learn.

I'm assuming the film was Kodachrome? 18,000 sounds a lot, but nowadays it would be millions.
According to this NASA article, it was a mix of Kodak film, including Ektachrome on the Apollo missions:

Quote:
Each film magazine would typically yield 160 color and 200 black and white pictures on special film. Kodak was asked by NASA to develop thin new films with special emulsions. On Apollo 8, three magazines were loaded with 70 mm wide, perforated Kodak Panatomic-X fine-grained, 80 ASA, b/w film, two with Kodak Ektachrome SO-168, one with Kodak Ektachrome SO-121, and one with super light-sensitive Kodak 2485, 16,000 ASA film. There were 1100 color, black and white, and filtered photographs returned from the Apollo 8 mission.
EDIT: I mistakenly mentioned Kodachrome in my original post, now corrected above.
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Last edited by dourbalistar : 07-15-2019 at 19:32. Reason: corrected to Ektachrome
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Old 07-15-2019   #4
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It was not a standard Hasselblad 500c.
It was severely modified, larger film advance lever and bigger knobs.
A small fact the entire mirror mechanism was amputated..

Nikon on later missions became main camera system..
Strangely Leica NEVER made it!
I guess bottom loading was the termination..

The images of those Zeiss Lenses so wonderful.
Stephen Bulger Gallery here in Toronto has show to the Moon.
Great image making by the Astronauts.
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Old 07-15-2019   #5
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Wow, free Hasselblads on the moon! All ya got to do is go pick them up.

….Might as well grab a moon buggy while your there.
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Old 07-15-2019   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dourbalistar View Post
According to this NASA article, it was a mix of Kodak film, including Kodachrome on the Apollo missions:
Are you sure you don't mean Ektachrome? The linked article has no mention of Kodachrome that I could find, and all references to colour imaging made during Apollo flights that I have ever seen, mention Ektachrome.
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Old 07-15-2019   #7
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Interesting read. Schirra had a special place in NASA history, being the only one of the Mercury Seven who would go on to fly in both Gemini and Apollo craft. Alan Shepard walked the moon during Apollo 14 but partly due to longstanding ear problems did not fly during the Gemini program.

The article failed to mention that the Electric Data Camera used during the Apollo 11 EVA featured a special low production volume 60mm f/5.6 version of the Zeiss Biogon (not the 38mm type which had long been fitted to Hasselblad's production Supreme Wide Angle and its subsequent Super Wide descendants). The lens was later also available with the Hasselblad Mark 70, an interesting camera in its own right.
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Old 07-15-2019   #8
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Great article. I love it that they left the cameras on the moon surface.

Best,
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Old 07-15-2019   #9
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At least you can be secure knowing, when you get to the Moon, that if your camera breaks there are at least six places where you can borrow one to use...



Great stories, thanks for posting the links!

G
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Old 07-15-2019   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by leicapixie View Post
Strangely Leica NEVER made it!

I came here just to see if we should also be thanking Leica for the moon program...
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Old 07-15-2019   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Filter Factor View Post
I came here just to see if we should also be thanking Leica for the moon program...
Leica might have been content with selling bunches of binoculars to the various scientific teams associated with the Apollo program. I used to see a number of them lying about in several of the labs and ready rooms at NASA when I was there.

G
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Old 07-15-2019   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zuiko85 View Post
Wow, free Hasselblads on the moon! All ya got to do is go pick them up.

Ö.Might as well grab a moon buggy while your there.
No film backs, though!

I have always wanted one of those. I'd love to have it with that special 60mm Biogon! They didn't need the Distagon, since no mirror clearance is needed (no mirror). So they took advantage of the superior quality possible when the lens doesn't have to be retrofocus.

I wonder if I'd like my shots of Colorado to have those precision crosses in the picture . . .

There is, of course, a civilian version available. Pricey!
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Old 07-15-2019   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zuiko85 View Post
Wow, free Hasselblads on the moon! All ya got to do is go pick them up.

Ö.Might as well grab a moon buggy while your there.
I wonder how much the tolls are on the way back?

B2 (;->
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Old 07-15-2019   #14
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It's a mystery to me why they took blads there in the first place. Those things will jam, you know, and they're heavy and big to bring to the moon and back. I myself would have brought a Rollei TLR or a 35mm camera like an AE-1 or something.
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Old 07-15-2019   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Godfrey View Post
Leica might have been content with selling bunches of binoculars to the various scientific teams associated with the Apollo program. I used to see a number of them lying about in several of the labs and ready rooms at NASA when I was there.

G

In their advertising in the 60's Bushnell used to say that their small (?8 x 20) binoculars were the ones chosen by NASA.


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Old 07-15-2019   #16
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I wonder why NASA engineers didn't cobble together some brilliant finders like on old folders, but larger and viewable at an angle. Would have beat blind aiming.
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Old 07-15-2019   #17
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Leica was first folks

https://airandspace.si.edu/stories/e...s-ansco-camera
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Old 07-15-2019   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve M. View Post
It's a mystery to me why they took blads there in the first place. Those things will jam, you know, and they're heavy and big to bring to the moon and back. I myself would have brought a Rollei TLR or a 35mm camera like an AE-1 or something.
I think the quality of some of the images recorded on and around the Moon validates NASA's wilingness to use medium format equipment over 35mm. As to why Hasselblad: the use of easily replaced magazines facilitating a choice of large volumes of colour or black and white—don't forget, the Hassys were fitted with special 70mm magazines and thin base film—sidestepped the challenges of reloading film correctly in flight not to mention the difficulties involved in this whilst wearing their suits and gloves. I believe these would have been compelling reasons why the Hasselblads were favoured.

As a Hasselblad (and Rolleiflex) user I think the risks of a body jamming are overstated in practice. But note that removing reflex viewing from the EL potentially eliminated a bunch of parts. The rear capping plates would have been redundant for starters (in the EDC at least) as well, obviously as the mirror. It would not even have been necessary to fit a reflex version of the lens shutters. They did not have to be capable of remaining open for viewing because they were incapable of TTL focusing. I am not asserting that all the cameras lacked all these parts. I would actually love to see some blueprints or images of them stripped down. I'm merely pointing out that they were simplified in certain ways (and more complicated in certain others, Ie the Reseau plates fitted to some of them).
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Old 07-15-2019   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sarcophilus Harrisii View Post
Are you sure you don't mean Ektachrome? The linked article has no mention of Kodachrome that I could find, and all references to colour imaging made during Apollo flights that I have ever seen, mention Ektachrome.
Cheers
Brett
Perhaps they used Ektachrome on other missions, but I cut and pasted directly from the article that I linked. The details about the film are about halfway down the page, right above the Apollo 11 section.

EDIT: Brett is correct, I meant to say Ektachrome.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve M. View Post
It's a mystery to me why they took blads there in the first place. Those things will jam, you know, and they're heavy and big to bring to the moon and back. I myself would have brought a Rollei TLR or a 35mm camera like an AE-1 or something.
The Canon AE-1 wasn't released until 1976, and I believe by that time, the Apollo Program had ended.
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Old 07-15-2019   #20
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Great article. I would like to see how anyone changes Hassy film backs with those massive gloves those guys are wearing. .
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Old 07-15-2019   #21
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Originally Posted by dourbalistar View Post
....The Canon AE-1 wasn't released until 1976, and I believe by that time, the Apollo Program had ended.
Yep, the last Apollo flight was in 1972.

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Old 07-15-2019   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Hughes View Post
In their advertising in the 60's Bushnell used to say that their small (?8 x 20) binoculars were the ones chosen by NASA.
Never saw a single pair of Bushnell binoculars when I was at NASA. ??
I saw mainly Zeiss and Leica binox.

G
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Old 07-15-2019   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve M. View Post
It's a mystery to me why they took blads there in the first place. Those things will jam, you know, and they're heavy and big to bring to the moon and back. I myself would have brought a Rollei TLR or a 35mm camera like an AE-1 or something.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sarcophilus Harrisii View Post
...
As a Hasselblad (and Rolleiflex) user I think the risks of a body jamming are overstated in practice. ...
Quote:
Originally Posted by dourbalistar View Post
...
The Canon AE-1 wasn't released until 1976, and I believe by that time, the Apollo Program had ended.
I have never had any of my Hasselblads (two SWCs, two 500CMs, as many as 10 film magazines... many many rolls of film) jam or otherwise malfunction at all.

As someone said before, NASA stripped and lightened the cameras to some degree, particularly for the flights after Wally Schirra's Mercury flight. Exactly how much weight was saved I don't know.

Towards the end of the Apollo program, Nikon Fs were used as well as the Hasselblads IIRC. Canon didn't have a competitive pro-grade camera available at the time. Nikon F2 and F3 cameras and lenses were still commonly in use at NASA when I worked there a decade and some later; I don't recall seeing any Canons or other brands of 35mm SLRs. Nikon F, F2, and F3 cameras were a good choice because they were very available, had easily acquired 250 frame film magazines and motor drives, had good lenses, and they were both durable and relatively inexpensive to service. They also had removable prism heads which allowed easy reconfiguration for different purposes.

G
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Old 07-15-2019   #24
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I agree, the likelihood of the moon camera jamming is negligible. In addition to what has already been mentioned, each camera was fitted with either a 60mm Biogon or a 100mm Planar, so there was apparently no lens changing needed; further reducing the risk of jamming.

None of my three Hasselblads have jammed in the last 20 or 30 years. The last jam was, I think, sometime in the 1970's. I fixed it easily in a few moments.
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Old 07-15-2019   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rob-F View Post
I agree, the likelihood of the moon camera jamming is negligible. In addition to what has already been mentioned, each camera was fitted with either a 60mm Biogon or a 100mm Planar, so there was apparently no lens changing needed; further reducing the risk of jamming.

None of my three Hasselblads have jammed in the last 20 or 30 years. The last jam was, I think, sometime in the 1970's. I fixed it easily in a few moments.
If it did jam, they would have had a major space jam on their hands. And we all know that only Michael Jordan, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and the rest of their Tune Squad can fix a Space Jam.
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Old 07-15-2019   #26
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Very interesting article and the photos were outstanding. Don’t ever recall seeing those particular pictures. Stunning.
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Old 07-15-2019   #27
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I’ve never seen before the bent foot plate probe in the famous photo of Aldrin. And the one of the command/service module seemingly close to the moon’s surface is remarkable. Even more so the Apollo 11 LEM and earth-rise all in the one shot.

On Apollo 8 they used a special thin emulsion Ektachrome 160 ASA for outdoor colour. This was made so as to get the maximum number of frames in the 70mm magazine. Likely they would have used the same for Apollo 11. References to Kodachrome in other sources are most likely a mistake. Too many reasons not to use Kodachrome. Having developed the special format thin Ektachrome there would have been no call to duplicate the task with slow high-contrast fussy processing Kodachrome.
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Old 07-15-2019   #28
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Looks like I had a mental jam. It is indeed Ektachrome, and any mentions of Kodachrome are my mistake. I'll edit my posts above, apologies for the confusion (or should I say chromefusion).
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Old 07-17-2019   #29
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Another article in a special series commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. No specific mentions of cameras or film, but featuring a few more fascinating photos:
https://www.npr.org/2019/07/17/73572...-of-astronauts
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Old 07-18-2019   #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by retinax View Post
I wonder why NASA engineers didn't cobble together some brilliant finders like on old folders, but larger and viewable at an angle. Would have beat blind aiming.
I think that must have been the reason for developing the special 60mm Biogon. Its wide-normal angle of coverage apparently enabled them to shoot without critical aiming. After all, the Hasselblad was chest-mounted so he could have both hands free. And they had the 38mm Biogon along for some of the shots.
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Old 07-27-2019   #31
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Here's a guy who made a replica of the first 'space' Hasselblad.

https://petapixel.com/2017/11/07/pho...selblad-space/
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Old 07-27-2019   #32
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And the original:

https://rrauction.atavist.com/rrauct...lblad-in-space

Sold for $275,000 in 2014.

https://www.rrauction.com/The-First-...s-in-Space.htm
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Canon AE-1 in space
Old 07-27-2019   #33
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Canon AE-1 in space

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Originally Posted by dourbalistar View Post
Perhaps they used Ektachrome on other missions, but I cut and pasted directly from the article that I linked. The details about the film are about halfway down the page, right above the Apollo 11 section.

EDIT: Brett is correct, I meant to say Ektachrome.



The Canon AE-1 wasn't released until 1976, and I believe by that time, the Apollo Program had ended.
In space, no one can hear your shutter squeak
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Old 07-27-2019   #34
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Interestingly, NASA had numerous challenges to solve for the space program to be successful but decided to use film and cameras to make photographs, at the beginning and into the space program. Evidently they figured photographic film would work for their needs. Too bad they didnít arrange a team to help develop and use digital capture as the link below outlines some snippits of the development of digital technology.

Back in my sales rep days, I worked with a company named Century Spring, located in Los Angeles on East 16th Street. They made a gadzillion different types of springs. I remember, during a factory visit, showing me the springs they supplied for the LEM which is still on the moon.

At any rate, here is an interesting read on digital photography development. Note how a couple of gents from Bell Labs helped with this trchnology.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_photography
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Old 07-27-2019   #35
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Quote:
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Here's a guy who made a replica of the first 'space' Hasselblad.

https://petapixel.com/2017/11/07/pho...selblad-space/
It looks the part, but I donít see mention of modifying the 80mm lens shutter to work like that in a MK or SWC , i.e. remain closed on re-cocking, which is essential if the rear auxiliary shutter , that makes that loud clack on 500 cameras , is removed from the camera ( also not called out ).
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Old 07-27-2019   #36
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That Ansco Autoset is super cool!

The finder for the Leica is interesting as well. Looks like it had a built in lamp?
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Old 07-27-2019   #37
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I was too young to remember the moon landings, but I recall my father talking reverently about Hasselblads as the great cameras that went to the moon. The images are just iconic - I didn't know about the cross hair screen, so that was wonderful to learn.

I'm assuming the film was Kodachrome? 18,000 sounds a lot, but nowadays it would be millions.
Kodachrome wasn't made in 120 format then. Briefly in the 1940's, I believe, and then again for a couple of wonderful years in the 1990's.

And spare a thought for the Ranger spacecraft, which face-planted on the moon while broadcasting his-res (for the day) video of the moon's surface, which helped NASA pick landing spots for Apollo. Rumor has it that NASA used Summicrons for the Ranger cameras.
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Old 07-28-2019   #38
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Happened across this interesting link from another forum. http://www.spacecamera.co/
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Old 07-28-2019   #39
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Originally Posted by Sarcophilus Harrisii View Post
The article failed to mention that the Electric Data Camera used during the Apollo 11 EVA featured a special low production volume 60mm f/5.6 version of the Zeiss Biogon (not the 38mm type which had long been fitted to Hasselblad's production Supreme Wide Angle and its subsequent Super Wide descendants).
It never made it to the moon, but it's worth mentioning that the 38mm Biogon did make it to space, with the SWC flying during both the Gemini and early Apollo programs.
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Old 07-28-2019   #40
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It never made it to the moon, but it's worth mentioning that the 38mm Biogon did make it to space, with the SWC flying during both the Gemini and early Apollo programs.
Apparently Mike Collins lost one of these into space during an earlier mission.
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