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Williamson F117A Aerial Camera c1958

Virtually indestructible, massively over-engineered English camera built for the Air Ministry, designed for air to air/ground photography. Takes 100ft of aerial 126mm NATO 2 film, which is no longer available. Produces wonderful negatives 126mm square. Introduced into service with the RAF in the late 1950's they were used primarily in Avro Shackleton and BAe Nimrod aircraft, for recording shipping. They remained in service into the early 1980's. In operation the camera was cocked, released and wound on by hand using the right hand lever that doubles as a handle. The trigger for the shutter can be seen near the top of this handle where it falls comfortably to the right index finger. Shutter speeds were set using the tensioning winder just inboard of the shutter trigger. Aperture was set using the small turret wheel in front of the perspex Newtonian finder. The magazine measures the amount of film traveling through the gate and declutches the transport after 5.25 inches has run through giving very even frame spacing. To keep the film perfectly flat it is sandwiched between a cork pressure plate and a sheet of glass at the focal plane, as the user winds on the cork pressure plate is backed right off the film, neat trenches cut into it avoid a partial vacuum pulling the film with it. The camera is fixed focus, as subjects would nearly always be at infinity, but the lens has a very respectable depth of field as well.

Acquired for the collection March 1994 in desperate condition after being stored in damp conditions for years. It was rebuilt to full working order over some four years, the magazine proved the most difficult part of the restoration. I sometimes take it flying again, but have yet to take air to air with it - any offers of an interesting air to air session? Many thanks to the RAF Museum, Hendon for their research.

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Williamson F117A Aerial Camera c1958

Body No.206 & Magazine No.241
Shutter No. N/A (built in), speeds 60, 125, 250 & 400th
Lens No.17234, Ross 6in f/4.5
Condition, 6F

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Avro Shackleton MR2 maritime reconnaissance aircraft passing over a Soviet Submarine on a photographic run. This is what the Williamson F117 was used for, often at low level. The Camera was designed to be wound on, cocked and fired virtually in one continuous action, allowing several frames to be fired off as the aircraft passed the target. The Shackleton (rudely referred to as "100,000 rivets flying in loose formation") was replaced by the BAe Nimrod

Avro Shackleton MR2 maritime reconnaissance      aircraft passing over a Soviet Submarine

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