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SCW Cameras

Rolleiflex Standard
1932-8 (Model 6RF:621, 1932)

Compur shutter to 1/300th. Tessar F3.8, 75mm (6RF:622 model had F3.5 lens and speed to 1/500th).

Twin reflex camera using 120mm film and taking 12 exposures 6x6cm. 

A Rolleiflex Standard was used in the Spanish Civil War by Gerda Taro during 1936-7 and by David 'Chim' Seymour during 1936-8 (alongside his Leica).

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Leica IIIA

The Leica was regarded as less rugged and more difficult to load than the Contax II but lighter. Interchangeable lenses (standard for professionals was the 50mm F2 summar). 35mm film in cassettes.

The Leica is seen as the classic camera of the war. It went through a process of rapid change in the 1930s. It is likely that most Leicas used in Spain by professional photographers were a mix of II and III models. 

A black Leica II with a Elmar 5cm f/3.5 lens, upgraded to a Model III (addition of a slow speed dial), was used by Gerdas Taro from February 1937 until her death in July 1937. She also used Capa's Leica III / IIIA from June 1937.

A Leica III with a Summar 5cm f/2 lens, was used by Robert Capa in 1936 before changing to a Contax II in June 1937. Agusti Centelles also had a 1935 Leica IIIA, later modified with the addition of flash sync.

The Mayo Collective, Vera Elkan and David 'Chim' Seymour also used Leicas in Spain. 

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Zeiss Contax II

The first camera with a combined range/viewfinder. It was able to use interchangeable lenses and had an acccessory shoe for flash.

Speed to 1/1250. Interchangeable lenses (standard is 50mm Sonar – F2 or F1.5). 35mm film in cassettes. 

Favoured by many professional photographers of the time because of the combined rangefinder / viewer and its sturdier construction. For his second visit to the Spanish Civil War, Robert Capa switched to a Contax II from his Leica.


Fed-1 A-C

Model illustrated: Fed 1C (1937-9)

Speeds to 1/500. F 3.5 50mm Industar-10 lens. f3,5. Copy of Leitz Elmar.

Soviet copy of 1932 Leica II. Production of the FED camera began in 1934 in a Ukranian factory under the control the NKVD (State Security Service).

The Soviet Union was the main supplier of arms to the Spanish Republic. Did they also provide cameras? Some Fed-1 cameras entered Spain before or during the war. Members of the Spanish Communist Party who had visited the USSR before the outbreak of war were sometimes given a Russian camera as a leaving gift. It is likely that some were also brought to Spain by Soviet advisors during the war - especially as these included members of the NKVD themselves. In 1961, Photographer Manuel Montenegro found a a Fed-1 camera in the rubble of a building destroyed in the Spanish Civil War. 


Kodak Retina II

(illustrated Type 142 (1937-9). Speeds to 1/500. F2.8 50mm Schneider-Xenon lens).


Compact, relatively cheap, 35mm rangefinder camera made in Germany by Kodak AG. Its small size and well-protected lens meant it was ideal for slipping nto a coat pocket.

The Canadian surgeon, Norman Bethune, pioneered the development of battlefield blood transfusions whilst working for the Republican medical service in 1937. In 1938 he went to China to help develop the medical services of the Communist forces fighting the Japanese. he died there and specifically willed his Retina II to one of his comrades. 

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