Cameras at War: Photo Gear that Captured 100 Years of Conflict - From Crimea to Korea 

  • Author: John Wade
  • Publisher: Pen & Sword Military (2020), 280 pages, numerous photographs
  • Price: £16.99 (Softback)
  • ISBN:  9781526760104

Publishers’ blurb … Books about war and the pictures that came out of conflict usually concentrate on the picture content. But behind every picture there is a camera - and that's what this book is about. Profusely illustrated throughout with pictures of the cameras, rather than the pictures they took, it looks at 100 years of conflict from the Crimean War to the Korean War. It begins in the days when a photographer needed to be more of a scientist than an artist, such were the difficulties of shooting and processing any photograph. It ends with the cameras whose compact dimensions, versatility and ease of use meant that photographers could largely forget the science and concentrate on the art. Some cameras simply recorded events. Others defined and changed the way those events proceeded. These were the cameras that went to war, and this is their story.


It was a thrill to receive this book from Pen & Sword as I’ve had a long interest in combat photographers, photographs and cameras. This book charts the history of the camera at war, not the photographer or the images themselves, but the kit used from its earliest days from the Crimea to Korea. In a way this book is the perfect collector’s guide to cameras of the period, from the early Daguerreotype ‘studio’ cameras to the 35-mm Nikon F, all appear to be presented. 

The chapter on the Crimean War looks at the wet plate cameras such as those made by Ottewill and Dallmeyer from the mid-1850’s. It also gives some insight into the whole sequence of ‘taking a photograph’ that photographers like Roger Fenton would have gone through in order to take an image, and develop it. There is a chapter on cameras and photography leading up to 1914 when glass, dry plate cameras were the norm, but it wasn’t until roll film cameras of the Great War period that photography really became a popular pastime. The Eastman and the Brownie Kodak's enabled many who were not rich to afford a camera.

Movie cameras such as the Moy and Bastie are also illustrated and of course the Vest Pocket Kodak, the ‘Soldiers Camera’ as it was marketed during the 1914-18 period. Before ending the Great War period, the Pigeon camera and the Hythe Mark III, aka Lewis Gun, camera are also included. The interwar period saw rise to the first 35mm camera such as the Leica, and the first twin and triple lens reflex cameras, such as the Rolleiflex. From wartime multi-lens to midget, Cine to Minox, most cameras seem to be included in this book. The cold-war period in particular is fascinating as a wide array of spy cameras, large and small, are covered. If cameras and military history is your thing, then this is the book for you.

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