KA-23A Aerial Recon Camera

Fairchild KA-23A camera, 15" f/5.6 Wollensak lens.

Of course I thought David Burnett was pretty cool for putting a big aerial reconnaissance camera lens on his Speed Graphic, so once I got into larger format cameras, eBay, and freelancing-in-southern-Ohio style time on my hands I decided to give it a try, too. Got this bad boy in the hopes I could break it down (without damaging its integrity as a camera) and use the lens.


I am frequently surprised by the size of things I order on eBay. My Crown Graphic was, shall we say, a tad smaller than I expected. This thing, on the other hand, was satisfyingly huge.

After removing the outer lens shroud. Fairchild KA-23A aerial cameraKA_23A_Aerial_Recon_Camera_04

I was able to get the lens off of the camera, and after much struggling was able to get the lens apart to clean out some fungus.


Anybody have a Geiger counter? Apparently the rear elements in some of these lenses use radioactive Thorium to reduce image distortion. I don’t think this model contains any, but I’d love to find out. It’s not supposed to be particularly dangerous, but you don’t want to store it under your bed!

Now to figure out what to shoot with it!


Update from May, 2014: I made a few 4×5 film shots with the lens, but was unimpressed. I finally mounted it on an 8×10 camera and made one tintype – I’m stopping, for now, while I’m ahead.  :-)

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