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Monday, 20 July 2009


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Out of total curiosity and because I'm a complete nerd, any idea what kind of camera was used for these shots?

I think it was a Hasselblad.


AND, it should be noted that the photograph was made with a Hasselblad!

Re: Photograph AS11-40-5903

A candidate for the Great Photographers on the Internet?

«Hi Neil, that's an unusual picture you have here, but you really got to work on that horizon, man. Or maybe correct it in Photoshop.»

Chris - The cameras were Hasselblads made especially for the moon missions. Good information can be found here;



I'm not Mike but it was a specially built Hasselblad which they left on the Moon.

About the second photo: so unreal that such an achievement looks like a hastily welded art school project wrapped in tin foil.

"I've never liked science fiction's chipper vision of humans flitting between galaxies"

Well, it is pretty rare, in the SF I've read.

For somebody who still likes good space opera, I recommend Iain M. Banks, particularly his first three "Culture" novels.


This should answer your question. http://www.hasselbladusa.com/about-hasselblad/hasselblad-in-space.aspx

@ Chris

Those look like shots form a Hasselblad, being square and all :-)

Apollo 11 Mission Photography

@ Mike

Knock off the MJ bashing :-) He was... misunderstood.

It's good to see real posts remembering these Apollo missions.

Hassie: There is a really wonderful book of Moon/Apollo photos by Michael Light,"Full Moon", who got his hands on the original 6x6 negatives in NASA's archives. There are also wonderful huge prints made from these negs gracing the walls of the Rose Center (formerly Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in NYC). Some of the images look like B&W shots until you see the glint of gold foil here or there and realize what a challenge color photography must have been in an environment that harsh.

There is a little schematic at the back of the book, which shows what they actually had to do mechanically to get to the moon and back. Really Impressive. And they had to do it all with computers we would consider laughably primitive.

Ben Marks

A Hasselblad.


This is the camera, made by Hasselblad: http://www.apolloarchive.com/apg_thumbnail.php?ptr=356&imageID=69-H-666

I think they used Hasselad's with wide angle lenses, often strapped to the chest of the space suit.

That LM looks like such a tin can! I've read that to keep weight down the skin was about a thick as an aluminum drinks can, incredible!

One of my favorite lines in the movie "Apollo 13" was when Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks) looks over at his wife Marilyn (Kathleen Quinlan) and says; 'It's not a miracle, we just decided to go'.


Fond memories indeed. As a Long Island kid, I grew up in what was the aero-space industry center of activity. All the biggies from years gone by. Fairchild, Republic, McDonnell-Douglas, Grumman to name a few. Grumman designed and built the Lunar Lander, so we had our pride sucked up real big back then. And now living down on the space coast in FL, I am back in the thick of it and enjoying it tremendously. Too bad our national pride and sense of adventure has lost us such that NASA is a low priority in the stimulus or our economy and nation. Ah, I wish it could be different.

Michael Tapes

Hasselblad called it an HEDC [Hasselblad electronic Data Camera [though NASA seem to call it a 500EL Data Camera]

It's still there, along with a 11 others.

I always thought they took an SWC at some point as well, but it seems they were only used in '66.



They used three Hasselblad 500ELs: http://history.nasa.gov/alsj/a11/a11-hass.html

I am sure that this has been answered a few times, but they were Hasslebads. I wonder if they just used the "Sunny 16" rule for exposure?

Ken Rockwell shows that the Bokeh was not necessarily very good:

(Scroll to the picture from inside the LEM)

I'm pretty sure that Hasselblad used to advertise that their cameras were used on the Apollo missions. The square format of the pictures here would seem to support that idea.


A Hasselblad 500 EL, if I recall correctly.

Mike I am kind of disappointed you worked the word 'pederasty' into this otherwise elegantly written tribute to mankind's greatest moment...

I saw an exhibit of space exploration prints held by our state (Victoria, Australia) gallery last week, including a nice print of the featured photo and a very nice B&W photo of the satellite dish used to receive the video feed of the first steps on the moon.

According to information there, Hasselblad made a small number of custom cameras that were taken to the moon and left there to save weight for the trip back. The cameras had modifications to allow scientific measurement of distance between features in the photos taken. I'm sure that more detail could be found on the NASA website.

A quick follow up: an account of the development of the Hasselblad "Space Camera" and the camera used on the moon can be found at

Extremely eloquent writing. That last paragraph is one of few I've seen that truly - poetically - does justice to the momentousness of this achievement four decades later.

The space camera used was a specially fitted Hasselblad 500EL camera with a 60mm f/5.6 Zeiss Biogon lens.

Mike Cuore di Pietra Johnston:
the most hard text I've read about the demise of MJ (Michael Jackson). Low grade music, no doubt....

Here's a NASA history page on Apollo 11's complement of Hasselblad 500ELs:


I believe it was a Hasselblad with a 150mm lens, that Armstrong carried - therefore all the pictures are of Buzz Aldrin.

Check this: http://www.hasselbladusa.com/news/hasselblad-marks-nasa%E2%80%99s-apollo-11-lunar-photo-shoot.aspx


Most of the famous moon pictures (including the two shown here) were taken with specially modified Hasselblad 500 series cameras. They also had some 16mm movie cameras. They weren't used for the moon landings, but NASA has used modified Nikon F series SLRs (and now D series DSLRs) as well.

Agreed, Mike. Nicely said.

If memory serves me and it rarely does I think it was a Hasselblad 6x6. Obviosly shot on film, so another Question might be if they needed to make adjustments for exposures based on the different gravity and its effect on the shutter speeds.

A Hasselblad EDC, a custom-made version of the Hasselblad 500EL.

The NASA Hasselblads shot E-4 film, not color negative. The originals are probably somewhat faded by now. The cameras were equipped with a Reseau plate: a transparent reticle just above the film, which carried precisely etched grid lines in order to facilitate photogrammetry. Also(correct me if I'm wrong),the 60mm Biogon-selected for it's lack of distortion-was not generally sold to the public. Being a Biogon, I assume it couldn't be used with a reflex mirror. The 60mm Distagon was the normal '60' sold for Hasselblad.


As a twelve year old I watched the landing and, then as now, marvelled at what you Yanks had achieved. But can we get on, please? This is beginning to look like the official NASA site. EP-1 review .... NOW!!!!

When one looks at the actual prints from these images and I have been fortunate enough to see some of them, one realises just how clear and good they are.

I have no idea of what the exposures and ISO's would have been but they are darn good considering the very contrasty levels of light - pitch black skies, lunar soil (well, you can't say earth, can you?) and bright white space suits.

They must have received some very good photo training. In a pre-digital era, there was of course no way of seeing if these images would have been ok before returning to earth. I would have been as nervous as all hell. Can you imagine messing up on one of mankind's greatest achievements...gee, sorry folks, the pictures didn't come out (unless of course, you are one of those conspiracy theorists who believe it was staged in a warehouse somewhere)

Anyway, I think they are wonderful images, and it makes one realise that there is not much you couldn't do 40 years ago, long before D3x's, Photoshop and all the other stuff that we now turn out in an effort to emulate that which we could once do so easily, by simply popping a film into the back of a camera. It made me realise that the new era is just about simulating film using electronics, it's no giant leap for mankind when you really think about it.

What happened to the horizon in the second picture? Is the spacecraft on the edge of a deep crater?

Dear Keith,

Yes, E-4. But I'd bet reasonable money that the originals aren't faded at all. NASA keeps them in cold storage.

Meticulously-processed E-4 from that period holds up surprisingly well. I just checked some 120-format E-4 that I exposed and processed in early 1971 (closest I can come to a matching date) and has been stored at room temperature ever since. As best as my eye can tell from the frames that have good color references in them (known whites, grays, and blacks) there is no visible fading. Which, of course, doesn't mean zero, but I'm confident it's less than 5 CC.

I'm sure part of that is my super-careful processing, but I'd be awfully surprised if NASA wasn't a lot better at that than I was.

Anyway, between that and cold storage, I would expect the stuff to look pristine.

~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

I think the Apollo program deserves to be remembered and celebrated for its own sake, for the efforts of those many thousands of people who were directly involved, and as an inspiration to us all as we address the present great challenge. Forty years later, it still ranks as one of mankind's greatest technical achievements. Most people can't conceive of the engineering and mathematical cleverness, nor the degree of resolve that went into making it happen. The Apollo effort led to the development of technologies and inspired a generation of young people into careers in science and engineering; both of these produced lasting benefits that permeate our lives today.

As a non-American, I dislike many aspects of American popular culture that are thrust upon us via the media and accepted by our own young people. Against this, the Apollo program stands as one of your country's finest achievements. The real shame is that was terminated and the know-how and experience disbanded by the president whose name and signature is on the landing plaques. Still, the accomplishment remains. May Apollo serve as an example of what can be achieved when foresight, intelligence, determination and courage are harnessed for a collective goal.

Haha I guess I should have know I wouldn't be the first to answer that question.

Here's another story about the Zeiss lenses they used: http://www.photographyblog.com/news/carl_zeiss_lenses_used_on_moon/

Interestingly they left behind 12 cameras + lenses on various missions to the moon. So I guess if you ever need a "cheap" used camera you can pick 'm up there!


I was wondering the same thing, and managed to google up the Minolta Spotmeter the astronauts used:


I wonder what "70mm" means in this context http://www.lpi.usra.edu/resources/apollo/catalog/70mm/mission/?11?

@Eolake, hail to the fellow Banks fan. :-)

I never realized until I read "First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong", that there are no pictures of Armstrong on the Moon (unless you count his reflection in Aldrin's visor or frames from video/movies).

Well said. Where can I donate?
I recommend Michael J. Collins' book "Carrying the Fire" to anyone with interest in how it was. From the preface: "There is no trick to it [the title]; it is simply what I feel space flight is like, when limited to three words. Of course, Apollo was the god who carried the fiery sun across the sky in a chariot, but beyond that - how would you carry fire? Carefully, that's how, with lots of planning and at considerable risk." It has a thoughtful foreword by Charles Lindbergh, now, what did he do again? And about 5 photographs, too.

erlik, the film used was 70mm wide.

As if the quality of photography was not already amazing enough, I learn that the Hasselblad had no finder. Armstrong's shots were all hip shots (or chest shots, I guess).

As related in the mir.com story (linked by someone, above), neither could Armstrong see the film counter during the moonwalk. He announced every frame as he took it so that mission control could log it and keep track of frames left.

I always get a kick out of high tech low tech, for some reason. And I am newly impressed by how many aspects of the mission were "on manual" and relied on the skills, nerves and smarts of the astronauts and controllers.

I was wondering about the colour in these photos as I expected them to be black and white.
I stumbled across this article which I thought was quite interesting:

Jim Campbell,
That's not quite true. Neil Armstrong appears in photographs AS11-40-5886 and AS11-40-5916. In the Apollo Image Gallery (linked to in the first photo caption, above), you can see that Neil, after taking AS11-40-5879, handed the camera to Buzz, who shot the widely-published photographs of his boot and the prints in the lunar soil, then completed a series of overlapping shots as a 360 degree pan of the landing site, one of which contains Neil working at the MESA on the side of the LM. There's also AS11-40-5916, but, yes, there's no portrait of Neil that matches that of Buzz.

Dear Erlik,

"70mm" is perforated film stock, same width as "120" format film. No paper backing, bulk loads, lets you make LOTS of photos before having to change film magazines.

pax / Ctein

@erlik, "70mm" means that the NASA Hasselblads used perforated 70mm wide film with thin polyester base, instead of the usual 120/220 size roll film. See: http://www.hq.nasa.gov/alsj/apollo.photechnqs.htm if you want a really detailed explanation of photography on Apollo missions.

Of course Armstrong is not in any of the photos. Isn't it always the case on a trip that Dad is the one taking the pictures, he is never *in* the photos. 8^)

Thank you for posting this. It is truly mankind's greatest achievement, and as Arthur C. Clarke said, the one thing people will remember this generation for 1000 years from now.

King of Pederasty? I'm not a fan of Jackson, but the fact is that they never found him guilty.

About the main theme, I couldn't agree more, I absolutely love the adventure spirit of the human beast, and love the "because it was there" attitude, and the glimpse... maybe the whole trip was worth just to take that look at the earth (by the way, your article about the Hubble as a camera is, for me, your finest piece of writing).

But a friend of mine ask me if it was worth to throw all that money in such a political challenge while half the population on earth was poor (still is).

I'd like to know what do you think Mike.

PD: I've been reading your site about four years ago, without making comments, but enjoying it every day. You do a great work, thanks for it.

So CAN those discarded cameras still be used if someone (the Chinese *gasp*) happen to pick them up from the moon's surface?

George Eastman House on Flickr just uploaded a Moon set ...


I love flickr. So much cool stuff on there.


What a beautifully written piece. It brought back a memory. My family and I watched on live TV Armstrong take the first step. Later that night, I saw my father in backyard, standing alone in the dark. He was looking up at the sky.

"~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]"

Ctein - there is *never* any word-salad in your posts that I have seen and yet you have been using this sign-off for what seems like a very very long time now.

Are you really *still* training...........?


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