Image: Richard Wilhelmer via Julius von Bismarck
Image: Richard Wilhelmer via Julius von Bismarck
Far from being a novel modern-day invention, cameras shaped like guns have been around nearly as long as the medium of photography itself; one early example, for instance, dates back to 1862. Moreover, gun-imitating cameras have played a small but key role in history, having been used in counterintelligence activities by security services like the Soviet KGB. Cut to the present day, however, and there are still plenty of contemporary examples – whether utilized to capture steady shots in the heat of battle or to project guerrilla graffiti into other people’s pictures. Whatever their application, though, it’s fair to say that camera guns put a novel twist on the concept of “point and shoot” – although any photographer using one should probably be careful where they aim.
10. Leica Camera Rifle Prototype
Leica Camera is a German company that produces a variety of optics, from lenses and binoculars to cameras. At one time – likely in the 1930s – the firm even made a camera gun. And thanks to features such as its wooden stock and bayonet mount viewfinder, the Leica Camera Rifle Prototype certainly looks the part.
The apparently one-off device and its accessories are said to still be in excellent condition and working perfectly, both of which attributes may have helped the camera gun to receive an estimate of at least $335,435 before it was auctioned in 2015.
Image: via rogerandfrances.com
9. Zenit Photosniper
Made in a Russian factory from the 1950s, Zenit-brand cameras were subsequently shipped to 74 countries around the globe. Unusually, however, the Zenit range included an observation camera known as the Photosniper, which mimicked the characteristics of a rifle and was produced during the Cold War period.
The camera’s design furthermore made it an ideal surveillance tool, enabling its operator to capture crisp images of moving objects with a steady hand. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Zenit Photosniper was utilized by the KGB in addition to other intelligence agencies across communist Europe.
8. Nikon D200 TALCS
Camera guns aren’t solely confined to the world of retro military surveillance. In fact, for Nikon D200 fans who want to do their own pointing and shooting with just such a device, there’s something they can use without jettisoning their preferred type of camera.
The Tactical Camera Long Range Assault Stock – or TALCS – combines a modular rifle stalk with an auto focus and shutter mechanism incorporated into the trigger, transforming a standard digital SLR camera into a rugged outback accessory. It’s even adjustable for left-handed snappers.
7. Paillard Bolex H9 Mi Gun camera
The impressive, heavy-duty Paillard Bolex H9 Mi Gun camera managed to survive in a warzone, and it did so just by shooting 8 mm film rather than 9 mm rounds. The bespoke item was apparently created for a correspondent covering the Vietnam War; and in terms of makeup, it melds a standard H9 movie camera from Swiss firm Paillard Bolex with a robust gun stock and trigger housing.
In 2009, however, the clever camera was sold on eBay – perhaps to a buyer who appreciated, in the words of website BornRich, its “blend of guerrilla art and homemade gadget awesomeness.”
6. Japanese Type 89 Machine Gun Camera
During the early 20th century, various gun cameras were developed to help train military aerial gunnery students. Replicating the real thing in practically everything other than bullets, the devices’ photographs were used to assess trainees’ trigger skills.
One such “weapon” was the Japanese Type 89 Machine Gun Camera, known as the Rokuoh-Sha. Introduced in 1936 by the company that later became Konica, the Type 89 used 35 mm cine film and was powered by a hand-turned spring motor capable of up to ten frames a second.
Image: National Media Museum
5. Thompson’s Revolver Camera
Even in the world of vintage gun cameras, the Thompson’s Revolver Camera is arguably one of the most retro of them all. That said, the device’s cylindrical brass body and circular glass plate somewhat give it the air of a modern-day steampunk creation.
Image: via photo.net
Thought to have been based on a Colt-made revolver and created in 1862, the camera could take four photos before a “reload” was needed. In another neat touch, the cylinder also spun through 90 degrees after each “shot.” Despite its apparent attention to detail, though, the Thompson’s Revolver Camera proved unpopular with photographers, and fewer than 100 of the model were ever made.
Image: National Media Museum via Daily Mail
4. Sands and Hunter Gun Camera
The unpopularity of the Thompson’s Revolver Camera apparently didn’t stifle the will of 19th-century designers to create an effective camera gun, however; and just over two decades later the Sands and Hunter Gun Camera was born.
Image: National Media Museum via Science & Society Picture Library
And while this contraption appears distinctly archaic to modern eyes, in 1885 it was pretty cutting-edge, as the period saw a boom in cameras that resembled other things – whether to be used for clandestine snapping or just serving as a bizarre talking point. The Sands & Hunter Gun Camera here looked like a rifle and was aimed accordingly, using recognizable gun sights, with the “target” image visible on a glass screen.
Image: via Wired
3. Image Fulgurator
Here’s a gun camera with a difference, although perhaps the Image Fulgurator nods to its Cold War-era counterparts thanks to its sneaky purpose. Created by Berlin-based artist Julius von Bismarck, the unusual optical mod was designed to project an image – invisible to the naked eye – onto any object being photographed by someone else.
Image: via V2¬_
Using another camera’s flash to trigger its own projection system, “visual information can [then] be smuggled unnoticed into the images of others,” according to von Bismarck’s website. It’s a clever trick – and one that will undoubtedly cause confusion in many an unsuspecting fellow photographer when they view their own strangely manipulated snaps.
Image: via Fancy
2. Doryu 2-16
Another retro Japanese design, this next device could be a convincing 9 mm automatic pistol if it weren’t for its barrel, which somewhat gives the game away. Manufactured by the Doryu Camera Company between 1954 and 1956, the 16 mm still-image camera element accounts for almost half of the contraption’s overall weight, and unlike the real thing it of course only shoots film.
Image: via io9
The device is understood to have been renamed the Nihon 16-miri Shashin Kōgyō at some point during its history, and like other vintage camera guns featured here, it has become rather valuable in recent times. For example, one model fetched nearly $25,000 in 2001 in spite of its outdated technology.
1. BushHawk Rifle Stock
Camera guns like the Paillard Bolex H9 Mi Gun were definitely rather cumbersome devices to be carried by reporters in dangerous conflict environments; the more modern BushHawk rifle stock, though, is considerably easier to transport around. What’s more, the lightweight system was the instrument of choice for Army Reserve photographer Jeffrey Duran while he was embedded with ground troops in Afghanistan.
The BushHawk BH-200S is certainly an improvement on the combat camera guns of yore, weighing in as it does at less than a pound and able to accommodate a number of optical devices – from cameras and spotting scopes to binoculars. The model also comes in two colors and costs just $130. Meanwhile, the newer BH-320D style offers two handles and comes in at just under $200.