Sociedad Ibero-Americana de la Historia de la Fotografia Museo Fotográfico y Archivo Historico "Adolfo Alexander"
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EXTREMELY Rare Kardon 35mm

WWII Army Signal Corps Camera

WWII vintage Kardon Army Signal Corps camera
(aka, the famous "American Leica")


Courtesy David Sleeter/Moreno Valley, CA





From the 1940s and the momentous days of World War II, here is an extremely rare 35mm. Kardon U.S. Army Signal Corps camera with the original Kardon “Eveready” leather case, both in excellent condition.

Made by the Premier Instrument Corporation under the direction of its Russian-immigrant president, Peter Kardon, this brilliantly-designed camera (Army designation PH-629/UF) was intended to fulfill the Army’s need for an American version of the German-made Leica 111a, which had become unavailable due to the fact that the U.S. was at war with Germany.

In 1941, the U.S. government seized control of the New York branch of the German E. Leitz company, but by 1943 they had found that the Leitz equipment at that facility was in such poor condition that it was unusable and unrepairable, and also that the Leica 111a did not lend itself to mass production.

In a patriotic and self-sacrificing effort to help with America’s war effort, the Kardon family embarked on a major redesign of the Leica 111a, and the Kardon Signal Corps camera was the result. For the lens they chose the proven and reliable Kodak 47mm f/2 Ektar, and they delivered the first production samples in 1945. But when, shortly thereafter, WWII ended, the government cancelled its contract for this wonderful and improved “American Leica”. And as a result, the Kardon Signal Corps camera met the same unfortunate fate as the gigantic Hughes Aircraft wooden troop transport plane, the famous “Spruce Goose”. There were only a few thousand of these cameras made. There are few in existence today, and this one is serial #1487.

There’s an excellent and compelling article on the Kardon camera and the sacrifices made by the Kardon family in an online version of “The Shutterbug”, and you can find it by copying and pasting the following link into your web browser’s location window.

The article is written by the noted collectors, Dean and Sandy Ritz, and there’s an example of the same Kardon camera in their collector’s catalogue at To find this camera, click on their online catalogue link, and do a search on the word, “Kardon”. Important note. The camera in the Ritz catalogue is missing the U.S. Army lettering on the i.d. plate. It looks like it’s been sanded it off. As the photos below clearly show, the i.d. plate on this camera is complete, what is indeed a rare found characteristic seen in those cameras.

This item is an important piece of WWII American history.

 Of particular note is the beautiful condition of the lens, and the perfect condition of the original case’s stitching.


Photo #1: A picture of the camera and the case together



Photo #1a: Camera and case detail


Photo #2: A closeup of the front of the camera


Photo #3: This closeup of the rear of the camera shows the condition of the U.S. Army identification plate.



Photo #4: A closeup of the top of the camera


Photo #5: A closeup of the bottom of the camera.

Photo #6: A closeup of the lens.

Photo #7: A picture of the camera mounted in the case.

Photo #8: A picture of the case showing the front and the bottom.

Photo #9: A picture of the case showing the front and the top.

Photo #10: A picture of the back of the case.


During the war it was needed  a perfect e maintenance and repair instructions manual for the Kardon camera.

Really On the background, Leitz New York people were giving details and tecnology not only for the building puposes on a Leica type camera but also various accessories. Lenses for Leica were made by Wollensack and Britar. Imarect finder, copy stage, extension tubes, filters, sunshades  X-Ray cameras,  slide projectors, slide viewers, flash guns and synchronizers, and a series of small accessories., Here, we show some of them.



And here, American made lenses for the Leica  by Wollensak also an Imarect finder.

This camera is American made from German parts left before the war, and this is noted because the low speed dial place is covered by a disc what is not common on German  made cameras at that time. Further american units made, lacks the leather covering disc and shows three fixing screws. You can note that also in the cases there are the logo E. Leitz New York.


© Leicashop Wien, 2004



Here the Pam-Britar from independent American made lens maker.





Lenses for Kardon/Leica


This is the normal Ektar



This is the extra rare Kodak Lykemar wide angle. 1946 production


This is the extra rare Kodak Lykemar wide angle. 1946 production


Purposely made for the consumer market, its name was given in order to sound similar to “Like-Elmar” these lenses are rangefinder coupled.


A very strange and extremely rare, although of much more recent production is this Kodak Lykemar 90mm f2 lens for Leica cameras, also uncoupled to rangefinder



 Another Kodak lens for Leica cameras prepared as War Effort  was the 1944 made rangefinder uncoupled Kodak Anastigmat 4.5 161mm . These lenses were intended for the Army and Navy mainly for long distance picture making.












Wollensak - Leica


Wollensak also produced several articles for the Leica and Kardon

Imarect finder with 127mm mark detent


Imarect finder with 28mm attachment


28mm attachment



Velostigmat* 3.5/50

Velostigmat* 4.5/90

Velostigmat* 4.5/127

Wollensak Velostigmat = Wolllensak Raptar = Leica Anastigmat


Wollensak Fototel 6.3/20 inches (50cm)

extremely rare 50cm mirror lens for Visoflex with E39 screw mount, original brown Wollensak leather case (Serial no: B40669, Condition: B-) 50 cm mirror telephoto lens made for E39 cameras. Incorporates the Visoflex. Made under Old Delft original patent licence. Only few units were produced.









Leica desk viewer



Harber& Fink turret for Leica and Kardon

Using Wollensak lenses



This is a Westinghouse “Leica”

 It was used in X ray Westinghouse apparatus during the WWII due the original Leica shortage.

This camera had no shutter only film advance and stop. It was used on X ray fluorescent screens completely light damped

A 1.5/55mm  Kodak uncorrected  lens was used only for blue rays

This was a truly war effort.


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