Early sports cameras weighed up to 120 pounds, looked like cannons

by Liam McCabe

posted Friday, April 25, 2014 at 12:13 PM EDT

Photo: Flickr user Jussi

Even full-frame monsters like the Nikon D4s or Canon 1D Mk IV look positively shrimpy next to the gear that sports photographers used to have to haul.

Gizmodo dug up a brief history of the “howitzer of early action photography,” based on a page at Kodakery. The weapon of choice for sporting events for much of the first half of the 20th century was a combination of a Graflex Speed Graphic large-format folding camera with a mammoth telephoto lens strapped on the front, sometimes weighing up to 120 pounds. The cannon-looking contraption was known as Big Bertha, and usually shot 5x7” film.

A ready-to-shoot Big Bertha camera on sale at a camera shop. Photo: Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

As use in football, baseball, and racing became more commonplace, ready-to-shoot Big Berthas started to pop up for sale in camera shops. They evolved focus-shifting mechanisms, and burst shooting speeds of 3fps—a big step forward from the early jerry-rigged gear. It goes to show you, a crazy idea can eventually turn into a flagship design, even if it takes the better part of a century.

Check out the stories and more photos of these huge cameras at Gizmodo and Kodakery.

(Via Gizmodo)