(Click thumbnails for larger images and more details.)

     The Estes Camroc model rocket camera, introduced around 1966 and available for 10 years when it was replaced by the AstroCam, was a remarkably simple but effective device. It consisted of four basic sections: nosecone, shutter/lens assembly, film holder and rocket adapter.

     The nosecone, with its small clear plastic window, gave the camera the required aerodynamic shape while protecting the shutter and lens assembly below.

     The shutter system was simplicity itself. A thin sliding bar with an aperture in the center was attached to a rubber band pulling in one direction and a string pulling in the other (more on the operation of the shutter below). Just below the shutter system was the lens. The lens was molded out of clear plastic and had to be glued in place by the modeler. If I recall correctly, the shutter system was assembled by the modeler as well.

     The film holder assembly consisted of four components: body, upper light blocking plate, film holding ring and lower light blocking plate. The upper light blocking plate was a thin metal sheet that slid through a slot in the side of the film holder body. It performed two jobs. First, it protected the film from light when the film holder was not attached to the camera body. Second, it protected the film from light once again when the shutter was being set prior to launch. The film itself was held in a thin, hollow ring. This ring was hollow so that the film could be pressed into place from the top, then pushed out again from the bottom. Finally, a lower light blocking plate not only kept light from exposing the film from below, but also acted as a coupler to attach the entire film holding assembly to the rocket adapter. The modeler could have a number of film holders set up with fresh film and ready to go so that a number of launches could be made without having to change the film itself at the field.

     Finally, the adapter performed two functions. First, it connected the wider camera assembly to a thinner rocket body, such as the two-stage Astron Delta, the launcher recommended by Estes. Second, it had a slot molded into its base, which held the shutter string in place when the adapter was inserted into the rocket body.

     The first thing the rocketeer had to do to take an aerial picture with Camroc was set the shutter. The string attached to the shutter was pulled until the aperture was on the far side of the lens. The string was then wrapped around a slot molded into the rocket adapter. When the adapter was placed in the rocket body, the string was held in place. After the camera and string were secured in the rocket body, the upper light-blocking plate in the film holder assembly was removed. The camera/rocket assembly was now ready for launch. A rocket engine with a long delay was recommended to assure that the camera was pointing down when the shutter was released. Once the rocket nosed over and was facing down, the engine's ejection charge fired, forcing the camera out of the body. This, in turn, released the string that held the shutter in place. The rubber band attached to the shutter pulled it back allowing the aperture to pass over the lens, exposing the film and taking the picture.

     In a somewhat remarkable coincidence, discovered over 30 years later as I was preparing this web site, two pictures were taken from roughly the same altitude and pointing in roughly the same direction. This allowed for the creation of a simple mosaic (left). Also coincidental is the fact that while both of these photos were taken in winter, they were taken on different days, and possibly in different years.

As I was nearing completion of this web page, it occurred to me to compare my Camroc shots with an overhead view from Microsoft's TerraServer web site. This turned into a very interesting exercise. Something like this could be the basis for a science fair project. With a little planning and a lot of work, an industrious student could create a 360 degree aerial panorama of the area surrounding their launch site. Click on the thumbnail to go to my TerraServer image page.

Examples of Estes Camroc Catalog Pages



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