Museum of the Broadcast Television Camera

Frequently Asked Questions

Old cameras for stage use
Help with sourcing a 1980's studio camera/mock up Camera
How old is my television camera?

How much is my camera worth?

What does it take to get a vintage camera working?

What camera should I get for my home studio?

Question: Old cameras for stage use

I am curious about vintage broadcast cameras since a few months ago now, as I am an entertainer and had the idea of acquiring a monochrome vintage camera from the mid-fifties, studio type, of small dimensions, to set in a pub as decoration, and if possible, in working order, to send live images on CCTV to monitors placed here and there in the pub during my show, which includes acting and music from the fifties and sixties. Then, last Monday in London, at the Prince Edward Theatre, I saw the musical "The Jersey Boys", which is the story of the band "The Four Seasons". In two musical numbers, to my joy and surprise, vintage cameras from the '60s appear, sending live (B&W, obviously) to the huge flat colour screens that appear several times above the performers, recreating the experience of being into a TV studio watching a pop group in the '60s! "That was my idea!” I thought, and now back home in Spain, I've found your web page. So if you have an idea of where to start my search, if there is any market of this items on the net or in specialized collectors shops, please let me know. Thank you for your time and attention. Regards, Fernando, Spain, November 2009.

Answer: Hello Fernando

Original cameras from the period you are interested in are difficult to find, many having been scrapped when their useful life was over and those that survived have been "snapped" up by collectors like myself.

Cameras from the 1950s could be divided into two general categories, those for surveillance (CCTV) work. These were simple cameras with small tubes and relatively poor pictures, The second category were cameras for broadcast television, these used larger tubes and were MUCH more complex and had, with correct adjustment, much better pictures. These cameras are the most sought after, in the UK one was offered for sale at auction, in non working order, the reserve price was over £3000.

If you were lucky enough to find one of these broadcast cameras there would be difficulties in keeping it working. When they were new they had constant attention by engineers and breakdowns were frequent. The passage of 50 years has not improved the reliability. Recent experience with old cameras suggest that you are pleased if you get a day without a breakdown. Think about a vintage 1950s car for a comparison.

The stage show you mention, have made there own "vintage" camera. It is a very good copy of an American RCA TK11 camera. Inside it is a modern CCTV camera which will have a very high reliability. The whole camera would be much lighter and safer to operate in a stage environment by non-engineers. I should also point out that 1950s cameras meet 1950s safety requirements, not 2009 health and safety. I am sure you have health and safety paranoia in Spain as we do in the UK.

dummy camera

Here is a picture of the inside of the camera in the show. You can see the CCTV camera in the middle of the camera body. They have spent time and money in making a good workable substitute that will be reliable and safe.

Question: Help with sourcing a 1980's studio camera/mock up Camera

My name is Jennifer and I'm currently working on a Play at Leeds University. We're working on a new play and within the play we need a 1980's “Studio style Camera” that would have been used on a music video set.
It doesn't have to be working so could effectively be a shell, I was wondering if there would be anyway you would be able to help us source this? We would be very appreciative and would credit you in our program for any help you could give us for the show. Speaking to some people in the know in this area they said I should be looking at something like the following two cameras, the Link110 or the EMI2001. Thank you in advance


There are a number of difficulties in using vintage broadcast cameras, They are big, heavy, and some are very collectable and hence valuable. The one you mention, the EMI2001, is very sought after (usually by retired cameramen!). Also both the ones you picked out are from the 1970s. A better choice for the mid 1980s would be a Marconi Mk9 or a Link 125. This camera weighed 40Kg without the lens of viewfinder. It was mounted on a substantial tripod. All this weight comes with difficulties in handling and health and safety implications.
In the 1980s smaller portable cameras were available from Sony, Ikegami and others. Much less impressive as a prop, but they are available from time to time on the surplus market.
At this point I usually recommend that you make a copy from cardboard and glue, Blue Peter style. It only costs some time, and you will be able to pick it up! and nobody will be hurt if it falls on them.

Question: How old is my television camera?


The easiest solution is to find a picture of it in the Museum. If you are unable to find it, and there are lots of cameras not yet listed. Here are some clues for broadcast cameras: all dates approximate, different manufacturers adopting technology at different times.

Does it use valves? Yes pre 1966. No post 1964. Note 1.
Transistors only. Yes 1964 to about 1970
Transistors and ICs. Yes about 1968 to 1988. Note 2
Microprocessor? Post about 1980, again look at the date codes.

The tube type is an important clue, a camera can’t be earlier than the introduction date of the tube originally used. Dates are very approximate.
Iconoscope, post 1935.
Image Iconoscope, post 1938.
Image Orthicon 3”, post about 1945
Image Orthicon 4.5”, post about 1958. Note 3
Midget Image Iconoscope, Late 1940s to middle 1950s in the UK, later in Europe, 1965?
CPS Emitrons, post 1947 to 1956/7
Lead Oxide tubes (Plumbicons) 30mm. introduced by Philips from c.1964.
Lead Oxide tubes (Plumbicons) 25mm. from about c.1968.
Lead Oxide tubes (Plumbicons) 18mm. from about c.1975.
CCD sensors: from about 1985.
Vidicon: from about 1950 to 1965 for broadcast cameras, later for educational cameras. Note 4

Lenses: Pre about 1966 cameras were designed with turrets that could be rotated to present different lenses to the tube although a zoom lens was often fitted to on of the turret stations. Post about 1965 cameras were made to have a single zoom lens.

Question: How much is my camera worth?


This is a tricky one! Ultimately a camera is worth what someone will pay for it! In general terms a broadcast camera was (is) a very expensive item when new and it maintains that sort of value whilst it is still of use to broadcast service. Cameras then have a second life with education or other sub broadcast use and after some time, as they become more and more obsolete, the value reaches the bottom of the “bathtub” curve. At this point the camera, which may not work or have parts missing, may only be worth a few tens of pounds. Many vintage cameras have passed through this point and are now on the far side of the bathtub curve and are appreciating in value. An example of this is in the UK is the EMI 2001 camera which is now sought after, often by retired cameramen who worked with them whilst they were in service. Other cameras are less well known and have a lower value, but age and rarity increase the value. As to the value a camera might make at auction to only way to find out is to try.

Question: What does it take to get a vintage camera working?


There’s an old saying “If you have to ask the price of a Rolls-Royce you can’t afford it”. Or more helpfully you need to be a fully trained electronics engineer or have access to one who owes you a big favour. The newer cameras say 15-20 years old are very complex and can have difficult to locate faults. Middle age cameras are less complex and easier to fix, but can have problems caused by neglect, like corrosion of the optics. The old cameras use valve technology and the skills needed are not taught any more. All but the most recent cameras will have reliability issues and the older ones need constant attention. Good luck!

Question: What camera should I get for my home studio?


It depends were your interests are. If you wish to produce good reliable pictures every day, I think you should be looking for a new or nearly new camera(s). A camera from the high street store will produce good pictures often better than a full broadcast camera of a couple of decades ago.
You may wish to use older and more affordable equipment to take advantage of the studio facilities that are not part of the “home camcorder” setup. In this case my recommendation is to buy the newest camera(s) that you can afford and to upgrade them as and when the opportunity arises. Reliability should be high on you priority list as modern broadcast cameras are hard to fix and the parts carry “broadcast” price tags!
If however you wish to recreate a historic television studio of your favourite broadcaster you will need to track down suitable cameras and all the supporting equipment. This will include tripods or pedestals, monitors, mixers, VTRs, SPGs, measuring waveform and vector monitors. The list is quite long and don’t neglect the sound or lighting needed. A large amount of expertise is needed to connect all of this up and to make it work and keep it working.

Note 1: In the 1950s it was common practice for capacitor manufacturers to date stamp the outer case of larger electrolytic capacitors.


Note 2: Most integrated circuits have a date code stamped on them, the latest date will be some weeks before the actual date of manufacture of the camera.


Note 3: 4.5” tubes were available earlier (c.1954) but not accepted in the UK by the BBC until the performance had been improved (c.1958). The larger tube was then retrofitted in the Marconi MkIII camera.


Note 4: For broadcast live camera use the vidicon had poor performance when compared to the other tubes and was little used for high quality work.