What camera did the astronaut Ed White use during the first space walk?

It was the mission Gemini 4 and the camera is visible in some pictures, for example here: http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/gemini_4_eva.html but I cannot recognize it.

2 Answers 2


history was made when the first picture of a spacecraft in orbit was taken by astronaut Ed White as he floated outside his spacecraft. He used a Zeiss Contarex 35mm camera mounted atop his gas-powered maneuvering gun.

From http://history.nasa.gov/printFriendly/apollo_photo.html

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Image: NASA "The first photograph of the EVA as Ed White backs away from the Gemini spacecraft over the Pacific Ocean northeast of Hawaii"

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Image: NASA "This photograph was taken early in the EVA over a cloud-covered Pacific Ocean. The maneuvering gun is visible in White's right hand."

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Image: NASA, public domain "Hand-Held Self-Maneuvering Unit to be used during extravehicular activity (EVA) on Gemini 4 flight. It is an integral unit that contains its own high pressure metering valves and nozzles required to produce controlled thrust. A camera is mounted on the front of the unit."

I believe special versions of cameras were sometimes produced for use in space. for example to make them easier to use in a spacesuit (a film advance lever might be replaced by a knurled knob, the camera might be painted black and so on). This might explain why the camera used by Ed White in space looks slightly different to the cameras used by the general public on Earth.

  • I'd like to see a photograph taken by Ed White on that spacewalk included here, as well as photographs taken of Ed White by James McDivitt from inside the Gemini IV spacecraft.
    – Michael C
    Aug 7, 2019 at 3:02

I was the one who prepared the camera for this mission, It was a Zeiss-Ikon Contarex Special; everybody could buy this model. Because the Astronaut was wearing a bulky helmet, he could not get his eyes close enough to the viewfinder so the prism viewfinder was taken off. The lens was a normal Tessar 2,8 50mm ste at f/11 and 15ft. The camera was brought to our shop (Z.I.V.S) by a Mr. Burkhard from McDonnell Aircraft of Saint Louis who at that time were building the space capsules. I'm proud to have contributed a tiny bit to the Space Program. Best Regards.

  • 3
    Thank you very much for your great recollection! What does "Z.I.V.S" stand for? Jun 3, 2021 at 13:10
  • And another question, I can't imagine that stock greases and lubricants in the camera would have been suitable for for a vacuum environment. Or was the spacewalk duration shorter than what could have caused problems?
    – Peter M
    Jun 3, 2021 at 18:21

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