In the 1950s they used the Crown Graphic Camera (manufactured by Graflex, this camera was used at crime scenes as the large flash unit could light up an entire room. It was also favoured for mug shots during this time.A great advantage of the Crown Graphic and other press camera designs is that they can close with a compact lens mounted on the camera.The Crown Graphic is light and easy to carry. It weighs only 4.8 pounds, including a 135mm Graflex Optar lens (but excluding the rangefinder). It is very quick to set up. Opening the bed, locking it into place, extending the front standard, and popping open the groundglass cover takes just a few seconds.

Pacemaker Crown Graphic 4x5

Closed Camera Back

Open Camera Back

Drop Bed and Front Tilt Backward

Pros and Cons

There is much to like about the Crown Graphic as a field camera:

  • Low price
  • Light weight
  • Easy to set up and take down
  • Durable
  • Compact size when folded
  • Easy to store in a backpack
  • Solid all metal protective groundglass cover
  • Good groundglass and Fresnel lens combination
  • Can be used with a wide range of lenses
  • International standard Graflok back

There are also some significant drawbacks to the Crown Graphic as a field camera:

  • Lack of critical movements
  • Some of the available movements are quite cumbersome
  • Lack of a reversible or rotating back
  • Loss of front rise when in vertical orientation

1954: Kodak Retina 1A camera – compact camera often used in regional areas to photograph crime scenes.

This is a folding 35mm camera. There is a small bellows between the lens board and the rest of the camera for when the lens extends.

Pros and Cons


  • Light weight
  • Easy to set up and take down
  • Compact size when folded
  • Easy to store in a backpack
  • This camera is so simple that it has no light meter and no way to focus
  • It has no rangefinder
  • Price-as a top-quality product, it was expensive. It sold for aroud $500 – $1,000 new


Metz Flash arm – detachable flash arms were preferred by many crime scene photographers as light could be better controlled and directed. Flash Unit Exposure charts assisted photographers to determine light and exposure levels when using flash units.Olympus light meters were attached to gauge the available light and determine film exposure times.

1963:Olympus Pen F camera was used for mug shots, as it allowed two half framed images – one from the front and side profile to be taken on one section of the film.The Olympus Pen F was the world’s first and only half-frame system single-lens reflex camera, released in 1963. The camera featured a porro-prism finder and was the first to have a rotary titanium shutter. It could be used with a highly versatile range of 20 exchangeable lenses. The Olympus Pen F was a revolutionary camera packed with innovative features.


1971-1975:Polaroid Colorpack 2 and 82 Camera – provided instant images of crime scenes. It was the first rigid, plastic bodied, colour film capable Polaroid to retail at consumer range prices.

1978:Paraktica EE3 Camera – photographers would use yellow and red filters – to change contrast levels to highlight fingerprints or tyre treads.

Cultural changes

Professional photographers would then be employed to take posed portraits of the criminals. This was early evidence that led to the standard mug shot known today and was unlike any previously known portraiture. Though there was no set standard as of yet, there was rarely creativity employed with lighting or angle. This was not like photographing portraits of families or children. These were documenting criminals. It was one of the first times people saw portraiture being used for something other than art

Crime Photography in Australia

One of the most famous photographer in Australia of that period was Walter Tuchin who worked as a member of the Scientific Investigation Bureau between 1952 and 1957.

He’s still alive and his photos are on display within the Archive Gallery of the Justice & Police Museum. Subjects, range from the banal to the shocking: we encounter stolen cutlery, the crumpled bonnet of a car, the hands of a strangler, and domestic murder in a backyard. Each photograph is evenly illuminated, meticulously detailed and carefully composed. This emphasis on clarity was required by the detectives in charge of the case and by the judge in the courtroom. Yet, despite the surety of his method, Tuchin’s photography, at least for the modern viewer, also seems to be charged with something else – a quality that is haunting and surreal.



This info has been taken from the Justice and Police Museum.

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