Composite image showing elements of cameras similar to the A-2 set. The film rolls are stored in the magazine above the camera body, which contains motors and other electronics. The film is advanced and exposed in the camera body. The lens cone holds the lens, shutters and heating elements the proper distance from the film for correct focus. The U-2 used three of these cameras at different angles. (U.S. Air Force photo)
This view of a USAF U-2A shows off the aircraft’s graceful shape and its shiny early appearance. U-2s were painted black overall beginning in late 1965 in an effort to protect against the growing threat of air interception. The new paint, called “Black Velvet,” contained small beads of glass that helped reduce light reflections, and tiny metal particles that somewhat reduced the U-2’s radar reflection. (U.S. Air Force photo)
This diagram shows how film was stored and exposed in reconnaissance cameras. A pair of spools fed and took up the film, which was stretched flat over an opening in the camera body. To record images, the film received light through the lens below when the shutter was opened. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Model A-2 Camera Set
This system of three high-altitude aerial reconnaissance cameras was developed for the U-2 in the late 1950s. These Hycon model 732 cameras created much more detailed images than earlier cameras. For example, their lenses could "see" and record objects as small as two feet across from a height of more than 12 miles. This allowed photo interpreters to identify different types of vehicles, weapons, aircraft, missiles, and buildings. Earlier typical aerial cameras had much lower resolution and had to be used at lower altitudes--they could only see objects 20-25 feet across at 33,000 feet (about six miles), half the U-2's operating altitude.
Camera sets like the one on display were used in the first U-2 flights over the USSR, but soon gave way to more sophisticated equipment. The A-2 continued in use, though, for many years in photo mapping and natural resources monitoring.
Each camera in the A-2 set could carry 1,800 feet of Eastman Kodak's newly-developed lightweight Mylar-based film, which made 9-inch-by-18-inch negatives. The A-2 system was adapted from older designs to be lightweight and to endure the cold temperatures and low atmospheric pressure of high-altitude flight. The cameras have 24-inch focal length f8 lenses. With film, the entire set weighed 339 pounds.