RCA TK42

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On December 11, 2008 I finally got an RCA TK42 for my collection. Here’s how it looked when I got it set mounted on a Houston Fearless TD-9 electronic pedestal that worked under TK41s and 42s at WGAL in Lancaster PA.

With this addition, I completed my RCA camera collection, with at least one of each of the major RCA studio cameras, starting with the TK30 and ending with the TK47.

I looked high and low for a TK42 and finally found this one, but if you think finding the camera is hard, wait until you try and find the wide angle adapter lens for it. They are impossible to find. Unless one drops into your lap from out of the clear blue, you are basically out of luck. Fortunately for me, that is exactly what happened!

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As you see above and below, I now have a wide angle adapter that came as a Christmas gift thanks to three really great Canadian friends that are all retired CBC employees.

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These are the three friends I have to thank for sending me this lens. Below is the December 16, 2010 email from Serge Bordeleau giving me the names and faces of his two friends that had the lens and helped ship it here. Under this, I’ll tell you the whole story, and you’ll see how lucky I was to have known Serge.

Hello Bob.

Here are the pictures of the team. Yves Garand is the original owner of the lens, Steven Gendron the shipper and yours truly, Serge Bordeleau, the contact.

From what I can see this adaptor was most likely used on one of the mobile units because of the wear marks on the backend . For studio use the adaptor was practically always left on the camera but in the field, it would be removed or added depending on the shots. During hockey games, for instance, two of the cameras would cover the ice ringside and also the small broadcast studios.

The extender switch on the back of the camera was rarely used. It would take a nice bright sunny day for it to be useful. 250 ft-candles at f/8 was the norm and for some strange reason 125 ft-candles at f/4 wouldn’t work as well – maybe due to the ramping effect.

As you can tell by looking at my photo, I was very happy to travel in time and touch the past… The last time I handled one of these was in 1975 – some 35 years ago!

I am looking forward to seeing some pictures of the camera with its adaptor.

Wishing you a Season’s Greetings and a Happy New Year!

Serge Bordeleau

I had been emailing Serge since he started posting TK42 pictures and insights in the Forum a few years ago. Back when I got the camera in 2008, I’d mentioned that I was looking for an external wide angle adapter lens for it and we both thought, yeah, well, fat chance. As a former cameraman that used the TK42, Serge has a soft spot for the camera and in conversations with other CBC retirees, the TK42 would come up. One day while talking with Yves Garand, Serge mentioned his friend with a TK42, but no adapter. Thirty-odd years ago while at work at the camera maintenance faculty, Yves spotted one in a pile destined for the scrapyard and rescued it. He played around with the idea of making a telescope out of it, but soon came to his senses. It had sat in his basement all this time, and when Yves heard of my need, he told Serge it was time for the lens to have a new home in its rightful place…on the front of a TK42. Their friend Steven Gendron packed it and shipped it to me, which is no small feat when it comes to international shipping. Many thanks to Yves for his gift, to Steven for his effort, and most certainly to Serge – without whom the conversation would never have been had.

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This camera was bought new from RCA in 1966 by KAAL-TV in Austin/Rochester, Minnesota. It is one of two the station bought to replace its two Dumont cameras, but KAAL-TV had to buy an RCA TT-5 color transmitter first. (They did that in 1965.) I’ve spoken to former KAAL engineers Verne Davis, Don Richardson and Jerald Jones (chief) and they have all told me different stories about the cameras, but one thing they all said is interesting…they never used any wide angle lens adapters or external lenses on the 42s.

That said, you must remember that the TK42 lens was internal! I’ve discussed the fact that most of the 42s I see in pictures have a lens on the front and wondered if the internal lens stuck out. Here is the answer from RCA engineer Lou Bazin. The basic lens (without the external adapter) had two selectable focal length ranges (4-20 inches and 8-40 inches) and did not stick out of the camera. RCA offered an aftermarket wide angle adapter lens, though, and that gave the camera focal length ranges of 1.6 to 8 inches and from 3.2 to 16 inches; that’s what we see as “the lens” on the front. Below is a typical TK42 configuration on the beach in Honolulu.

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As I mentioned above, I hunted everywhere for a TK42, but they are hard to find. Not that many were made. Chuck Pharis had told me about one he had seen in storage in Minnesota a few years before. He was never able to convince the owner to sell it, but time has passed and I finally made contact with the owner. After about 4 or 5 months, he finally consented to selling it. It had been in storage for almost 10 years and is in quite good condition. The PD-9 pedestal came from WGAL-TV in Lancaster, Pa., with thanks to Paul, Tom, Jay and Pete at the Museum of Broadcast Technology. Below is “Sir” Paul Beck taking the TD-9 and a historic TD-1 to the shipper. The TD-1 has a fascinating backstory that you can see on my TK30 page.

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