Adrian Michel Pigeon Camera

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The Adrian Michel Pigeon Camera is a subminiature camera from the 1930s, designed by the Swiss Christian Adrian Michel to be attached to a trained pigeon for reconnaissance photographs. To be clear, the pigeon is simply trained to fly home and to tolerate the camera, attached to it by a harness; it does not operate the camera. Rather, this has a time delay, before a short series of photographs is exposed.

The body of the camera is made from a light alloy, and painted black. It makes a series of 10x36mm panoramic exposures on 16mm film.[1][2][3] The panoramic function of the camera is like that of the Kodak Panoram cameras, with the lens attached by a cloth tube, and swinging during the exposure. The panorama is to the front and rear of the pigeon, not across the direction of flight.

The delay timer can be set up to an hour and ten minutes. When the delay time runs out, the second clockwork begins to advance the film continuously, while swinging the lens back and forth.[4] The shutter is only open when the lens swings forward, and in the time taken to swing forward and back once, the film is advanced one frame. The exposure can be adjusted by varying the rate at which the lens swings. Adrian Michel's patent for the camera states that the speed of advance of the film is too slow to result in distortion of the image. In simple terms, exposures are made about every thirty seconds.[3] The patent suggests that the land appearing in successive exposures will overlap, so a continuous record of a long section of flight is obtained.[4] Nevertheless, the user would have to estimate the bird's speed quite precisely to set the correct initial delay. It is not clear what the difference between models 'A' and 'B' is.


  1. Adrian Michel camera 'model A' serial no. 948 with instructions etc. , sold for 9400 UK pounds at Sale 9509 by Christie's on 19 November 2002.
  2. Adrian Michel camera 'model B' serial no. 937, sold for 7170 UK pounds at Christie's Sale 9965, on 16 November 2004.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Adrian Michel camera serial 937 sold again, for €18 000, at the 36th Leitz Photographica Auction, on 13 June 2020.
  4. 4.0 4.1 British Patent 489499 of 1937, Improvements in or relating to Panoramic-cameras, granted to Christian Adrian Michel, at Espacenet, the Patent search facility of the European Patent Office.