LabGuy's World: 'Tiny Ike' - Iconoscope TV Camera Project

       INTRODUCTION - Let's build a working TV camera today, in the second decade of the twenty first century, using the RCA 5527 experimenter's iconoscope tube manufactured in 1947. This is a completed project. If you are impatient to read all about the Tiny Ike, the actual project index is at the bottom of this page. Enjoy!

The 1947 RCA 5527 Experimenter's Iconoscope Tube - Then and Now

       Amateur television will be given a good "shot in the arm" by this new two inch diameter camera tube - The RCA 5527 Iconoscope. The equipment required for its operation is relatively simple and inexpensive. Using electrostatic deflection, the "small ike" eliminates the need for costly deflection coils and circuits as well as keystoning and shading circuits. It has a resolution capability of approximately 250 lines. RCA Ham Tips, Jan. - Apr. 1947

       The last tube of this type produced by Vladimir Zworykin and RCA. World war two had come to an end and thousands of highly trained electronics technicians were available to fill the new job opportunities of the post-war American television industry. To help jump start the industry further, RCA offered all the components for TV devices. Typically, camera tubes were too expensive for most to afford. So, RCA offered this, and one earlier, low cost experimenter's iconoscope tube. There are several magazine articles of the 1950s for camera projects built around the 5527 and 1847.

       The 5527 is a derivative of small oscilloscope CRTs. Both types used electrostatic deflection and electrostatic (beam) focus. Many experimenters built cameras around these tubes throughout the 1950s until the more compact vidicon tube became affordable and rendered the iconoscope permanently obsolete. The 5527 had the most advanced, and the last, photo-mosaic designed at RCA.

       Is it even practical to consider building a camera with an iconoscope tube today? Let's see if anyone else has tried to do this and what the odds for success may be.

       2011: In Japan, Mr. Yoshio Ozaki constructed a complete camera from scratch around the RCA 1846 four inch Iconoscope tube. He produced a video about the project as told from the Iconoscope Tube's point of view. The tube referes to Mr. Ozaki as 'father'. Very cute. This is a fantastic video. YouTube, 15min. [I AM ICONOSCOPE]

       2013: In Australia, Troy Walters has successfully built a working iconoscope camera, also using the RCA 1848. Troy has been a long time contributor to Labguy's World and a very good friend. Watch Troy's YouTube play list in 60 parts, [CONSTRUCTION VLOGS] and YouTube play list in 45 parts, [VIDEO RECORDINGS].

       2016: John Staples in Berkeley California, just completed construction of his camera built around an 1850A five inch broadcast camera Iconoscope. His design is extremely elegant. Great job, John! [JOHN STAPLES' ICONOSCOPE CAMERA].

       Those stories were very encouraging! But, what about your Tiny Ike project, Labguy? Patience! We're almost there. First, you may want to familiarize yourself with the 5527 TV camera tube and its operation.

       [RCA 5527 TUBE DATA SHEET]


       [QST MAGAZINE NOV 1955 ICONOSCOPE CONSTRUCTION ARTICLE] The Tiny Ike is roughly a block diagram level copy of this magazine article. I essentially paraphrased the schematic diagram from vacuum tubes into their equivelant transistor and integrated circuits version. The original version of the camera consumed around two hundred watts of power. Tiny Ike uses about seven.


       The design of any television camera follows a logical progression of goals that must be met in the proper order. These are as follows:

  • 1. Mechanical Enclosure. Support and shielding of the iconoscope tube

  • 2. DC Power Supplies. Its not much of a project without the proper voltages

  • 3. Sync Generator, The central source of master system timing

  • 4. Deflection & Blanking Circuits. Horizontal and vertical scan & electron beam blanking

  • 5. Video Amplifier Chain. Video signal path from the photo mosaic to output jack

  • 6. Debugging. Wake up Little Suzy. I mean Tiny Ike! Testing and operation the completed camera begins


            Created: July 1, 2013, Last updated: April 1, 2017