LabGuy's World: 1970 Shibaden LLSA-15 (HV-15) Low Light 1" Vidicon Camera

New Addition! 01.03.16:
New Information! 02.08.04:
1970 Shibaden LLSA-15 (HV-15) Low Light 1" Vidicon Camera
        I have very little information on this one, other than it's rather large and heavy. The LLSA-15 uses a 1", high sensitivity, vidicon or saticon tube. It is a customized version of the more mundane Shibaden HV-15, 1" vidicon camera. A very high quality unit and in excellent condition, too. The lens, shown in the first two photos, is one of my spares. It's a monster! A Fujinon 14 mm - 70 mm, f 2 zoom lens. This is the only lens I have for 1" tube cameras. External controls for Channel (2-6 VHF) set, ALC set, Beam, Electronic Focus and Mechanical Focus. One jack for either Video output or RF output for use with a regular TV set.
        From the Shibaden 1969? Catalog: The model HV-15U is a high quality moderately priced vidicon television camera utilizing specially selected silicon transistors for compactness and superior picture pick up capabilities. It is ideally sized and priced for budget minded educational institutions, government agencies and small businesses for use in an almost unlimited variety of CCTV and video tape recording situations. The model HV-15U accepts any standard "C" mount lens. With a video standard resolution of 650 lines and a built in Automatic Light Control circuit, this camera offers better reproduction, more versatility and longer service life than many of the larger, higher priced vidicon television cameras on the market. This camera is also available with a crystal controlled oscillator circuit to simulate the stability and other advantages inherent in a 2:1 interlaced camera. (Specify HV-15C) For 2:1 interlace, specify HV-15S. [CLICK HERE] to read the features and specifications of the HV-15.
        NEEDED: Service manual, operator's manual.
Update! 03.06.05 (First Draft)
        Bob Bruhns wrote to me recently with some great historical information. Here is what he had to say:
        The LLSA-15 was a silicon target camera based on the Shibaden HV-15.  It was made (retrofitted and modified, really) by a company called Impossible Electronic Techniques, Inc. at 121 Pennsylvania Avenue in Wayne, PA back in the 70s.
        Impossible Electronic Techniques (IET) was the brainchild of Jesse C. Wagner, and was founded by  Jesse and his dad Charlie Wagner, of Wagner Engineering, 121 Coulter Ave., Ardmore PA.  Jesse was  working as a salesman for Shibaden America, and he was a follower of the Apollo space and moon missions.  When a camera in one of these missions panned across the sun and ruined the vidicon tube, he understood the situation.  But when silicon target technology solved that problem and several others as well, he really took notice.  When silicon target technology was released through RCA in Lancaster, PA, he went to Shibaden management and asked if they would market a silicon target camera.  They said no, they were happy with the antimony tri-sulphide technology of the time, a workable but not-so-sensitive solution.  Jesse asked if they would mind if he left the company, bought HV-15 cameras, and retrofitted silicon target tubes. Shibaden said no problem, it would be a higher price, higher performance market, and they weren't interested.  So, IET was born, some time around 1971.
        I came on board at IET in April of 1972.  I had known Jesse from ham radio in the late 60s, and I was out of work, so he said come on down!  I started out installing the existing mods to the HV-15.  These were mostly gain adjustments.  We added extra video gain, but it added complexity to the design.  Later we improved the high frequency peaking to take advantage of the sharpness of the high quality Canon and Wallensak lenses (Wallensak was
bought out by Lenzar of Winter Park Florida at that time), and the 700 line resolution of the RCA 4532 1" silicon target tubes  we were using.  The HV-15 was a really well designed camera, the RCA 4532 was a great silicon target tube, and so our LLSA-15 versions stood up to the vibration and temperature extremes in  venturi-cooled enclosures in US Steel's furnaces.  The only real flaw in the LLSA-15 was that it  did not have "gamma" correction.  This caused poor contrast in the shaded areas of the image.  The main strength of the LLSA-15 was the "floating" white clipper.  Because we ran out of video  gain in really dim scenes, we set up the white clipper with a floating clipping level (really a diode to a resistor and capacitor in parallel to ground.  At night, the video level was lower,  so the capacitor voltage was lower, and the clipping level was lower.  The user just turned up the monitor contrast, and the image had good highlight control; this actually worked quite well. A more sophisticated fixed clip level design would have lost the highlight control without heavy video auto-gain increase, which was beyond our technology at the time.
        Suddenly in about 1974, Hitachi-Shibaden announced that the HV-15 was to be discontinued.  They offered the HV-16, I think, but it was designed such that it would be hard to modify as we had been doing with the HV-15.  So, IET switched to the Telemation 1" silicon target camera as a  base camera for fine-tuning modifications.  Telemation (Salt Lake City, Utah) made a nice  camera, but it had a couple of design errors that were easily fixed.  We modified the Telemation fixed-level white clipper to act as a floating white clipper, and this worked quite well.  The  Telemation camera had significant video auto-gain control range, and the floating clipper extended the usable light range nicely.  We soon discovered that it was useful to decrease video bandwidth when video gain was really pushed; the overall result was a more visible image.  A significant feature of the Telemation camera was that it offered
"gamma" correction. It was only a one-diode "single-break" correction, but it really made the image more watchable!
        IET also had a low-cost 2/3" silicon target tube camera (which used the RCA 4833 tube).  This camera was known as the LSD500.  This camera was also based on a Hitachi-Shibaden camera, I forget which one.
        The silicon target vidicon cameras had two very-low-light brothers: the SIT and ISIT versions. I forget the model designations for these.  The early SIT and ISIT had longer cases specially made by Shibaden to enclose the 
single-intensified SIT and the double-intensified ISIT.  The SIT had a blue-peaked phosphor, but it's high sensitivity and the slight IR extension of the phosphor made it more sensitive than a silicon-target tube camera with IR lighting.  The ISIT had a seriously extended IR response phosphor, and it was a true starlight camera.  Pitch dark to the eye produced a snowy 20-30 dB S/N image from the ISIT.  An IR light would really light up a scene.  And with a Questar telescope lens, it was amazing what could be seen!  We had similar extended cases made by Telemation for the later SIT and ISIT we built based on their camera design.
        In the early 1970s, a Dr. Topp in Texas was experimenting with the ISIT for evaluation of the image appearing on the retina of patient's eyes.  For this application, he wanted unity gamma,  so the HV-15 based camera worked well for him.  Around 1976, a local experimenter was building a  bottle inspection camera system using a silicon target tube camera, and he also wanted unity gamma.  We were using the Telemation camera, and it was
strappable for unity gamma, so that's what we did. 
        In the video industry at that time, most video benches were equipped with a "light box" illuminating a gel transparency resolution test pattern.  Then the camera was set up with a lens of known focal length at a standard distance, and we would adjust the height and width settings of the camera sweep and check the camera resolution, gray scale, etc.  The light box was illuminated by an incandescent lamp on a dimmer.  IET later
bought an "Optoliner", a high-precision unit that screwed directly into the "C" mount of the camera.  The Optoliner was a much more precise resolution pattern source, and it was closely calibrated in light level as  well.  Finally we could really specify camera sensitivity in strict scientific terms.
        Dr. Topp noticed an interesting thing with his ISIT.  Using his light box and test pattern gel filter, the gray scale appeared to have seriously non-linear response, a very high gamma.  He needed the specified near-unity gamma (0.95 spec from RCA), and here we seemed to be giving him major heartburn!  I tried this on my own setup, with similar results.  How could this be?  RCA specified the tube, and they were rock solid on such things.
        At some point during this test, I happened to change the dimmer setting in the light box.  The gamma curve appeared to change!  This made me think about the spectrum of the light from the dim incandescent, and the extended red photocathode of the ISIT, and the spectral response of the gel filter resolution pattern.  And that was it; the gel was not "neutral density" (flat spectral attenuation) in the near infra-red!  Because of this, the attenuation of the gel filter as seen by the camera depended on the spectrum of the light and the spectral response of the camera, and the normally even gray scale steps could really get messed up.  And this effect was in turn affected by the color temperature of the light source. This would never have been an  issue with antimony tri-sulphide technology, but it certainly affected IR-responsive cameras.  A fluorescent light in the light box would solve the problem, but 
we were all satisfied just to know what the problem was.
        We didn't measure the gamma, we just looked at scenes and judged the quality by eye.  You could really tell the difference between gamma corrected and unity gamma settings!  Everybody was happy.
        IET sold a lot of ISIT cameras in 1974 when the permissible radiation level used in airport X-ray machines was severely reduced.  The screens were too dim for anything but an intensified camera, and the high resolution of the silicon intensifier technology made the ISIT the technology of choice.
        Jesse had really wanted the company name to be Impossible Electronics, but someone in Los Angeles area had trademarked that name.  We answered the phone, "This is Impossible!"  This was amusing, because many of our customers were serious federal agencies such as the FBI, etc.  Then again, their purchasing agents used assumed names such as Carlos Castanada, etc.  Also, our business cards showed a flying saucer logo.
        It happened that there was a scene in the old Star Trek TV series, where Spock said "This is impossible," and we always wanted to put a recording of that on an answering machine, but it never happened.


Last updated: January 06, 2005