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Old 01-12-2009, 09:52 PM
julianburke julianburke is offline
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The GE PE250 Early Color Television Camera

Although I collect about everything in broadcast electronics, perhaps nothing interests me more than TV Cameras! They have interested me since I was about 7 or 8 years old and in my warehouse I have stuff packed away that I haven't seen in years but still collected. As my interests change or "mature", I start thinking about what I have (and sometimes what I might have or found looking for something else) and start digging into it and want to learn more about it. What seems strange to me is the fact that we know more about vintage stuff today than we did 20 or 30 years ago!

I would like to briefly cover a GE PE250 "Live Color Camera" that not much is known about it today and is seldom talked about in contrast to RCA's. It came out about the same time the RCA TK44's were introduced and used Plumbicon tubes like the RCA TK44 which because of those tubes, never produced a sharp color picture. Plumbicons were the standard of the industry at that time and also brought an end to production of image orthicons. (IO tubes, 5820's and 2P23's etc) RCA's first Solid State color camera was the TK42 after the '41. The RCA '42 was terribly cumbersome and although it was modular, it needed "extendo cards" to help service the modules. GE's 250 was their early solid state color design and seemed much simpler to service as it did not require the extra cards or other cumbersome parts to service. RCA was (at that time) dominant in the broadcast industry and "The General" (Sarnoff) was adament in saying "We don't pay royalties, we collect them". That statement and attitude was reflected in what they built & sold and was also simultaniously changing about that time perhaps mostly by lawsuits. All this being the same time RCA was losing ground in the mid 60's to other manufacturers, GE had a very good product line in broadcast gear. They had a great promotional department and seemed to excel in certain regional areas and among the many, Dallas, TX was one area that had a lot of GE product. GE had a great and strong selling transmitter line and some are no doubt in use today. Their film chain cameras were also highly desirable in the industry.

The 250 used plumbicons which were a breakthrough at that time and were mainly designed to downsize the camera as well as work better in lower light levels which they did. They produced fair color pictures but were still no match for say the RCA TK41. NBC kept their RCA 41's for a long time because the newer generation of solid state cameras were inferior to the original workhorses!! I have a UTube URL below that will show you how a GE PE250 performed in a studio. (Joey Bishop Show)

This GE camera had a few features that I like better than the RCA line. For starters, the side doors opened easily and without unscrewing or pushing any latches to open. You just pulled on the top and it would open without binding or bending. All circuit boards were right in front of you and all would open for any parts replacement or measurements. It also had a built-in voltmeter and rotary switch to test the various supply voltages involved. You simply switched to desired voltage and set the meter to the center green area. What a neat little camera!

Of its' greatest virtues, no one can deny the functional ability of the Zoomar lens built into this camera. Instead of a enclosed cable that most cameras used, it had a solid mechanical shaft that went straight to the lens assembly, and there was absolutely no forward or backward backlash or slop in that mechanism. It would spin freely and had a short ratio that when turned, it got you there quick. Every camera operator who used one of these cameras will tell you that the zoomar lens was a treat to use and it was trouble free with no jerking or binding. The crank handle on the lower right side (shown in picture) has the "ZOOMAR" logo on it that suggested Zoomar was contracted to design it. (zoom lens in the RCA TK42 was a disaster)

All circuit boards have plug in transistors. Yes, these sometimes gave intermittant trouble but depending on the quality of the socket would translate into the amount of trouble it would have. Mil-spec sockets were used here. While on this subject, the circuit boards have a distinct resemblance of IBM computer boards that were in production around the same time. 5% resistors (gold band or better) were common throughout. (high quality)

I am trying to find out the production numbers of this camera but usually hit a dead end. They are very scarce to find today and what is most interesting is the data plate label inside the body. Mine (pictured) is a stick-on plastic label that only says "LIVE COLOR CAMERA" with either the serial number, revision number and/or production run on it. It was printed with a standard PICA typewriter which possibly may have been pre-production. Nowhere in the camera does it say GE PE250. Mine may be an early one as the later PE350's had a usual data plate screwed on but still never gave the model number. (odd!)

I'm sure the later 350's had updated circuitry but you can immediately tell the difference between the 250 and the 350 by a few cosmetics: The 350 had two small tally lights on the front lower part of the lens housing. This was in addition to the one on top. Seems like this would be more of a distraction than useful. The 350 had a large GE logo on the side in the upper right corner in addition to the one on the center band. There was also a retrofit available from GE for 250's that came as a parts kit to make it a 350. You could install it yourself in the shop or you could return the camera to the factory for refit. It was a little tedious and there were a lot of sloppy jobs done to 250's out in the field that were not sent back to the factory. (factory jobs were perfect) If interested, I will write more when I find out more so now on to the pictures for you to click on below!

Pictures were taken in a darker area of my warehouse so excuse the poor quality of pictures. First one shows the camera with its' original lens cover on and there is some stuff stacked on top of it. The voltmeter and rotary switch are seen in picture 2 left of the color registration controls. Picture 6 shows front inside of camera and the mechanical shafts for the zoom control. Another feature for this camera are pull out handles on the bottom for ease of carrying and setting it up on a pedestal. No one else did this.

http://s68.photobucket.com/albums/i3...nt=GE250-1.jpg
http://s68.photobucket.com/albums/i3...nt=GE250-8.jpg
http://s68.photobucket.com/albums/i3...nt=GE250-7.jpg
http://s68.photobucket.com/albums/i3...nt=GE250-6.jpg
http://s68.photobucket.com/albums/i3...nt=GE250-5.jpg
http://s68.photobucket.com/albums/i3...nt=GE250-4.jpg
http://s68.photobucket.com/albums/i3...nt=GE250-3.jpg
http://s68.photobucket.com/albums/i3...nt=GE250-2.jpg

Here is a Joey Bishop show that was supposed to have been shot with GE PE250's. Regis Philbin is in it and dig the Nehru jackets!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LdyDRjpPftU
Look carefully in this scene!! It's in there!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMXpa...eature=related
More good stuff:
http://www.broadcasting101.ws/anselmo3.htm
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Last edited by julianburke; 10-28-2014 at 09:14 PM.
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Old 01-12-2009, 10:54 PM
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Very interesting - keep it coming
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Old 01-13-2009, 07:25 AM
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Wow...Where DO you find this stuff ?!? I know, you could tell me but then you'd hafta kill me...(grin)
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Old 01-13-2009, 12:32 PM
bozey45 bozey45 is offline
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We had the 250's at WTVT in Tampa for a long time and they were very easy for the operator--the zoom was the greatest. As one who operated those as well as the much and deservedly maligned TK-42, I can say we hated to see those go in about 1990 I think it was when we moved in our new building and they got the Norelco's. A website big13.net has some great photos of the operation there over the years includiing the PE-250'S.
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Old 01-13-2009, 05:11 PM
julianburke julianburke is offline
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Ge pe250

Quote:
Originally Posted by bozey45 View Post
We had the 250's at WTVT in Tampa for a long time and they were very easy for the operator--the zoom was the greatest. As one who operated those as well as the much and deservedly maligned TK-42, I can say we hated to see those go in about 1990 I think it was when we moved in our new building and they got the Norelco's. A website big13.net has some great photos of the operation there over the years includiing the PE-250'S.
Did you notice on the side of the camera the sticker that says "WT" and possibly a "V"? It is a heavy camera and at the moment I could not pull it out and look on the other side to see if that sticker is intact but will do so. This may well be one of yours!!
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Old 01-13-2009, 10:43 PM
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Julian,

GE was sure well engineered. I get the impression that the design team were very attuned to the needs of camera operators. I am also impressed by the thought put into easy servicing and alignment for the maintenance engineer. They sure made fine AM and FM transmitters, I loved caring for their gear in a way I did with few other companies. They always had conservative ratings on key parts. I also liked the thought they put into metering all crucial stages and logical thought into their engineering. Details like that make my work as an engineer easier in the trenches. Their tech support engineers were superb for years.
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Old 01-14-2009, 12:02 AM
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dtuomi dtuomi is offline
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Julian,

Do you have a picture of the CCU that went with this camera? I'm interested in seeing it. The studio I interned at in 1989 had just replaced these with Sony cameras, so I never did get to work one. But I'd be interested in seeing more.

David
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Old 01-14-2009, 10:03 AM
julianburke julianburke is offline
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Originally Posted by dtuomi View Post
Julian,

Do you have a picture of the CCU that went with this camera? I'm interested in seeing it. The studio I interned at in 1989 had just replaced these with Sony cameras, so I never did get to work one. But I'd be interested in seeing more.

David
I found this camera with others that were stored in an outside trailer that were used as spare units that were donated to a small production studio who did quite a bit of church work. At that time he would take anything donated and a good thing that he did. Unfortunately, he passed away at 62 years of age and the family could not keep up the studio so they sold most and threw out the rest. I got about 12 cameras and many did not have their CCU's as was the case for this one. I only wish it was complete. I did find part of a CCU that I think is for a very early B&W GE camera but have temporarily lost it in my building!

For any intuitive strange reason, I felt really bad for the family as I felt a connection with their father. I also felt a sense of his love for this equipment so I have a different appreciation for all that I removed from their studio property. He was doing the best he could with a minimal budget and not only did excellent work in keeping up obsolete 20-35 year old + equipment but supported his family and churches combined. I only wish that I could have met him and asked a thousand questions!
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Old 01-14-2009, 01:59 PM
bozey45 bozey45 is offline
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Saw the sticker with the WT---- ; don't know where the GE's were sent after our use; we were owned by Gillette at that time as I remember and have no idea what happened with those cameras. I did mistakingly say they were replaced by Norelco's but it was Phillips that replaced them. We had had Norelco's on the remote truck.
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Old 01-14-2009, 08:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by julianburke View Post
I found this camera with others that were stored in an outside trailer that were used as spare units that were donated to a small production studio who did quite a bit of church work. At that time he would take anything donated and a good thing that he did. Unfortunately, he passed away at 62 years of age and the family could not keep up the studio so they sold most and threw out the rest. I got about 12 cameras and many did not have their CCU's as was the case for this one. I only wish it was complete. I did find part of a CCU that I think is for a very early B&W GE camera but have temporarily lost it in my building!

For any intuitive strange reason, I felt real bad for the family as I felt a connection with their father. I also felt a sense of his love for this equipment so I have a different appreciation for all that I removed from the studio property. He was doing the best he could with a minimal budget and actually did good work in keeping up obsolete 20-35 year old + equipment, hence all of the extra parts. I only wish that I could have met him and asked a thousand questions!
I understand what you mean. I've worked for years in local cable programming, which is pretty well the ass end of television production. We deal with a lot of these kinds of small studios and people and some of them are pretty cool. A local studio who I dealt with on a regular basis just lost its owner to pancreatic cancer, which is a bad way to go. There was a benefit concert for him just a couple of months ago (he also did a lot of music production work) and that was the last I saw of him. It always amazes me how some of these guys manage to stay in business. It takes a lot of passion to keep on going.

As far as your camera, you my friend have a bad habit. You need to go into collecting some CCU's for your cameras. Without the CCU's the old cameras don't work, they're just big props. I'm still glad you saved it though. Many of these old cameras are gone forever now, so its nice to see a representative still in existence.

David
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Old 01-14-2009, 09:19 PM
julianburke julianburke is offline
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[As far as your camera, you my friend have a bad habit. You need to go into collecting some CCU's for your cameras. Without the CCU's the old cameras don't work, they're just big props. I'm still glad you saved it though. Many of these old cameras are gone forever now, so its nice to see a representative still in existence.]



Bad habit nothing!!!

I go after every piece and look in every closet. For some reason, the CCU's are gone 9 times out of 10. The cameras survive after the CCU is tossed. I wish I had that CCU and I would have this camera working.
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Old 01-22-2009, 05:30 AM
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I'll send an email to the studio I interned at. True, they replaced those cameras probably 20 years ago. But as recently as 10 years ago they still had a lot of the CCU and GE camera stuff in storage. They might still have something left. Send me a PM and remind me.

David
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Old 01-31-2009, 08:16 PM
John Hafer John Hafer is offline
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Wow! great pictures and these bring back memories. I am a fan of ealy color television broadcast equipment and I have a collection of pictures from all the early color teleivision broadcast cameras, including the PE-250 and PE-350 cameras.

I do remember the PE-250 was announced at the 1966 NAB convention and was sold at the same time as the RCA TK-42. The RCA TK-44 came out several years later partly in response to the success of the GE PE-250 and Norelco PC-70. I grew up in Syracuse New York, (home of GE broadcast equipment) and both WHEN-TV, ch. 5 (CBS) and WNYS-TV ch. 9 (ABC) went with the PE-250s' in 1966, while WSYR-TV ch. 3 (NBC) opted for the RCA TK-42s'.

It should be also noted that GE made a good color film camera, (PE-24) and it was used by ABC and CBS at their network centers for color film broadcasting.
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Old 03-18-2009, 02:28 AM
W.B. W.B. is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Hafer View Post
Wow! great pictures and these bring back memories. I am a fan of ealy color television broadcast equipment and I have a collection of pictures from all the early color teleivision broadcast cameras, including the PE-250 and PE-350 cameras.

I do remember the PE-250 was announced at the 1966 NAB convention and was sold at the same time as the RCA TK-42. The RCA TK-44 came out several years later partly in response to the success of the GE PE-250 and Norelco PC-70. I grew up in Syracuse New York, (home of GE broadcast equipment) and both WHEN-TV, ch. 5 (CBS) and WNYS-TV ch. 9 (ABC) went with the PE-250s' in 1966, while WSYR-TV ch. 3 (NBC) opted for the RCA TK-42s'.

It should be also noted that GE made a good color film camera, (PE-24) and it was used by ABC and CBS at their network centers for color film broadcasting.
First up, as far as New York City was concerned, two of the three commercial independent stations (WOR-TV and WPIX) used PE-250's starting in the late 1960's (while WNEW-TV had Norelco PC-70's); WPIX's lasted up to about 1975 when they were replaced by RCA TK-45A's. As for those PE-24 film cameras, I see they had four-Vidicon tubes; which GE color film camera had 3 Vidicons? I know in CBS's case, their equipment purchasing philosophy was "Anything but RCA" (before color TV caught on in the mid-1960's, CBS replaced the aging TK-10 and TK-11 cameras with Marconi Mark IV's, before going with Norelco PC-60's and some Marconi Mark VII's). It seemed to me the picture emanating from PE-24's (especially on slides) was somewhat better and more vibrant than RCA's TK-26 and TK-27's - or is it an optical (pardon the pun) illusion?

In addition, I noticed (looking at old Broadcast Engineering issues) that in 1966, the PE-24 film camera was superseded by a newer model, the PE-240.

Last edited by W.B.; 03-28-2009 at 06:44 PM.
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Old 03-18-2009, 02:47 AM
W.B. W.B. is offline
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Incidentally, The Joey Bishop Show as in its ABC talk show incarnation did use PE-250's; from what I've read, the program was based at 1313 North Vine Street, which had PE-250's (as opposed to the Norelco PC-60's and -'70's that were at the Prospect and Talmadge complex). It would seem that by 1970 or so, the Vine Street studio had the PE-250's replaced with PC-70's. One of ABC's New York studios was equipped with PE-350's.
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