By the time he made his first TV series in the late 60s Cousteau had a variety of cameras at his disposal, up to a dozen aboard the Calypso. But when he started out in the 40s underwater cinematography was still in its infancy. For his first film, he used a spring-powered 35mm Zeiss Ikon Kinamo in a home-made underwater housing. Unable to find movie film in occupied France, Cousteau spliced rolls of B&W still photography film together to fill the 50 foot magazines, and dove without apparatus, simply holding his breath while he filmed.
For his next film he upgraded to a French-made Le Blay camera, still spring-powered, but taking 100 foot loads. He traded in his f/1.5 Meyer Kino Plasmat lens for an equally fast but better corrected Zeiss Jena Sonnar, and re-designed the housing.
A 35mm Le Blay.
With the help of engineer Henri Girardot he eventually designed more professional underwater housings fitted with 35mm Morigraf cameras, which they named Bathygrafs. Probably fitted with Kinoptic lenses. Different versions allowed up to 400 ft loads, and speeds up to 32 fps.
Finally Eclair came to the party with their Aquaflex underwater housing, which took a Cameflex 16 or 35mm camera.
An Eclair Aquaflex.
Cousteau also experimented with housings for a 16mm Pathe Webo, and parts of a 35mm Bell and Howell Eyemo. Lots of great info about his early camera inventions at
He was an amazing man, a true pioneer. Salut, Jacques-Yves!