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The Evolution of the Camera


"QUANTUM SHOT" #632
Link - Article by D. Salmons, iGadget Life, and Avi Abrams




Best gift for Father's Day? Vintage camera, of course!

We've seen some Vintage Miniature Cameras and even smaller Spy Cameras - but beyond miniaturization, the world of vintage cameras has a lot to offer to a discerning geek and/or sophisticated collector.

Some old cameras are simply chrome-plated objects to admire and relish, others contain strange and puzzling gadgetry indeed. Here is a compass camera, for example:


(Le Coultre Compass Camera, image via)

Here is a wicked-looking training tool / camera for aerial gunners, circa World War I:


(Thornton-Pickard MkIII Hythe "Machine-gun" camera, image via)

The "Obscure" Beginnings

The first photograph was taken in 1814 by Nicephore Niepce, but the origins of camera are hidden deeper in history. Back in 1021, Ibn al-Haytham published his Book of Optics, which details the operation of the camera obscura. This "early camera" device used a lens or pinhole to project an inverted image onto a viewing surface:



Later, when "scientist/monk" Roger Bacon took up the camera in his published Perspectiva in 1267, he elaborated on theological material concerning how the devil can insinuate himself through the pinhole by magic. With a self-proclaimed scientist blaming the Devil for what was going on, is it any wonder that many tribes to this day claim photos can steal your soul and refuse to be photographed? Of course, it may have more to do with mirror taboos than Bacon's writings, but it certainly did not help the matter.


(image credit Annie Pillon)

Have a Brownie... or a Girl Scout Camera

Fast forward many centuries... until the reign of the professional photographer arrives around the 1900s. The Korona View Camera was an elegant wooden camera made by Gundlach in Rochester, New York. Despite being named a view camera, the Korona was actually a field camera, designed for good portability (comparatively speaking) when folded up. This large format film camera boasted high quality mahogany casing and colorful red leather bellows.


(images via 1, David Carroll)

Imagine making perilous trips into the wild with these cameras: a lot of history would have been lost if not for the brave photographers. (Can you imagine what such photography daredevils could do with an average camera phone of today?)

Cameras at the turn of the century (in the 1900s) tended to be one of two types - the folding camera or the fixed box. The Kodak Brownie (below left) was a good example of the box style, while the Ansco Buster Brown offered postcard-sized exposures on roll film:


(images via 1, 2)

Unfortunately, Ansco would be taken over by the US government in 1941 due to its ties to Germany, and subsequently sold as enemy assets. But the Ansco name lived on, with the last Ansco cameras being produced in the early 1990s.

Kodak... Kojak... A strong name should start with a "k"!

According to some sources, Kodak was almost called "NoDak", short for North Dakota. Other sources say that the name "Kodak" was chosen by George Eastman because he liked the sound of the letter "K" and wanted something unique. And yet, a third theory was that Kodak was the sound that the shutter made.


(images via 1, 2)

Curious name aside, Kodak carried their innovative folding camera design well into the 1930s. Such cameras were easy to carry and stow away, and the design proved quite popular, for example, Brownie 620 and the Bantam above.

Released in 1938, the Univex Mercury had a distinctive half moon top design that housed a unique metal rotary shutter system, giving it a wide range of shutter speeds. The space was put to use with a depth of focus table, and a Tricor interchangeable lens system rounded out the modern design. The shutter design seems to hint at the future - well, the future disc camera, anyway:


(image credit: John Kratz)

The bellows-type design for the focusing lens extension persisted from the earliest camera designs through the press cameras of the 50s (including the Busch Pressman and Graflex Speed models below) - all the way to the Polaroid cameras of the late 1960s. This gradual improvement on a proven design seems to suggest "evolutionary", rather than "revolutionary" development of photo technology.


(images via 1, 2, 3)

The Derby-Lux was made by Gallus of Paris in 1945. The camera was quite ahead of its time - it was constructed of machined aluminum, a design that Apple would embrace years later in its Macbook Pro series:


(image via)

The Imperial camera was the main product of the Herbert George Co. in Chicago, Illinois. What's so special about it? Well, it was the official camera of the Girl Scouts, and it was one of the first camera lines available in bright colors, making it the "fun" camera (see example):


(images via 1, 2)

Zeiss Ikon was formed in 1926 from four different camera makers, and the name Ikon was a combined form of two companies, (I)CA and (Con)tessa-Nettel. The combined German entity was part of the Carl Zeiss foundation, and a sibling company to the legendary optical company Carl Zeiss. In 1945, postwar production was interrupted because several factories were dismantled and given to Soviet camera makers as reparation due to demolition suffered during the war.


(images via 1, 2)

Much to the dismay of the German camera industry, Zeiss Ikon ceased production in 1972. However, the reputation of the Carl Zeiss optics continues to this day, and the Zeiss Ikon name is being revived.

"Made in the USSR": words vintage camera collectors like to hear

By the 1960s there were many variations of popular camera designs on the world market. Below right is the unique Kodak Brownie Starluxe... below left is the USSR "Fed 3 Rangefinder", circa 1963. Over two million FED 3 cameras were sold:


(images via 1, 2)

The SX-70, introduced in 1972, was the first instant SLR. The SX-70 film would develop in broad daylight by itself, a new boon to budding photographers everywhere. The film, as pictured below on the right, was actually the finished print, and it was thicker than normal prints with a broad white border:


(images via Sean Hobson, Aaron Alexander)

The self-developing prints now allowed home photographers to take many pictures that were perhaps too "risque" to be sent off for development. And what timing, since the SX-70 was coming in right at the end of the sexual revolution.

Introduced in 1982, Kodak made some big waves with the disc camera. Sporting a tiny 8 x 10 mm negative with new film technology, the film "disc" took 15 pictures. Within 10 years the Kodak disc camera would be gone, but the new film technology made its way to the 35 mm format, improving film quality. So, it wasn't a complete loss:


(images via 1, 2)

In 1990 the first commercially available digital camera was made available, the Dycam Model 1. This was also known as the Logitech Fotoman. It only had 320x240 pixels, took black and white photos, and cost nearly a grand (in 1990 dollars!). But it was the harbinger of the future of photography:


(images via Steve Jurvetson, Dave Matheson)

By the time 1999 rolled around... Nikon released the D1, suddenly the professional tool of choice for digital photography (2.7 megapixels, 4.5 frames per second). The Nikon D1 accepted the full range of Nikon F-mount lenses, allowing it to fit right into the professional photographer's lineup.


(iPhone image courtesy Apple)

With reusable memory cards you could take a hundred shots, keep just one, wipe the card, and do it over and over again - the day of the Fotomat surprise was over! So that leads us to today, when it's difficult to find a modern phone without a camera... making it a problem to sift through all these pictures and keep the important ones from being lost in the shuffle.


(image via)


CONTINUE TO "EXTRAORDINARY CLOCKS AND WATCHES" ->

CHECK OUT OUR "VINTAGE" CATEGORY! ->

This is a guest post by D. Salmons on behalf of iGadget Life.

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YOUR COMMENTS::

8 Comments:

Blogger Daniel.Z said...

It is apparent here that despite their large size, retro cameras are so much more sexy than modern designs.

___  
Blogger Johnny Payphone said...

The proliferation of the camera phone has a good benefit in the prosecution of criminal police officers, but a terrible effect on photography in general. Unless they come out with a digital camera that can also make phone calls, the emphasis will always be on the camera as a whistle/bell add-on, ensuring that the majority of pictures taken are both 1) crappy and 2) taken by crappy photographers.

___  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about the Leica? Wasn't that one of the most ground breaking inventions when it came to 35mm? All of the FED clones from USSR were copies of the Leica. How about the invention of the 35mm SLR?

I understand the premise of this post, but the evolution of the camera is far more extensive than a few history pieces made by Kodak.

___  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is apparent whoever wrote this learned the history of cameras last week, on the internet.

___  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As two previous anons said, that's a very brief surface scratch and partially wrong. Eg. first fully digital consumer camera was Fuji DS-1P from 1988. No mention of 110, Pak, Rapid or some other important films.

___  
Blogger The GuywithnoInternet said...

I love this review! I actually own a Kodak Disc camera to this day. I found it in my attic about a year ago, and it's still brand new. I thought that the Disc camera would become an urban myth since no one talks about it. Thanks!

___  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The disc camera was cool for it's time. Suddenly they were everywhere, and then Poof! they were gone. It was an early "magical" device...

___  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

we have a "roll" of disc film in the frige,the camera is around someplace.

___  

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