How Cameras Have Changed.

Where to start? This has got be one of the most rapidly evolving pieces of everyday equipment in our lifetimes! So I’ll start right at the beginning and do a very quick potted history of the camera – which is now 115 years old. Then I’ll write from personal experience about one of the most amazing gadgets known to Man.

1814 – Joseph Niepce achieved the first photographic image using the camera obscura.

1837 – Louise Daguerre introduced the daguerreotype, a fixed image which didn’t fade.

1851 – Frederick Scott Archer invented the introduced the Collodion process which reduced light exposure time to 2 – 3 minutes.

1888 – George Eastman patented the Kodak roll film camera.

1900 – the first mass-produced camera, the Kodak Brownie, went on sale.

1927 – the General Electric Company invented the modern flash bulb.

1948 – Edwin Land launched the Polaroid camera.

1963 – Polaroid introduced the instant colour film.

1978 – Konica invented the first point and shoot autofocus camera.

1984 – Canon demonstrates the first digital electronic still camera.

2000 – the first mobile phone with a built-in camera appeared.

2004 – 2014  the second generation of smartphones appeared, then from 2015 – 2017 the third generation of smartphones, followed by the fourth generation which have been appearing since 2018.

I was born in 1951. There are no baby photographs of me apart from a studio one taken when I was Christened. My dad had a camera and was a keen photographer. He enjoyed taking pictures of his firstborn. In those days, and for many years after, we were cautious with the number of photographs we took because film and development were both so costly. My mum and dad lived in a very quiet place in South Wales – Brecon, for those who know it. I’m not sure of the details now, and Mum and Dad are gone, so I can’t ask them, but I remember them saying that they went out and when they got home the camera with the roll of film inside it had been stolen from the house. I seem to remember my mum saying they had left it near a window. Nothing else was taken – it was probably the only thing of value in the house – but the worst thing for them was that the roll of film inside was gone and was irreplaceable. As young parents with one salary and bills to pay, it was a while before they could afford a replacement. So, no baby pictures of me.

   

Some examples of late 1940s cameras. My dad’s might have looked like one of these.

As a keen photographer all his life, in the early 1960’s my dad bought a 35mm camera with which he used to take colour slides. He was also a very organised man so all his slides are labelled and catalogued – and there are hundreds of them! The colour transparency is not as easy to access or copy but even so, it is a fantastic record of our childhood and also of his work in the forests of mid-Wales. The film used to get sent away and we loved the excitement of receiving a new pack of colour slides in the post. Then came the slide show when the projector and screen came out and we all sat, with the curtains drawn, to enjoy the photographs of our holiday, Christmas or a recent birthday.

    

The above photographs are of my father’s much loved and much used camera, flash and light meter which my brother now has in his collection of cameras.

When I was nine I got my first ever camera for my birthday. I was beside myself with excitement! I still have it and I also have several albums full of the photographs I took with it. It was my only camera until I was in my early twenties. It was a Kodak Brownie 127 and this is it!

In 1974 I bought myself a brand new shiny 35mm SLR Zenit E and I was as proud of that as I had been of my Brownie 127 on my ninth birthday. I started off taking slides and then, when I had my first child in 1980, switched to prints. Sharing baby photographs with the family was easier with prints than with slides.

An example of the Zenit E.

Twelve years ago I moved into the digital age when my husband bought me a digital camera for my birthday. It’s a lovely compact size, ideal for carrying in a handbag, and has been a brilliant camera ever since I got it.

However, since the dawn of the smartphone, it gets easier and easier to take photographs with my mobile and, of course, I can send them to people immediately without getting a cable out and downloading the pictures to a computer to save or send. When we go away I take my little digital camera but for day to day stuff I use the handy smartphone in my pocket.

We all take so many photographs now! We do because we can. It’s easy, we don’t have to buy film, send it away for developing, pay for the photographs. We don’t have to adjust  any settings if we don’t want to. If we take too many or if any don’t come out right we can just delete them. We can send as many copies to people as we want to. No more digging out the pack of negatives, selecting the right ones, taking them to be developed, waiting a few days – then paying!

Part of my brother’s collection of old cameras.

 

 

 

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Something which has changed immeasurably is the way we take photographs. Since the advent of digital photography the number of photographs we take has rocketed. They cost nothing so we take pictures of anything and everything, we send them to people instantly using a variety of means.

Back in the 1950s and 60s when I was growing up film was expensive and photographs were expensive to develop. We were careful with the photographs we took. I can still remember the excitement of a new pack of photographs to open – and the disappointment we felt if any of them hadn’t come out properly. Perhaps somebody had moved and the image was blurred, maybe the photographer’s finger was in the way, a shaft of light over-exposed the photo or it was too dark and no detail could be seen.

Film was delicate and had to be carefully inserted into the back of the camera and wound on with the camera closed. If light was allowed to leak into a roll of film the whole thing was ruined.

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My first camera was one of these Brownie 127s.

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These are the sort of cameras I remember adults using in the 1950s.

Originally the photographs were all black and white. The prints were often stuck into albums and in those days the albums had matt black pages. Gummed paper corners were bought to fix the photographs in a way that meant they could be removed. Notes on the photographs, if added, were written in white or yellow crayon. I didn’t see self adhesive photograph albums until the late 1970s.

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These are my two first photograph albums filled with photos taken with my Brownie 127 – which I used until 1974 when I bought my first SLR camera!

 

It was the 1960s before my dad started taking colour photographs and he favoured slides. He was a very keen photographer and took photographs of both the family and his work in the forests. When a new pack of slides arrived in the post it was always very exciting. We had a hand-held viewer which could be passed around but eventually my dad bought a projector. Until he could afford a screen, my mum used to hang a white sheet on the wall (walls all tended to be covered in patterned wallpaper then) and the pictures would be projected on to that with the lights off and the curtains drawn.

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My Dad’s first colour slide camera was similar to this and he used it for about twenty years. The flash wasn’t built in, you attached bulbs and a reflector to the top of the camera. Light meters were separate too and my dad had a hand held one a bit like the one on the left below. He would take a reading then set the shutter speed and the aperture manually.

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FullSizeRender Typical 1960s slide projector, screen and colour slides.