When George Eastman introduced Kodak No. 1 in 1888 with the now-classic advertising slogan, "You press the button, we do the rest," amateur photography was born. By 1891 more than 90,000 affluent, newly gadget-conscious Americans had paid $25 for a simple box which came fully loaded with enough film for 100 exposures. Once all the film was used the camera, still loaded, was mailed back to Eastman in Rochester; and for $10 the owner received a reloaded camera and 100 mounted circular photographs, provided they all came out. If they followed the examples Eastman used in his ads, the pictures were of the owner's happiest hours: of sport and play and family. And the camera, only three years after No. 1 hit the market, was becoming as indispensable to a tourist as a Gladstone bag.
Today, 71 years later, there is scarcely a part of the planet that has not been seen by the camera's eye. Man's constant companion, the camera has traveled to the depths of the sea, to the heights of outer space, to equatorial jungles and the eternal ice world of the poles. In the U.S. the still camera is 43 million strong and it takes some 2 billion pictures yearly. Photography is a billion-dollar business, one that has grown twice as fast as the national economy over the last decade. To the sportsman and sports lover this bonanza has a particular significance, for with the modern camera and its growing array of equipment he can come closer to and find more enjoyment in the sport he loves by capturing its fleeting moments of excitement on film and holding them forever. And the picture-taking industry today offers him a succession of cameras and accessories with which he can proceed, step by step, from the level of the simplest box camera to near-professional scope and skill.
Picture-taking has become America's No. 1 hobby, and the world's manufacturers of camera equipment are having a field day turning out the tools. Such a field day, in fact, with electric eyes and remote-control slide projectors, scented flashbulbs and zoom lenses, that what to buy has become a bigger poser for the average amateur than f/ stops and film speeds ever were.
The simple dollar box of yesterday is now a thing of chrome, plastic and promise of better pictures built right into it in the form of flash synchronization and eye-level viewers, all for $5.95. There are over 30 million of these basic cameras in use today, and 1½ million more will be bought this Christmas season. They are still the most popular of cameras, because they take perfectly satisfactory pictures for a minimum of cost and ability. But even the box camera offers scope and gadgets with which its owner can increase his picture-taking power; far from being just a snapshot-taker, it can be used as a relatively versatile springboard to broader and bigger things.
November 16, 1959
For the beginner, first of all, the box camera is almost surefire. All models have fixed or zone focus which gives reasonably sharp images from four feet to infinity; most have apertures fixed at a setting of f/.12, which is safe under average conditions. There are two shutter speeds, "instantaneous" and "bulb," or "long," for time exposures. The instantaneous speed is approximately 1/60 second—brief enough for the average snapshot, though not fast enough to stop any real action.
To this basic box camera, however, a number of things have been or can be added to extend its scope. Close-up lenses are available for some models, which make portraits possible. The Ansco Cadet and many other cameras have settings for both black-and-white and color which accommodate the aperture to the speeds of the two types of film. A device to prevent double exposures has been built into many models. And while every box camera can take perfectly satisfactory pictures in color and black-and-white in good lighting, it is now also a round-the-clock instrument—every modern, simple camera comes equipped to handle flash attachments, and many have them built right in.
So the box camera has come a long way—but it is still only the beginning. Behind it, row on row, the amateur peering into his camera-store window can see the instruments for his further progress up the ladder—not giant steps, but easy ones both for him and for his pocket-book, with automation and simplicity still helping him all the way.
Even the first step up that ladder, from the low-priced box camera to its middle-priced, more versatile offspring, is a heady one. Suddenly you're in control. You can change the lens opening, the shutter speed and the focus. You can take pictures under less than sun-bright conditions without flashing a bulb in baby's face. You can stop a racing horse. You can control the focus and get sharper contact prints and enlargements. In the range of cameras that reach from the boxes to the realm of Rolleis and Leicas stretch an enormous variety of new cameras of all types endowed with a variety of new developments that are the talk of the business.
The entrance of the Japanese into the camera world after the Korean war shook the entire camera industry from top to bottom. With their superior Nikons and Canons in the 35-mm. field and their highly competitive lower-priced cameras, the Japanese gave a tremendous boost, not only to quality cameras, but also to the popular-priced field, with features formerly available only on much more expensive instruments. Their competition has caused both German and domestic manufacturers to concentrate on this market. The result is an all-out effort to make picture-taking so easy that no one can resist buying a camera, and the big move, particularly in this middle ground ($25 to $100 cameras), is to automation and simplicity. After a national photo trade show last March, the Wall Street Journal said, "From now on the trend away from the baffling, gadget-laden picture instrument moves into high gear."
One of the most controversial of the new developments is the electric eye. First successfully launched by Bell and Howell in 1957 on an 8-mm. movie camera, it entered the still-camera field in 1958 and 1959 with the arrival of such cameras as the Brownie Starmatic ($34.50) and the Bell and Howell Infallible ($44), both of which use 127 film and are little more than glorified box cameras, with the aperture the only part that shifts with the light. Other cameras are the Agfa Optima ($79.95), a 35-mm. camera with a f/3.9 lens and three-zone focusing; the Kodak Automatic 35 ($84.50) with a f/2.8 lens; and the Revere EE ($139.50), a 127-roll-film camera with a f/2.8 lens.
The principle of the electric eye (see diagram-on page 65) is simple enough: the objective is to change aperture and/ or shutter speed automatically to best employ available light. A cell activated by light sends a minute electrical impulse to the controls, which in turn change the aperture and in some cases the shutter speed. The still cameras employing the principle are among the best-selling newcomers at the photo dealers. This success seems to prove a statement made by an executive of Willoughbys in New York City, the largest camera store in the world: "Any product at all in the photographic line which is simpler will sell."
The blessings of the electric eye are not unmixed ones. It—and all automation, for that matter—standardizes picture-taking in a manner that robs the photographer of some of his initiative. Says Ansel Adams, "It might well lead to a disastrous extinction of individuality. Better exposures do not always imply better pictures." And Dorothea Lange says, "Surefire things are deadening to the human spirit."
However, for the man who wants a surefire, unthinking man's camera, the electric eye has much to offer. But its user must be aware that the electric eye takes in all the light reflected from the scene—not just the light on the main subject alone, which must be measured by taking a closeup reading with a hand-held light meter. And if one were, for instance, photographing a darkly clothed skier in the snow, one would more than likely get an underexposed skier. Most cameras have, however, a manual override which gives the user control of setting the aperture in conditions where the automatic exposure might give poor results.
While there are as yet only a few electric-eye still cameras, built-in or attachable light meters are now found on many other cameras. From the Samoca L28. ($49.95) to the Exakta Lightmeter IIa ($329.50) they show another effort on the part of the photographic industry to make the choosing of exposures, whether by the tyro or the wizard, a less complicated affair. This convenience should not blind the photographer to the fact that he still has to take pains to get the correct reading for the photograph he wants to take, whether the meter is hand-held or attached. If it is attached, he must move the camera to take a reading—an extreme disadvantage when a tripod is being used. And if the meter is actually built into the camera, he will have to send the whole works out for repair if the meter fails.
If amateur photography took its first flight with the arrival of the Kodak No. 1, it began to soar with the birth of two cameras some 30 years later: the 35-mm. miniature Lei-ca in 1924 and the Rolleiflex in 1928. Many of the world's best cameras have been influenced by these two milestone products. And once the amateur photographer enters their engrossing world of f/ stops, light meters, wide-angle and telephoto lenses, he is almost a sure candidate to join that throng, 2½ million strong, who have climbed to the near-professional plateau.
The Rolleiflex and the more precise of its numerous offspring offer the amateur serious picture-taking, ranging from the purely artistic to photojournalism. One big reason for this was the big reason for the Rollei's success—the ease of viewing and composing pictures in its ground-glass viewer. The twin-lens reflex camera is actually two cameras, with two lenses of the same focal length. One is for viewing, the other for taking the picture (see diagram). The beauty of this is that what you see on the ground glass is what you get, and focusing and composing in the 2-by-2-inch square are simplicity itself. The negatives which these cameras produce are large enough to make usable contact prints and to produce enlargements without the special fine-grain development recommended for smaller film sizes. This makes it particularly attractive for black-and-white album prints. The 120 film that is used by most cameras in this category (some use 127 film) is available everywhere. The 12 exposures that it takes are perfect for most amateurs who might find the 20 or 36 exposures used by 35-mm. cameras restrictive—if they don't take many pictures and like to change from color to black-and-white.
There are excellent color films available for the twin-lens reflex camera—Ektachrome, Anscochrome and Super Anscochrome, for example (Kodachrome, one of the best for slides, comes only in 35-mm. and bantam sizes). And while in the past pictures in these sizes have not been mounted as slides by the processor, now they can be ordered mounted for a small additional fee. And Eastman's color film, Kodacolor, which comes back from the processor in the form of negatives and prints, is available in 120 as well as 127, 620, 116, 616 and 35-mm. sizes. Since it is a negative color process, Kodacolor has many of the advantages of black-and-white and color film wrapped into one—it can deliver good black-and-white prints or color slides, as desired. Some twin-lens reflexes, however, also have 35-mm. adapter backs, with which the standard 2-by-2 color slides can be taken. The 2-by-2¼ slides can also be mounted by the photographer himself, and there are projectors designed for them.
The automatic twin-lens reflex camera also has the welcome feature of advancing the film while automatically counting the exposures and setting the shutter, all in one motion—a development that when added to the Rollei in 1937 won many professional devotees who had ignored the camera before.
The twin-lens reflex family, in this year of the bonanza, has attained such a size that the upward-striving amateur can find literally anything he wants, depending on the lenses he seeks and the money he has to spend. In the 1960 Popular Photography Directory there are 35 twin-lens reflex cameras listed, ranging in price from the Japanese-made Penta Reflex at $14.95 to the Tele-Rolleiflex with a f/4 lens at $399.50. The directory's camera-comparison chart dramatically illustrates the range of choice. All but four of the cameras have 3.5 lenses, and of the others three are 2.8 and one f/4. Shutter speeds of 1/500 second are found on most of them, even on cameras priced as low as Sears's Tower 44, which is $34.50. All are flash-synchronized. Automatic film advance is now found on 22 cameras, and automatic shutter setting on 16. Twenty-one have double-exposure prevention and seven have built-in light meters, including one priced as low as $60—the Yashica LM. Whichever make or model he chooses, the amateur who buys a good twin-lens reflex camera will have stepped a long way up.
The 35-mm. camera is so popular that there are more than 160 different models available today. Paradoxically, when the first of them, the Model A Leica, was introduced at the Leipzig Fair, it was regarded as an expensive gadget. The "gadget," however, proceeded to revolutionize picture-taking, and the 35-mm. camera, with 5 million in use, is now the uncontested king of the advanced camera field.
Why is the 35-mm. camera so popular? It is so compact and lightweight that you can climb a tree with it, ski with it, hunt with it. It has the fastest lenses of any still camera. Even models under $100 have optics rated at f/1.9, f /2 and f/2.8; and lenses rated at f/1.4 or f/1.5 are found on more expensive models. The reason for these fast lenses is that it is physically and economically practical to manufacture the small lens that the short focal length (the length from lens to film) permits. And the lens of a camera, a precision, hand-manufactured product, generally more than any other factor determines its price.
The fast lenses available in 35-mm. cameras have led to the popularity of available-light photography—enlarging the whole school of candid photography. The present highspeed black-and-white films when used with these fast lenses can catch a child by the light of a Christmas tree or the candles on a birthday cake at speeds fast enough for even a nonprofessional to dispense with a tripod, holding the camera in his hand. And many even faster films are being introduced. The speed of color films has been increased, bringing a whole new range of color photography within reach of the miniature camera user. Two, the new High Speed Ektachrome and Super Anscochrome, are fast enough to allow for shooting under conditions heretofore limited to fast black-and-white films.
The 35-mm. camera is an ideal camera for making color slides. Color is returned from the processor already mounted, and the whole still-projector industry has profited by it.
High on the list of the 35-mm. camera's advantages to the amateur photographer is the fact that he can change the lenses—to telephoto for bringing the picture up close to wide angle for taking in broader scenes than with standard 50-mm. lenses. Once a feature found only on the most expensive cameras, interchanging lenses is now possible with 35-mm. cameras that range in price from the Argus Standard C3 at $55.95 through a whole series of fine cameras on both sides of the $100 mark up to the Leica M3 at $399. And amateurs have discovered that with a telephoto lens they can isolate the runner from the pack on the field or, with a wide-angle lens, take in the entire field of action, goal to goal, from the top seats in the stands. In fine, a range of lenses gives the photographer many more ways to take a better picture from the same spot.
Thirty-five-millimeter cameras are divided into three types, according to the kind of viewers they have. There are those with no range finders, focused by setting the estimated distance on a scale. Next come cameras with range finders (see diagram), which are focused by adjusting the range finder until two images are superimposed or two halves of an image lined up. The third category is the single-lens reflex, which, like the twin-lens reflex cameras, permit composing and focusing the scene either on a ground glass or through a prism which shows what the camera sees.
The range-finder method of viewing has long been the most common found on the precision 35-mm. camera. It takes practice to use it to best advantage, but it gives a brilliant image and is the favorite of many professional photographers.
The 35-mm. reflex camera viewer, particularly the prismatic type, is the new sensation of the photographic world, for it makes eye-level composing and focusing as simple and as easy as twin-lens reflex viewing. There is one disadvantage to single-lens reflex cameras—the photographer actually views the picture through the picture-taking lens. The mirror that throws the image upward from lens to viewer has to get out of the way when the picture is taken. The viewer thus goes blank when the picture is taken; the photographer sees only what he was going to take. But in the latest refinement of the new 35-mm. single lenses the mirror returns instantly, and the image is only blacked out momentarily. With these new cameras comes another major development—the automatic diaphragm.
Cameras in this range are not the least expensive of 35-mm. They range from the Heiland Pentax at $179.50 to the brand-new Japanese-made Nikon F at $329.50. But they are among the most talked-about new products on the photo scene.
The single-lens reflex, 35-mm. camera, has prompted the most advanced accessory of the year—the zoom lens for still cameras. Like the lens on TV and on movie cameras whose dramatic zoom from home plate to the distant outfield gave it its name, the zoom lens permits quick changes from 36-mm. wide angle through normal to 82-mm. telephoto. The Voightlander-Zoomar is the first of these varifocal lenses. It costs $298 and works on all 35-mm. single-lens reflex cameras that have focal plane shutters. It takes the place of at least two extra lenses in a photographer's kit. You view through the lens itself at whatever distance it is set, just as in all single-lens reflex viewing. And Nikon has announced, for early 1960, a telephoto zoom lens that will take up where the Voightlander-Zoomar leaves off, going from 85 mm. to 250 mm. It will cost $595.
Single-lens reflex viewing is not confined to 35-mm. cameras. As a matter of fact, some of the best of the single-lens reflex cameras are in the 120-film group, and their popularity has done much to boost the rapid growth of this type of viewing system. The Swedish Hasselblad is perhaps the best known, and its advertising slogan, "Carry a Hasselblad instead of a studio," aptly sums up the versatility of the camera, which not only has interchangeable lenses but interchangeable film magazines that allow the photographer to change from color to black-and-white film in mid-roll and back again. The Hasselblad 500C and its new competitor, the Japanese Bronica, both cost $489.50 with f/2.8 lenses. The Hasselblad focusing mirror blocks out the view once the picture is taken, but the Bronica has a new, instant-return mirror that flops down and returns.
These, then, are the major tools of the photographer's game. But as this burgeoning hobby has developed there have also developed as many special items as there are pictures to take.
One of the most popular novelties is the subminiature—the cigarette-lighter-size camera. The Minox, best known of these, was also the first of the present crop. It was developed in 1937 by a Latvian named Walter Zapp and was used extensively by undercover agents on both sides during World War II. After the war it caught the public fancy as a gadget "for the man who has everything."
Despite their toylike size, however, the best subminiatures are workmanlike little cameras. There are now 13 makes on the market, ranging from a group at $9.95 through an Italian-made GaMi 16 at $297.50, which is larger than the Minox (it uses 16-mm. film) and has a coupled range view finder and a coupled, built-in light meter. For the more expensive of these cameras there is an array of Lilliputian accessories: the Minox, for example, is not only synchronized for flash, with shutter speeds from½ to 1/1000 second, but it also has built-in orange and green filters. There is a collapsible tripod the size of a pencil, a right-angle finder mirror that allows its user to shoot around corners (particularly apt for the jet-black Minox, called the Private Eye) and a very compact electronic flash unit, which weighs 24 ounces, as well as a B-C flash attachment.
Film for the subminiatures comes in a variety of lengths, from eight to 50 exposures per roll. Color transparencies can be projected with especially designed projectors or mounted for use in 35-mm. projectors. And the tiny negatives can be blown up to album-size prints. Grain is still a problem, but film manufacturers are working hard to produce a fine-grain film for them.
Then there is stereophotography, older than grandfather and still popular—250,000 stereo cameras are currently in use. Stereo has two lenses, which take two pictures of the same scene simultaneously to produce color transparencies, which can be mounted as slides and, when viewed through a stereo viewer, give realistic three-dimensional images. Among the best-sellers in the field are the Revere 33 ($174.50) and the Stereo Realist 1041 ($149.50). The color slides cost about 50% more than single-picture slides. Projectors, designed to throw a 3-D picture on a screen, cost $49.95 to $645 but do not as yet give an entirely satisfactory three-dimensional projection. The difficulty of projection is a main factor in keeping stereophotography in the novelty class.
When the Polaroid Land camera was introduced in 1948, dealers scoffed at the prospects of a picture-in-a-minute camera. Today any one of them will eat his words. There are 2 million Polaroid cameras now in use, and their sales last year—an estimated 500,000—were more than all German and Japanese medium-to top-quality imports combined. The tremendous public acceptance of the Polaroid Land principle of seeing the picture you just took—it is developed and printed simultaneously in the back of the camera in one minute—has given a tremendous boost to the trend toward automation in still cameras. It has proven that, for the general public, the fun of photography is in seeing the picture, not in taking it. Indeed, the new owner of a Polaroid finds that he possesses a sure-fire inspiration for a lively parlor game of competitive picture taking if he has a "wink light" attachment—Polaroid's fill-in light. Polaroid has also led the field in simplifying shutter-speed-and lens-opening settings into one figure: all you do is point the meter, read a figure and set it on the camera. New improvements have appeared almost every year since the camera was introduced: lighter cameras, faster shutters, coupled range finders, flash, projectable black-and-white film and faster films. Films for the Polaroid at 200 to 400 ASA have been as fast as any on the commercial market, but this fall Polaroid has introduced one with a speed of 3,200, together with a new electric-eye shutter device that can be clamped on the front of some Polaroid cameras. And even greater days are coming: a color film is being developed now which, when perfected, should raise the Polaroid Land camera to new heights of popularity with snapshot-takers everywhere.
And what else is in the gadget bag of the future? For one important thing, new improvements in lighting. Flash has already been simplified from a painful, blinding, finger-burning, sometimes explosive method of auxiliary light to a safe, sure, inexpensive process, available to every camera user. Stroboscopic flash, the superfast electronic device used until recently almost entirely by professionals, is becoming more and more the amateur's light source as its once cumbersome units grow lighter and more compact. The smallest strobe unit of all, the Braun Hobby F60 Pocket-Pak, was released in October. It is fully transistorized, and the thin 20-ounce power pack will slip into a man's inner jacket pocket. The flash head, which clips on a camera, is no larger than an exposure meter, yet it puts out as much light as units far larger. It costs $74.50.
Another change is due in exposure meters. Says Modern Photography, "Film speeds are now approaching the level where photography is possible under such dimly illuminated conditions that exposure meters cannot respond." The selenium cell, which has been used to measure light on meters since 1932, seems to be approaching its maximum range. And with film speeding up faster than meters, all of the manufacturers are searching for new, economical ways to measure the very dim light these films will still react to.
Accessories of all kinds are becoming more versatile, less expensive, more automatic. There are underwater still cameras that cost as little as $19.95 (the Mako Shark); projectors for color slides, such as the Audio-scope ($99.50), which include four-speed record players for appropriate background music; others, such as the Balomatic 500 ($149.50), which can change slides by automatic time cycle or by remote control; and home movies, a field as astonishing as the still-camera field, with turret lenses, zoom lenses, electric eyes, electric drive, that let the amateur movie " maker achieve almost Hollywoodlike results.
All this is quite a step from Kodak No. 1, which didn't even have a viewer. But the same principle of "you press the button, we do the rest" is still at work at the pinnacle which the upward-climbing amateur will be able to reach with this piece of equipment: take a Nikon F, with its fast f/2 lens and its single-lens reflex, instant-return mirror viewing; power it with a Nikon electric-motor-drive back ($219.50), which automatically advances the film and fires the shutter and allows for single exposures or rapid-fire bursts of two or more through a 36-exposure roll at the rate of three per second; top it off with a Nikkor zoom lens, which goes from 85 mm. to 250 mm., and a slip-on exposure meter which couples to the shutter speed and the diaphragm ($34.50)—and you have $1,178 worth of nearly automatic camera. This may seem a long way up from a $5.95 box, but the fact is that with either one you can have fun and take the kind of pictures you want the way you want to take them.
Image of subject (1) passes through the viewing lens (2), strikes a 45°-angled mirror (3) and is projected on the ground glass (4), on which the photographer (x) focuses and composes. The image is right side up, but reversed. Light from the subject (1) passes through lens (5) and, when the shutter opens, hits surface of the film (6), taking the picture. Parallax, the slight difference in what is seen and what is photographed that is caused by the distance between the two lenses, is sometimes compensated for by the lens mechanism of the camera and, in any case, is a problem only in closeups.
SINGLE-LENS REFLEX, 120
Light from subject (1) passes through lens (2) and strikes 45°-angled mirror (3), which projects it to ground glass (4) as in twin-lens reflex. When shutter release is pressed, mirror flips up (or down) and image hits film (5). In some single-lens reflexes, both 120 and 35 mm., the mirror continues to black out view until camera is set for next picture; in others it flips back instantaneously, and the image returns. In eye-level, 35-mm. reflexes, the mirror sends image to eye through a five-way prism which projects it right side up but reduced in scale in a rectangular picture-shaped framing device.
Great advantage of the 35-mm. camera is its eye-level operation, which permits fast shooting; and vital to accurate fast shooting in most popular models is built-in range finder. In side view (upper right) light from subject (1) passes through lens (2) to film (3) when shutter is tripped. In top view (lower right) light from same image enters one window (4), is bent by prism (5) to hit semitransparent mirror (6) and is projected to photographer's eye (x) at combined viewing and range-finding window. At the same time, light also enters second window (7) and passes through mirror (6) and to eye (x) at viewer. Thus, before focusing, eye sees double image or split image. As photographer turns focusing mechanism, prism (5) moves with it, adjusting double or split image. When images are joined or superimposed, camera is in focus. Parallax exists at less than 10 feet but in some models is automatically compensated for internally.
Systems vary from camera to camera. In one, the electric eye adjusts shutter speed; in another, it operates a simple, nongeared mechanism. Shown here, highly simplified, is one basic system, embodying the most common principles. Light strikes photocell (1), which generates a small current. This passes through a thermistor (2), which compensates for temperatures so that camera will work as well in cold as in warm weather. The current, its strength determined by strength of light, rotates gear (3). Gear turns eccentric disks (4) which have overlapping openings. As the disks move, these create a larger or a smaller aperture for the camera, depending on the amount of light that has activated cell.