Friday, January 19, 2007

Histoy of the Camera

The first permanent photograph was made in 1826 by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce using a sliding wooden box camera made by Charles and Vincent Chevalier in Paris. Niépce built on a discovery by Johann Heinrich Schultz (1724): a silver and chalk mixture darkens under exposure to light. However, while this was the birth of photography, the camera itself can be traced back much further. Before the invention of photography, there was no way to preserve the images produced by these cameras apart from manually tracing them.

The first camera that was small and portable enough to be practical for photography was built by Johann Zahn in 1685, though it would be almost 150 years before technology caught up to the point where this was possible. Early photographic cameras were essentially similar to Zahn's model, though usually with the addition of sliding boxes for focusing. Before each exposure a sensitized plate would be inserted in front of the viewing screen to record the image. Jacques Daguerre's popular daguerreotype process utilized copper plates, while the calotype process invented by William Fox Talbot recorded images on paper.

The development of the collodion wet plate process by Frederick Scott Archer in 1850 cut exposure times dramatically, but required photographers to prepare and develop their glass plates on the spot, usually in a mobile darkroom. Despite their complexity, the wet-plate ambrotype and tintype processes were in widespread use in the latter half of the 19th century. Wet plate cameras were little different from previous designs, though there were some models (such as the sophisticated Dubroni of 1864) where the sensitizing and developing of the plates could be carried out inside the camera itself rather than in a separate darkroom. Other cameras were fitted with multiple lenses for making cartes de visite. It was during the wet plate era that the use of bellows for focusing became widespread.


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