Saturday, 11 April 2015

Camera Retrospective (part 1)

When I was clearing out my fathers house recently, I found that in his latter years my father had taken to collecting cameras.

Although we never really talked about photography, it is apparent from some of the family photos I have recovered that my father was quite a keen photographer in his youth.

It appear that some of that interest was maintained because it apparently he could not resist buying a camera.

Unfortunately he never really got to grips with the digital age. It must of seemed amazing to him to be able to urchase all this wonderful camera technology for what must of seemed a pittance. While in reality film cameras now (with a few exceptions) have now little more than curiosity value.

Unfortunately his collection did not include anything like a Leica Null-Series camera, but it does provide an interesting photographic foot note on how far we have come in terms of camera technology.

So I thought it would be an interesting side line to have a trip through history and look at some of the cameras and see what we can learn.

Exhibit 1 Kodak No 2-A Folding

In some ways this is the most personally interesting camera in the set, since unlike the others this camera was owned by my grandfather.

The Kodak No. 2A Folding Autographic Brownie was manufactured between 1915-1926, and is actually for the time quite a sophisticated beast.  It cost abut £6 at the time, which is roughly £120 now, so quite an investment probably at the time.

It has all sort of functionality such as, different focal length settings, and shutter speeds. It also folds back into it's case. So basically today's equivalent would be a mid range compact. A camera for the amateur enthusiast, which pretensions beyond just taking snaps.

Exhibit 2 - No.2A Brownie model C 

The box brownie is the camera that took photography from the professionals and gave it to the masses. They were so popular and ubiquitous that even today you find thousands littering car-boot sales. They were also produced for over 50 years in various guises, so showing how slow photographic technology moved in those days.

This particular model was a  No.2A Brownie model C maroon/winding key, manufactured between 1930 and 1936.

In terms of a camera it is only one step up from a pinhole camera, with a simple winder, 2 optical prism's and a simple mechanical shutter. The one interesting thing about it is that it came in a choice of colours showing that the camera was not competing on pure technology any more, but also consumer fashion.

Exhibit 3 - six-20 Brownie Model D

If I was to guess the age of this camera I would of said it was from the 1930's. I was surprised therefore that it dates from the 1950's, an age when I thought the brownie form factor had been supplanted by the type of camera shape we are more used to seeing today.

The Six-20 Brownie model D was manufactured between 1953-1957, and although almost certainly more sophisticated than the original brownie still retains the boxy shape. The main innovations seem to be improved view finder, the addition of flash contacts and the 1950's equivalent of a macro lens

The most interesting thing about this camera however is that it shows Kodak was now behind the technology curve, and would have to change to stay in the game. This it did, but a similar crisis in the 1990's are the world moved to digital proved it's undoing. You wonder whether Nikon and Canon will have the same issues with mirror-less cameras?

To be continued...


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