People still use cameras with film

History of Photography

The first pictures by Niepce

The Frenchman Joseph Nicéphore Niepce (1765-1833) is considered to be the one who was the first to capture images on a light-sensitive layer. He used a camera obscura, a long-known device with which images of the outside world could be projected onto surfaces. He managed to capture these pictures on chlorine silver paper. However, they were not lightfast and faded after a short time.

It was not until 1826 that Niepce managed to produce the first permanent picture: It shows the view from the window of his study. However, with exposure times of up to eight hours, it was impossible to photograph people or moving objects.

Louis Jaques Mandé Daguerre (1787-1851), a successful theater painter, learned about Niepce's work and was so fascinated that he became his partner. The two feverishly tried to find a way to shorten the exposure times.

Shorter exposure times and multiple prints

After years of experimentation, Daguerre discovered that even a short exposure of an iodized silver plate creates a latent (invisible) image that can be fixed by vaporising it with mercury. Louis Daguerre exposed a photo plate, but then stopped the process because the weather did not cooperate. He put the plate in his chemicals cabinet. When he later took it out, he was surprised to see that a picture was emerging on it. So something in his closet must have shortened the exposure time of the plate.

He removed all chemicals from the cupboard piece by piece and kept adding a fresh photo plate to find out which of the chemicals caused this effect. In the end, only a few drops of accidentally spilled mercury remained.

That, Daguerre realized, was the solution to the riddle. Photographic plates treated with mercury vapors require shorter exposure times than untreated ones. After numerous attempts, he succeeded in reducing the exposure times to four minutes in summer and 15 minutes in winter.

Daguerre and Isidore Niepce, the son of the late pioneer, signed a contract with the French government in 1839, which gave it the right to present the so-called daguerreotype to the public. The government thought the discovery was so significant that it hoped it would boost its popularity. However, the images that were created with the daguerreotype were unique.

William Henry Fox Talbot eliminated this problem with the so-called calotype, a paper-negative-positive process. Quality and brilliance could not be compared with the daguerreotype, but it was possible to make several prints from one picture.

The plate process

Talbot's process had low resolution and was gritty. The grain of the paper was also always clearly visible. Frederick Scott Archer overcame this shortcoming in 1851 with his wet collodion process. The name comes from the cotton (collodion) dissolved in ether, which was used for this. This was used to apply the light-sensitive material (silver halide) to glass plates.

The resolution was significantly better, but the effort remained enormous. Collodion is a colorless, sticky mass that hardens quickly in air. Exposure and development therefore had to take place before the material was dried. The next breakthrough came in 1871 by Richard Leach Maddox. With a layer of bromide-silver gelatine, he managed to develop a dry plate that was in no way inferior to wet plates in terms of sensitivity.

The roll film

The plates which were used as a support for the photosensitive layer in the early years of photography made handling considerably more difficult. It wasn't just the weight that was annoying: a new plate had to be inserted into the camera for each picture.

George Eastman therefore developed the roll film together with a partner in 1889. Now it was possible to take several pictures in a row. It was also Eastman who came up with the idea of ​​relieving the photographer of the tiresome and time-consuming process of developing and printing.

He offered this work as a service for his first self-developed camera models. Anyone who snapped their roll film could send the entire machine to Kodak and a little later received the prints and a camera with fresh film back. This is one of the main reasons why photography became increasingly popular from the turn of the century.

35mm cameras and color films

The improved light sensitivity of films made it possible to manufacture small and miniature cameras in the first decades of the 20th century. As early as 1905, Oskar Barnack had the idea of ​​reducing the negative format in order to enlarge the photographs later. As development manager at Leica, he designed the world's first 35mm camera ten years later.

The First World War, however, delayed further development. It was not until the 1920s that Barnack completed the first Leica camera, which was officially presented in 1925. It was a viewfinder camera with a lens of 50 millimeters focal length, a standard that was later copied hundreds of times.

In addition to the viewfinder camera, the reflex camera was able to establish itself from the 1950s. The principle: the light entering is reflected in the viewfinder. This allows the photographer to see exactly what the picture will later show. The deflecting mirror, which projects the image into the viewfinder, folds aside when the shutter is released so that the light beam can expose the film. In 1936 the Agfa company was the first to develop a color film. Now everyone could take almost true-to-life photos of their surroundings.

The digital revolution

The use of more and more electronics made cameras more and more convenient over time. In 1963 Canon introduced the first camera with automatic focus adjustment. A fully electronic camera from Rollei followed around ten years later, which was able to set the aperture, shutter speed and focus automatically.

Towards the end of the 20th century, the entire photographic technology was then revolutionized again by digitization. Now it was possible to save the photos no longer on film material, but on digital data carriers. This is cheap and makes it easier to deal with the picture. It can be viewed directly and, if necessary, deleted immediately.

Image editing software makes post-processing easier and enables mistakes in the photo to be corrected. Today everyone can improve or manipulate their pictures with the help of suitable software. In addition, the Internet simplifies the worldwide exchange of images that are now available as files.