Friday, July 1, 2011

Big Camera

As we look at all these old pictures, we forget how different photography was back in the day. Today's picture is from the Harris and Ewing news service, and it shows a typical portrait camera from the early 1900.s While bulky, these cameras took excellent pictures.

I don't know if you have ever noticed this, but the little "Brownie" cameras that everyone had in the 1920's through about 1940's took excellent pictures. When I look at old family snapshots, I am amazed by the clarity and contrast that most of the pictures had. Then somewhere about the 50's or 60's the "instamatics" and "poloroids" came out, and the pictures were TERRIBLE! The low point of photography came with the 110 instamatic, and with the color polaroid that spit out a tiny picture that developed in front of your eyes. Those were dark days indeed for photography.

With the advent of the modern digital camera, photography has gotten much better. I am amazed with the quality of picture that you can get from a $100 camera these days. I also believe that people are starting to become better photographers, thinking more about the pictures that they are taking.


  1. I use to do a lot of secret shopping and other projects that needed a digital camera for a lot of the shops. Some of the projects required 50 or more shots. So I bought my first digital camera about 14 years ago. It cost me over $600.00, but took great photos. I always got comments from the people that checked out my photos on how clear the details were in the photos. You could enlarge the photos many times over and still have good detail.

    Now you can get good digital cameras for a couple of hundred dollars. I am tempted to buy a newer one that is smaller and has more features, but I am happy with mine, even though it gets cranky at times and is a little bulky.
    I don't do all that much secret shopping much anymore, so I think I can live with the old girl.

    I think the real low period was when they had those little ones with the round disc in them. The negative was only about 1/2 inch square, and they gave you terrible prints. I used mine maybe twice before I throw it away and went and bought a 35 mm. Minolta. That was a great camera. I just recently gave it and all my lens to my son, and he is enjoying it.

    Cameras have come a long way.

  2. Although it was a crappy camera, the major improvement those Kodak Instamatics brought (I had the 100 as a kid) was no need for a darkroom. The film was preloaded in a plastic cartridge. Open the back and pop in the cartridge then close it up. All done in full daylight. I remember my Dad (and lots of other dads) crowding into darkroom tents or huts provided at places like Freedom Land or Frontier Land and other tourist attractions. They crammed into these outdoor darkrooms to reload their spool-fed still cameras and the always feared movie camera. "Don't just stand there, it's a movie! Wave or walk past or something!"


  3. I think it is hard to beat the photos you get from the old large format cameras like you see in this picture. They are true works of art. The new cameras, however, allow everyone to try their hand a creative photos. It doesn't cost anything to experiment, even if you are a true amateur. The film and processing costs got to be quite expensive in the old film cameras.

  4. Don't get me started on the history of cameras. I forgot about those disc cameras. I never owned one.

    My Mom had a Brownie, but it broke. Bummer. She also had one of the first polaroid instant cameras. She traded it in for a newer polaroid camera. She always regretted that. We actually have some decent shots from the original camera.

    On that camera, the photos were black and white. The bulb was this huge honking blue thing that only worked once. You had to wait to eject it because it was so hot.(If there's anyone born after 1980 or so, we actually tossed these bulbs straight into the trash. Completely different world then.)

    My first camera was a color polaroid. I loved it. Took pictures of everything. The photographs don't age well, though. And technically, the quality really isn't that great. Still, I had a lot of fun with it.

    My first digital camera was an Olympus 620. Until the D300 came along, no other camera could match it. Newer is not always better. Unfortunately, it died. I still miss it a little.

    What I'd love to have is one of those honking big cameras that shoot on 8x10 negatives. I wonder if one can fit such a camera with a macro lens. The details on insects would be awesome. Not that they hold still long enough to take a photo with a camera that's heavy enough it needs a tripod. Pipe dream really.

  5. My 1st experience with cameras was an old color Polaroid of my mothers. Then came the 110 click and point but it still had flash bulbs or flash cubes. After that I had one of those disk cameras. Loved it because of my young age at the time, it was the coolest thing to have, not to mention it fit nicely in your pocket. I then went back to the more modern Polaroid and 35mm in my Army days. Not very many Polaroids left unfortunately. I do however have many a negative from those days.