The Camera Past Present and Future

A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME

 

Past present and future of the camera
Read on to discover what the future holds for cameras

 

Cast your mind back just a decade ago, high streets were full of independent retailers and there were many photography shops and independent photo labs. At the start of the new millennium it seemed that you could get anything at all from your local high street. If you were a photographer you would take your film in to a store for developing, pay the fee, and then a couple of days later you would go back and collect your 6x4 photographs, and receive the negatives in a colourful envelope. Unless you had paid the premium for one or two hour processing.

You would take the time to carefully look at each photo, some didn't come out very well at all but there was nothing you could do, and there was no way of telling how great a shot would be before the film had been developed. I remember getting a 110mm Fujica camera for my birthday one year as a child. It was apparently a top of the range model and featured a telephoto lens. Except the telephoto lens was actually a slider that pushed another lens in front of the standard lens.

The problem with it as I recall wasn't so much the camera, it was the cost of developing the photographs. By the time I had earned enough pocket money to get the film developed I had lost interest in the camera and the film was out of date. We are talking the late seventies, early eighties, I was still at school, I think I had maybe two or three rolls of film developed throughout the life of the camera.

My parents had a Polaroid instant camera. They didn't have to take the film to be developed, the photo would just eject out of the camera and they would immediately take it to a darker room and wave it about for a while, then as if by magic the photograph would appear. I could only ever aspire to own such a beast. The film was very expensive, and you never did get too many shots out of one film cassette.

Polaroid camera
The Polaroid was almost magical

 

1982

In 1982, things changed. By this time I had a paper round and could afford the luxuries in life such as a Papermate Pen that had an eraser on the end and you could rub out the ink. In fact I remember that pen to this day, it was a special edition Espana 82 World Cup football Papermate. It wasn't very good at erasing the ink, but it was a cool ting to have in the new "big school" as we used to call them. It also meant that I could finally afford to have my photographs developed at the local pharmacy. But it also meant that I could save up for the latest technology, the Disc Camera.

I had read the adverts, I was well informed. Introduced by Kodak in 1982, the film was supplied as a flat disc. Each disc had a total of fifteen 10x8mm exposures, all in a compact and very slim unit that had the Holy Grail of features, a built in flash.

No more would I need to only shoot outdoor scenes or save up for three weeks to buy a set of flash cubes. This was the ultimate and I felt like a pro. There was no way of expanding it either in terms of capacity or with additional lenses. The downside was that I had now lost my telephoto ability, but the built in flash was a worthy compromise.

Everything about the camera was simple, loading and unloading the cassette film was so much easier because it had a built in dark slide that meant you could change the film without worrying that you would expose it to light. No more fumbling about in the dark. It had automatic film advance too.

The film rotated on the disc instead of the usual spool, and the cassette was also very thin meaning that you could have a couple of spare discs in your pocket. In terms of the photographs, the flatness meant that in theory that photographs would be extra sharp and defined over the more traditional 110 and 126 spool based formats, and it had a much thicker acetate base than the other formats of the time.

But there was a problem. No matter how hard I would try to convince myself that it was a good camera, it didn't take away the fact that the negative was only 10mm x 8mm, resulting in very grainy photographs with very poor definition. Certainly not what had been advertised on the TV and in magazines of the time, all of which indicated that the prints would be the best you had seen. Kodak's chairman at the time, Walter Fallon, called disc photography "the new engine that will drive amateur photography,"

Now that in itself perhaps wasn't the problem. The issue sat with photo labs printing from three-element lenses which supported the larger formats, as opposed to the six-element lenses produced by Kodak because very few labs at the time made any investment to get the best out of the small negative size, and the result left the photographer disappointed. The labs also had to rely on a manual process to produce prints as opposed to an automated process for developing spool based films.

Fuji, 3M, Konica, and Kodak made the films, with all but Kodak also manufacturing the discs for third-parties. You could by a home brand disc from a photography shop that would have been made by either 3M, Konica, or Fuji, for a lot less than the original brands, it made no difference to the outcome, the photos would never have reached their full potential due to the developing processes used. If six lens developing had been used more widely, we would perhaps have seen the difference between the disc film and the larger formats, and maybe the disc camera would have been around a little longer.

The last disc film was produced on December 31st 1999, although the cameras had been off the market since early on in 1988 after selling some 25-million units. Described as a flop by reviewers, although 25-million units is better than many cameras today. 35mm cameras were the way to go, and so I saved up for a Zenit 35mm camera.

The 110 format camera
The Kodak Instamatic was the original, but soon the format was available from almost every manufacturer

 

Zenit cameras were made in Russia, and it really was a cheap way to get in to real photography. Usually they came bundled with a few lenses and accessories, and this should have been a red flag, no pun intended, because these too weren't very good. The Zenit was an SLR camera that was inspired by the Zorki rangefinder design. It was launched in 1953 and for decades, millions were sold. However, fast forward to 2016 and there is news that the company will be coming back with a range that is aimed at the high-end market which will take on Leica. There's no news just yet relating to the price, but maybe around $500 and up according to the web.

The Millennium was a new dawn. We had lost a few formats, and digital was the way to go. High street shops and photo labs were still safe for now. In part because we didn't trust computers to even get the time right in 1999. We were all convinced the world would end at midnight on the 31st December 1999 (Young people will never know the struggle of the millennium bug), the Internet existed, but not quite how it is today.

THE NEW DAWN

Digital cameras were about to enter the consumer market. Back in 1975, a Kodak engineer by the name of Steven Sasson was given a project to come up with a use for CCD (Charge Coupled Device). He came up with what is now essentially a light sensitive integrated circuit that stores and displays the data for an image in such a way that each pixel is converted in to an electrical charge, the intensity of which relates to a colour in colour spectrum.

Sasson spent a year pretty much putting the components together to create a camera with no moving parts. The result was the first digital image from an eight pound device that was built around a Fairchild semiconductor, 100x100 pixel sensor, and it was black and white, and in December 1975, we had a glimpse of the future.

It was however Eugene F. Lally, who worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory who had initially thought about using a photo mosaic sensor to capture digital images back in 1961. Unfortunately the technology just wasn't available.

The history of the digital camera began with Eugene F. Lally of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who was thinking about how to use a mosaic photosensor to capture digital images. His 1961 idea was to take pictures of the planets and stars while travelling through space to give information about the astronauts' position. Unfortunately, as with Texas Instruments employee Willis Adcock's filmless camera (US patent 4,057,830) in 1972, the technology had yet to catch up with the concept

In 1999 we saw the introduction of the Nikon D1, weighing in with a 2.74 megapixel sensor, and costing $6,000. For professional photographers this was slightly affordable, but it had been much earlier than this when Sony had introduced a prototype of the first still video camera.

Unveiling the Mavica (Magnetic Video Camera) in 1981, it recorded images on two inch floppy discs for playback on a TV or monitor. It wasn't a digital video camera, it was an analogue version of the video cameras available at the time. The difference between still video images and video cameras can be best described as a little bit like comparing analogue vinyl records and today's digital music.

Various companies had produced still video cameras throughout the 80's, and in 1988 it was Fuji who had introduced us to the first consumer, all-digital camera, the DS-1P. Dycam had marketed the first digital camera for consumers in the USA, as the Dycam Model 1. This was also sold by Logitech under the name Fotoman, but at $600 it proved to be too expensive for the average consumer.

Storage wasn't a problem. With the Mavica you could store up to 25-photographs on a single 2inch 1mb floppy disc. If you needed more storage you would just buy more discs.

It wasn't until around 1999-2000 when I purchased my first digital camera. The Polaroid PDC 700. It came with a case, USB cable, and a few other items, I remember it well because I purchased it on a trip to the USA and I have to admit to buying it from Walmart where it was on offer. On reflection they probably needed to get rid of stock quickly.

The reality was that it was another truly awful camera, I suppose at the time it was feature packed, but how on Earth could I ever have thought that a $149 camera from Walmart could have been great. It served a purpose, connecting it to my PC, and printing out photos on a Lexmark Z11 printer. It was like having my own photo lab at home, albeit with pixelated results.

Out of nostalgia I decided to look it up online this week, as opposed to climbing in to the attic to find it, my arm is still not all that great, and I was shocked to find out that it was still available for sale on Amazon! Admittedly for $17.99 on the US site, but the reviews were pretty good from 1999.

Here's the description!

The Polaroid PhotoMAX PDC 700 expands the PhotoMAX line of digital imaging products by offering higher resolution, an expanded LCD monitor, and the first bundling of the PhotoMAX Pro software in a digital camera kit. The Poloroid PDC 700's user-friendly design grouped with its 24-bit color (millions of colors) image pickup element and 1,024 x 768 pixel resolution enables you to take high-quality color images with the touch of a button. Both the bright image viewfinder and the 1.8-inch LCD screen make seeing your images and deleting the ones you don't want simple, so you don't waste memory. The Polaroid PDC 700 comes with 4 MB of built-in memory, but you can also use the CompactFlash card slot to upgrade your memory.

Automatic focus and built-in three-mode flash as well as date coding and a 10-second self-timer make this tripod-mountable camera easy to use and versatile. The Creative Kit, which comes with the camera, includes a convenient wrist strap, an AC adapter, batteries, a quick start guide, and cables to connect the Polaroid PCD 700 to your TV or your PC. This package also contains a software bundle for your PC that will allow you to download and edit your photos.

I had purchased a 4Mb compact flash card at the time too. But please, don't believe the reviews, this was one of the poorest cameras I ever owned. You can read the reviews here if you fancy a little nostalgia! https://www.amazon.com/Polaroid-PDC-700-Digital-Camera-Creative/dp/B000023VQC To sum it up today though, the review should read, cheap at the time, and remains one of the worst digital cameras produced. Also very slow and uses a compact flash card. Don't buy it.

Prior to this little pocket camera there had been a number of decent or sort of decent by today's standards, digital cameras leading up to the year 2000.

In 1993 Fuji released the DS-200F and unlike many cameras prior, the 200F was the first to save images Ina rudimentary solid-state flash system, not unlike how we save files today. It had a resolution of 640x480 (VGA). At the time it was considered a manufacturing marvel.

Apple, of Apple computer and iPhone fame also entered the digital camera arena in 1994 with the Apple Quick Take 100. Possibly the worlds first consumer camera to come in at under $1,000, that took images on a single sensor. Available today on eBay, but totally for decorative use only.

It had been designed by Kodak and it was manufactured by a company called Chinon in Japan, it too took photographs at VGA resolution, but essentially it led the way for Apple to break in to the digital camera market by including them on all of their smartphones. The rest as they say, is history. You can still buy an Apple QuickTake, 100, 150, and 200, on eBay. They're not fetching too much money, probably because these were produced by Apple whilst Steve Jobs had originally left the company. Had Jobs had have been involved, my guess is that we would have seen a better product, or we wouldn't have seen it at all.

Also in 1994, the Associated Press collaborated with Kodak to create a digital SLR that was to meet the needs of photojournalists. Based on the Nikon N90, the camera was 1.3 Megapixel and a very high ISO which enabled it to shoot in low light. Exactly what the paparazzi needed to capture celebrities going out in the dead of night.

There was a cost to having this luxury, you would need to pay $17,950 for the privilege, unless you were an Associated Press member, in which case it was yours for just $16,950. It was the Vancouver Sun newspaper who converted to all digital photography, and they used this camera to do it. It was of course the NC2000e.

Fast forward to 2005, the introduction of the Canon EOS 5D was Popular Photography's Camera of the Year. High-end amateurs and even some professionals made the leap. It was half the price of its nearest competitors and captured the market until 2008. Only Sony's D700 and Alpha 900 took away the shine of the EOS 5D.

My next camera was in 2008 when I decided to treat myself to a Nikon D3 that had been released in 2007. It had a top ISO setting of 25,600 and was the ultimate for night shots. Its 12-megapixel sensor was at the cutting edge, but the cost was eye wateringly expensive at almost $5,000. By waiting a year I managed to get a couple of decent lenses included, and saved over $1,500 by waiting. In 2013, I was tempted to upgrade, but ended up purchasing a pretty decent Canon, and a GoPro in 2015, now I'm saving up for the Canon EOS 5D Mark III DSLR.

In 2007, the smartphone camera had really gone in to overdrive with the introduction of the iPhone. There were better smart phone cameras available, but Apple had the apps to edit photos. The smartphone camera would move from strength to strength, with the newly released iPhone 7 plus having dual lenses, if you can find it in store. My guess is that we will be seeing some new stock arrive in November, but I wouldn't hang around making a decision. If you want one early, go and pre-order now.

Fast forward to 2016 and we are starting to really see high standards in the most compact of forms. 360 degree cameras, 4K is the norm for video, and as far as zoom is concerned, some of the cheapest bridge cameras have some of the greatest zoom lenses ever seen. The Nikon P900 has an 83x Optical zoom. Truly outstanding, and unimaginable just a few years ago. My daughters Sony has 63x optical zoom and for an entry level bridge camera it is a fantastic piece of equipment. I have never seen quite so many shots of craters on the moon!

35mm camera format is still used in 2016
Hard to believe, but we will see a 35mm resurgence. The style is often replicated through filters, but as with vinyl records, the format still has its fans.

 

WHERE NEXT?

But where will cameras go over the next few years? Here are my top ten predictions.

10. Sensory technology which will adapt to the scene. If you take a picture of snow laden fields, the camera will be recording the ambient temperature and applying tones that capture the context. Cooler tones for winter scenes, warmer tones in the summer, it's likely that photo filter software will be built in, but not like the preset filters we see on some cameras today, these filters will be contextual.

9. Dual lens cameras will become the norm on every smartphone by 2020. Apple have paved the way, so it's a no brainier that others will be following. Expect a 2017 Samsung to be shipped with dual lens cameras. We'll also see a jump to 16 Megapixel, possibly even on the iPhone 7S or iPhone 8.

8. No shutter buttons! Apple are rumoured to be doing away with the home button on the next model after the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, expect camera manufacturers to do away with a shutter button too. Optical recognition will record a shot in the blink of an eye.

7. Virtual Reality is now more of a reality and in December 2016, Sony will be releasing their VR headset for the PS4. It's on my wish list! But cameras, and I expect in particular Sony models will be able to record full VR. With the release of the GoPro 5, perhaps GoPro will release a VR capable camera in the next few years. Now that could really put GoPro back on the map.

6. The Internet of the camera. Many cameras now have wifi ability, but this will expand to more models over the next couple of years. Uploading straight to the cloud, we could see models without any need at all for large amounts of internal storage. Connect to the cloud, blink an eye, and you photo is printed out at home, and sent directly to Facebook and friends many miles away, the exact second it gets uploaded. They'll also feature more smart features too, think of smart TV, but for cameras. After all, cameras will need to compete with smartphones.

5. Smaller cameras. Even professional photographers would like to carry around lighter cameras. There will be advances in camera bodies and lenses, making them both lighter, even on pro-models. Some of the concepts currently found online are essentially just a lens, a flip out screen, and a handle.

4. Don't buy the Apple Watch 2 just yet. Future variations could see the introduction of a camera. A patent filed by Apple Patent application number 14774642, filed in 2013 included a camera. It's only a matter of time. I expect Apple Watch 3 will have a camera that will be able to take underwater shots. It will be another two years at least before we see the next iteration.

3. Computational Photography will be a thing by 2017. GV, formerly known as Google Ventures is currently leading a $30m investment in computational photography for its forthcoming L16 camera.

An iPhone sized camera costing $1,699 that offers the quality of a pro-DSLR, comes with 16 lenses and software that puts the image together to create a single 52 Megapixel image. Folded optics will make the camera more compact, and a high-end mobile processor, Qualcomm's SnapDragon 820 chip provides the brains behind the equipment.

2. Not forgetting CCTV, currently Gigapixel recording is in development. If you think Big Brother can see it all now, just wait for this new tech and know it will pretty much see everything. We are already seeing CCTV availability from your smartphone, you can check on your home or business anywhere you have a data signal, Gigapixel will allow you to see the tiniest of details, and get an extreme close up of the felon stealing your equipment at home, and send the image to a security company or the police instantly.

1. Maybe the future of the camera is no camera at all. At least not in the traditional sense. Cameras will get smaller and more compact, more powerful, and we will certainly either see new sensors, or a rise in computational photography.

With mobile phones equalling and now frequently bettering high-end compact cameras, it's not too unrealistic to think that we will move away from owning a point and shoot at all. If computational photography lives up to its promises, that Canon EOS 5D Mark III DSLR that I'm saving up for might just be my next bad camera choice. Maybe Apple in Cupertino are already preparing the iPhone 10 for computational photography. [Insert winking emoji here], not that I've heard anything!

BREAKING ARTS AND MUSIC

 

Breaking arts and music master template Photoshop tutorial
One of the best master template tutorials ever.

My good friend, Joshua D. Greer has been busy creating brand new Photoshop tutorials for his Breaking Arts & Music website and YouTube channel. The latest on creating a set of master templates to be used online and in print can be found at http://www.breakingartsandmusic.com/master-template.html and features me as the artist!

It really is a great video that will give you the Photoshop shortcuts that you need, and it is brilliantly put together. The video shows the excellent depth of knowledge that Joshua has for all things Photoshop, and even if you use Corel or Gimp, you will pick up some handy pointers to apply in those packages too.

Joshua has a whole range of tutorial videos on both his site and his YouTube channel, and he covers some of the less known features too. If you really want to learn Photoshop, put aside some time and head straight to breakingartsandmusic.com

So thank you Joshua for featuring me and on behalf of every Photoshop user out there who will gain a great deal of knowledge when watching the tutorial, you did a most excellent job.

ABOUT M.A

Mark (M.A) Taylor is a UK based artist who lives in Staffordshire. His experience of professional art spans over 30-years and he is the founder of two well-known Facebook Groups, the Artists Exchange and The Artist Hangout. His work is available from http://10-Mark-Taylor.pixels.com and a range of retail locations across the USA and Canada, and you can buy smaller works directly using PayPal. You can follow him on Facebook at https://Facebook.com/beechhousemedia and on Twitter @beechhouseart

Mark has been supporting local, independent and international artists since before he created this blog and also speaks at local and international events in his knowledgeable and humorous way. By purchasing M.As art you will be supporting him to continue creating blog posts that help those new and not so new artists to become just a little better prepared for the world of art and you will be helping Mark to continue creating beautiful and unique artworks.

NEXT TIME!

My next blog will be looking at how you can get the best out of your inkjet printer at home, and soon I will be putting various printer papers to the test. So if you are a paper manufacturer, please do get in touch if you're confident that your paper produces great results. You can contact me by emailing mark@beechhousemedia.co.uk or by completing the contact form at the bottom of this page.

 

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