The camera is a great invention, an invention that started at around 1500 and is still being innovated. Did you know that if you went back to about 1900 you wouldnít be able to use the camera because only professionals could usually afford one? I bet you didnít know that there were over 15 inventors and scientists that innovated the camera before it became what it is today. Many of us take advantage of the camera and think that it is no big deal. Thatís where you are wrong, it is a big deal. Everybody uses the camera, from artists to police officers. Lets take just a moment to learn about it.
It is believed that the camera was invented during the early 1500ís. No, Iím not talking about the high technology, snapshot camera we have today. The first unsophisticated camera was called the camera obscura, which meant dark chamber. Artists were the only people who used the camera as a tool to help them sketch scenery. They would trace the shapes and lines, and then color the picture.
The camera worked by light entering a tiny hole on one side of the dark box that was big enough to fit a grown human being. The light formed an image on the opposite wall. The picture was an upside-down image of the scenery outside the box.
During the 1660ís the length of the camera was reduced to around two feet. A lens placed over the holes made the image larger and sharper. A mirror inside the camera reflected the image onto a piece of ground glass at the top of the camera. The camera obscura provided a way to project an image on a wall or a screen, but this procedure wasnít permanent. Artists still had to trace the image to preserve it.
In 1727, a German physicist named Johann H. Schulze proved that light darkens silver salts, because he discovered that silver salts are sensitive to light. Even though he used sunlight to make images on silver salts, he didnít try to make the images permanent.
The first person to make a permanent image was Joseph Nicephore Niepce, a French physicist. Niepce wanted light to form a permanent image in the camera so that an artist wouldnít have to trace the image. He exposed a light-sensitive metal plate in the camera and then used an engraving process to make the image permanent. Niepce was credited with "the first photographs made by a camera." A photograph he made in 1826 still exists today.
Another French inventor, Louis M. J. Daguerre, who had been partners with Niepce for a few years had invented Daguerreotype in 1830. The only difference between Daguerreotype and Niepceís camera was that Daguerre developed the image with mercury vapor, and made the image permanent with common salt. The reason why both cameras were so similar is because Daguerre based his process on Niepceís work. When Daguerre announced his process in 1839, it became the first popular form of photography.
In 1839, William H. F. Talbot from Britain said that he had invented the first negative/positive system that was called photography. This process used light sensitive paper that was coated with salt and silver nitrate. A friend of Talbot, Sir John F. W. Herschel, suggested the use of hypo sodium thiosulfate as a fixing agent. Both Talbot and Daguerre then began using hypo in their process. In 1841, Talbot improved this process and produced a clearer picture version called Calotype. It was later named Talbotype. Talbotype was not often used because Daguerreotype produced a much clearer picture.
From 1850 to about 1900, scientists and inventors made big innovations, improvements, and technical advancements to the camera. With easier techniques, more people started using the camera and taking pictures. Many cameras made after 1840 had better lenses than those made like the camera obscura. In 1840, a Hungarian scientist named Joseph M. Petzval designed a portrait lens and a landscape lens. The portrait lens transmitted 16 times as much light as an old camera did. The landscape lens produced sharper pictures of large areas that had not been possible before.
In 1851, Frederick Scott Archer, a British photographer introduced wet-plate photography. How it worked was he coated a glass plate with a sticky, wet liquid and called it collodion. Then he dipped the plate in light-sensitive silver salts. The collodion had to stay moist through the exposure or while developing the picture. If it became dry, the picture would be totally ruined. Therefore, he had to carry his darkroom tent, camera, glass plates, chemicals, measuring utensils, and trays wherever he wanted to take a picture.
In 1856, photographers started using thin metal plates, instead of glass to hold the collodion. These plates were named ferrotypes, but later known as tintypes.
One of the greatest advancements in photography came in 1871 with the invention of the dry plate process. A British physician, Richard Lotz Maddox, replaced collodion with gelatin. Gelatin could dry the plate without harming the silver salts. No longer would a photographer have to carry around a darkroom with him.
In the late 1870ís scientists improved the light sensitivity of the gelatin emulsion. Early daguerreotypes required an exposure of 10 minutes or more, and the camera had to be mounted on a tripod. Now the camera could record an image in 1/25th of a second, and the photographer could hold the camera in his hand and take snapshots.
In 1888, George Eastman, an American dry-plate manufacturer, improved photography by marketing the Kodak camera. The Kodak was a simple snapshot camera that could be used by amateurs. It held a role of film that made a hundred pictures. After a person used up the film, he returned the camera with the film inside to Eastmanís company. The company developed the film and printed the pictures, and returned the camera with a new role of film in it.
The first role of film consisted of light-sensitive gelatin coated onto a paper backing. After the film had been developed, the gelatin emulsion was transferred from the paper to a piece of glass, then prints were made. Transferring the emulsion was hard, and required too much skill for amateur photographers.
In 1889, Eastman substituted a Celluloid base for the paper. Printing photographs became a lot easier because the gelatin emulsion didnít have to be removed from the base. It was so easy that if a person wanted to develop their own pictures, they could buy a kit. Photography became an international hobby.
During the late 1800ís and early 1900ís scientists made many other improvements. They introduced the time-temperature method of developing film, which made the developing process a lot simpler. They also improved camera lenses and increased the light sensitivity of film.
In 1924, the Leica camera was marketed in Germany. It is a miniature camera that was used in making motion pictures. In 1929, the electric flashbulb was also patented in Germany. Two years later, Harold E. Edgerton, an American engineer, developed an electrical flash. Artificial lighting allowed more things to be photographed in dark places.
Cameras today have come a long way from the 1500ís for sure. Many cameras have built in exposure meters that automatically set the cameraís controls. You can take instant pictures with Polaroid cameras which take approximately 1.5 seconds to develop. Photography is taking an increasingly important place in many fields of science. Special high speed cameras can show the tiny humming bird in flight. These cameras can also reveal information about the path of a bullet as it leaves a gun. Underwater cameras provide information on sunken ships and underwater life. A camera attached to a telescope can let people study planets and space. A camera attached to a microscope can help people take pictures of cells and bacteria. Police officials use cameras for a picture of a body or evidence when trying to solve a crime. The average person uses the camera to record special times or vacations. The camera can be used in many ways, but it would not be the great invention it is today without all of the inventorsí and scientistsí hard work.
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