Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How technology has changed.

A couple weeks ago, my manager at my day job gave me a stack of old photography magazines. I've still read only one, but it was really interesting.

Practical photography, October 1958 cover story was about, " Automation an eye-opening report on the future of photography".

An add for a pop-on rewind crank for your Leica M-3 made of "high grade 303 stainless steel" first caught my eye. I realize that in my day job, I deal with a lot of what some old-school machinists would consider exotic materials, but 303 is barely more than high-grade dirt, as far as that goes. It took me a while to remember that this was '58, and stainless steel as a whole was barely more than ten years old. I'd love to know what they would have thought of 440-460 series steels.

The part that I really found interesting was later on, with a bit about "what will your camera look like in 1970?"

Is it me, or does that thing look like most of the compact digital cameras on the market today?

To look at it section by section, and see how close they were:

Zoom type lens- I've never seen anything like this on a 1970's era compact camera, but by the eighties that had mostly been figured out, and today's compacts have an even wider zoom range. I was just looking at a review of the new Panasonic/Leica V-Lux 20, which has an equivalent of a 25-300mm zoom.

Parallax correcting viewfinder- not really available on a compact until the advent of newer digital compacts.

Ultrasharp color corrected... lens- never did quite happen. Ok, some of the new compacts come close, but you still get a significant depth of focus shift through the zoom range on most cameras.

Automatic exposure adjustment- Got straightened out by the eighties. SOLAR battery? Wow!

Acceptance angle of photocell- Once the shift was made to Through the Lens metering, this got MUCH better.

Electric drive motor- Again, not so much by '70, but... as far as automatic rewind of film, I know some cameras did this, but sometimes I found it a nuisance. I liked my first Nikon- I had to hit two buttons simultaneously to rewind the film.

Exposure button advancing film and re-cocking the shutter- pretty much followed the motor drive.

Drop in Loading- remember that god-awful APS film a couple years ago? I guess modern flash memory cards would also count.

Built-in ring flash- sounds like a good idea. I've never seen it.

Universal color balanced film- Never happened. With many of today's digital cameras, the automatic white balance setting does a reasonable job, but even my DSLR gets tripped up on occasion. I really don't see any way (chemically, or electronically) to get this right 100% of the time.

All in all, most of what they spoke about has come to pass, although not in the twelve year period they were thinking.

Something else about this issue: the letter from the editor was about how automation in photography would make [professional photographers] obsolete. This has not happened. I don't have any stats on this, but I would venture a guess that there are at least as many (if not more) cameras per capita now than ever, and a correspondingly obscene number of BAD photos being taken. Yes, there seem to be more "professionals" now, as well- also of varying grades. No, I do not yet consider myself a pro, although I think I'm getting there.


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