A History of Photography in 50 Cameras
A History of Photography in 50 Cameras
A History of Photography in 50 Cameras A History of Photography in 50 Cameras A History of Photography in 50 Cameras A History of Photography in 50 Cameras A History of Photography in 50 Cameras

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Publisher: Firefly Books

Author Statement: Michael Pritchard, FRPS
Audience: Trade
Specs: 150 illustrations, glossary, bibliography, index
Pages: 224
Trim Size: 6 3/4" X 9" X 7/8"
Language code 1: eng
Publication Date: 20150820
Copyright Year: 2015
Price: Select Below


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A History of Photography in 50 Cameras

The history of photography is best revealed in the history of what makes it possible--the camera.

A History of Photography in 50 Cameras explores the 180-year story of perhaps the most widely used device ever built. It covers cameras in all forms, revealing the origins and development of each model and tracing the stories of the photographers who used and popularized them. Illustrated throughout with studio shots of all fifty cameras and a selection of iconic photographs made using them, it is the perfect companion guide for camera and photography enthusiasts alike.

The cameras include:

  • The Nikon F, the "hockey puck" that saved photographer Don McCullin's life when it stopped a sniper's bullet during the Vietnam War. Its indestructibility, reliability and interchangeable lenses made it a favored workhorse of photojournalists.
  • The Leica M3-D was also favored by war photographers, including David Duncan Douglas, who used the camera during his coverage of the Korean and Vietnam Wars. In 2012, one of his four customized Leica cameras sold at auction for nearly $2 million.
  • A Speed Graphic was used to take Sam Shere's widely published photograph of the 1937 Hindenburg disaster, "the world's most famous news photograph ever taken." With few shots left and no time to get the camera to his eye, he shot his Pulitzer Prize-winning image "literally from the hip. It was over so fast there was nothing else to do."
  • The camera phone has transformed picture-taking technology most profoundly since the invention of cameras. The "selfie" has become a new genre of photography practiced by everyone, and shared globally. In 2014, Ellen DeGeneres shared her selfie taken at the Academy Awards. By the end of the ceremony, it had been shared 2,070,132 times with no sign of stopping, crushing the record of 780,000 held by President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, for their 2012 post-election self-portrait.


Dr. Michael Pritchard, FRPS, has over thirty years' experience as a researcher of photographic history and technology. He has written and lectured extensively and was awarded the Fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society for his work on the history of photography. He has contributed to numerous journals and publications, including The Oxford Companion to the Photograph and the Encyclopaedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography. Michael has been director-general of the Royal Photographic Society since 2011.



The ability to capture a moment in a photograph, to freeze it in time, has fascinated us ever since the daguerreotype process was announced in 1839. Back then, photography was the pursuit of a select few; today, the ubiquity of camera phones has turned us all into photographers. As these nanodevices attest, the history of photography, perhaps more so than any other art, is also a history of technology, one best revealed in the very vehicle that makes it possible -- the camera. And yet it is also a history of people -- the people who invented the cameras, the photographers who used them, and the subjects and events they photographed.

The story of the camera has been one of simplification, portability and the greater use of technology to ensure that the user can capture the image they desire. The camera obscura was the simple artists' drawing aid that, with the development of optics and chemistry, evolved into the photographic camera. The transition from the daguerreotype and calotype processes to wet-collodion in the 1850s and from collodion to dry plates in the 1880s, and the move to film from the 1890s, all left their mark on how the camera looked and handled. Then came the seismic transformation of photography from traditional silver-based emulsions to CCD -- the digital equivalent of film -- and other digital technology in the mid-1990s, which affected the shape and size of the camera and, crucially, where and when photographs were taken and how they were shared.

These continual improvements and developments have meant that the type of photographs being taken, and the type of people taking them, has been in constant flux too. The technical skill needed for photography for much of the 19th century ensured that most people visited commercial portrait studios if they wanted their portrait taken. The resulting pictures were posed and formal, reflecting the long exposure times and a style of portraiture dictated by an artistic tradition. The growth of popular photography from the later 1890s, with the introduction of more "user-friendly" cameras such as the Kodak Brownie in 1900, changed this dynamic. People began to take more pictures for themselves. This coincided with, and helped to reinforce, an increasing informality in the types of pictures people took and where they took them -- a trend that continues in the present day.

The field of photojournalism has also adapted itself to the camera technology available. Robert Capa, for example, would never have been able to take his dramatic images of the Normandy beach landings using plates or the large cameras of the 1850s, yet the quiet, deliberately made images of the Crimean War taken by Roger Fenton in 1855 were equally powerful to the mid-19th century Victorians. Arresting digital images -- both still and moving -- from the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were made possible by changing technology and of course by the skill and bravery of the photojournalists. Reportage of events such as the Arab Spring, the Haiti earthquake of 2010 and the Japanese tsunami of 2011 has increasingly relied on images taken by individuals on the ground using their camera phones, often within moments of them happening, with social media sites being used to circulate images of the events themselves.

This book seeks to tell the story of the camera through 50 landmark models, from the first wood boxes made for pioneers such as Talbot and Daguerre, to today's digital SLR cameras and camera phones. It is by no means a definitive list, nor does it pretend to be. Rather, it is a selection to spark the interest of camera enthusiasts and provide fuel for further discussion and exploration. Included are classics such as the Leica, Nikon and Hasselblad used by professional photographers, as well as amateur staples: the humblest of box cameras, the Brownie, and the single-use, or disposable camera. Alongside these are speciality cameras for stereoscopic or 3-D photography, panoramic or wide-angle work, and the Polaroid for instant pictures. Some of photography's oddities have also made the list, with novelty cameras in the shape of books and guns, and ingenious spy cameras.

Photographs within each chapter show not only the cameras themselves, but also samples of the images made with them, giving a flavor of how each new technology led to new ways of creating photographs, from early Kodak photos and 3-D View-Master images to the up-close and vivid depictions of war taken on the Contax. The story of each camera is intertwined with those of the people who used it, from Weegee and his Speed Graphic to Cartier-Bresson and the Leica's role in the invention of photojournalism, proving that in the hands of individual photographers, particular cameras have come to represent unique styles of depiction.

In the digital age, where almost everyone owns a smartphone that incorporates a camera, there is always an opportunity to take a photograph. Smartphone apps such as Snapchat, social media sites and new devices such as Google Glass and others yet to come offer new ways of creating still and moving images -- and instantly sharing them. For many people, their smartphone is their only camera, and this trend looks set to continue. In a world where the best-selling cameras are phones, dedicated cameras may seem destined to become speciality tools. Yet the legacy of older cameras and photography's analog years lives on, not just in museums and collectors' hordes, but in apps like Instagram and Hipstamatic, showing that classic cameras exert an enduring fascination.



    1 The Giroux Daguerreotype
    2 The Talbot "Mousetrap"
    3 Ottewill's Double-Folding Camera
    4 Powell's Stereoscopic Camera
    5 The Sutton Panoramic
    6 The Kodak
    7 The Stirn Concealed Vest Camera
    8 The Enjalbert Revolver de Poche
    9 The Rouch Eureka
    10 The Goerz Anschütz
    11 The Thornton-Pickard Royal Ruby
    12 The Scovill Book Camera
    13 The Sanderson Hand Camera
    14 The Kodak Brownie
    15 The Ticka
    16 The Soho Reflex
    17 The Vest Pocket Kodak
    18 The Thornton-Pickard Mark III Hythe Camera Gun
    19 The Ermanox
    20 The Leica I
    21 The Contax I
    22 The Voigtländer Prominent
    23 The Coronet Midget
    24 The Canon Hansa
    25 The Kine Exakta
    26 The Minox
    27 The Compass
    28 The Kodak Super Six-20
    29 The Kodak Matchbox
    30 The Pacemaker Speed Graphic
    31 The Hasselblad
    32 The Polaroid Land Model 95
    33 The View-Master Personal Stereo Camera
    34 The Leica M3
    35 The Rolleiflex 3.5F
    36 The Nikon F
    37 The Topcon RE Super
    38 The Kodak Instamatic
    39 The Pentax Spotmatic
    40 The Olympus OM-1
    41 The Pocket Instamatic
    42 The Polaroid SX-70
    43 The Konica C35 AF
    44 The Canon A-1
    45 The Sony Mavica
    46 The Fuji Quicksnap
    47 The Kodak Nikon DCS100
    48 The Apple QuickTake 100
    49 The Canon EOS 5D Mark III
    50 The Nokia Lumia 1020
    The Future
    Bibliography and Acknowledgments

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