Forums > Photography Talk > If you thought cameras weren't so good 70 yrs ago

Photographer

Rieni Otten

Posts: 193

Auxerre, Bourgogne, France

Dec 03 12 03:22 pm Link

Photographer

MMDesign

Posts: 18647

Louisville, Kentucky, US

The Steerage, by Stieglitz, was shot in 1907. They've been making good cameras for a long time.

I've seen those before, they are impressive.

Dec 03 12 03:40 pm Link

Photographer

Top Level Studio

Posts: 3253

Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Great images!  Thanks for sharing.

The Hollywood-style lighting makes every picture look like a still from a movie.  Those are really the opposite of snapshots.

Dec 03 12 04:13 pm Link

Photographer

Marc Damon

Posts: 6562

Biloxi, Mississippi, US

Two things come to mind.
1. Those images remind me that it's not the camera. It's the person holding it.
2. I want to do a Rosie Rivet shoot!

Dec 03 12 04:18 pm Link

Photographer

Phil Drinkwater

Posts: 4785

Manchester, England, United Kingdom

How many mega pixels?

And do they have enough dynamic range?

wink

(great shots!)

Dec 03 12 04:20 pm Link

Photographer

Leggy Mountbatten

Posts: 12562

Kansas City, Missouri, US

Those are large format images, which sure makes a big difference. It's actually a reminder of how far we've come, because we can produce images of similar technical quality with cameras that are vastly smaller and significantly less expensive.

Dec 03 12 04:24 pm Link

Photographer

R Michael Walker

Posts: 11986

Costa Mesa, California, US

Leggy Mountbatten wrote:
Those are large format images, which sure makes a big difference. It's actually a reminder of how far we've come, because we can produce images of similar technical quality with cameras that are vastly smaller and significantly less expensive.

+1! I didn't shoot 8x10 back in the 70's because I liked the weight of the kit or the cost of each frame.

Dec 03 12 04:27 pm Link

Photographer

Gabby57

Posts: 424

Coppell, Texas, US

Great images.  I'm just getting into vintage and large format cameras, wish I'd done it years ago.

Dec 03 12 04:38 pm Link

Photographer

Andrew Thomas Evans

Posts: 24078

Minneapolis, Minnesota, US

I'd also like to see how many of those shots didn't turn out or weren't as great, as well as some of the printing that went on to create the image we see.

Plus as others have said, I love my speed graphic but I wouldn't want to shoot everything with it - what a pain in the butt! Not to mention flash bulbs!



Andrew Thomas Evans
www.andrewthomasevans.com

Dec 03 12 04:43 pm Link

Photographer

SPV Photo

Posts: 789

Las Vegas, Nevada, US

Need 100% crops to check the fine detail.

wink

Dec 03 12 04:56 pm Link

Photographer

FullMotionPhoto

Posts: 3

Oshawa, Ontario, Canada

Amazing, thanks for sharing! 

What I find more surprising than just the quality of the images, is the off camera lighting used.  The lighting is very well done in all images, but the one that really grabs me is image 17, which almost has a slight HDR look to it.

Dec 03 12 08:37 pm Link

Photographer

RBM Photo

Posts: 557

Bellbrook, Ohio, US

The blogger missed a couple of the best Kodachromes -
http://www.shorpy.com/node/12951
http://www.shorpy.com/node/137

The photos all come from Shorpy.com, I've been following Shorpy for years and it is a wonderful resource for vintage photography.

Dec 03 12 09:02 pm Link

Photographer

NothingIsRealButTheGirl

Posts: 33559

Los Angeles, California, US

RBM Photo wrote:
The photos all come from Shorpy.com, I've been following Shorpy for years and it is a wonderful resource for vintage photography.

They come from the Library of Congress

Dec 03 12 09:08 pm Link

Photographer

AJ_In_Atlanta

Posts: 12831

Atlanta, Georgia, US

70 years ago a camera was just a light tight box that held the lens and film.  That is all it took really and the person who can "see" the image.  These days we make the mechanics of it easier but it's still about the person in front of and behind the black box that matter.

Dec 03 12 09:23 pm Link

Artist/Painter

aquarelle

Posts: 1915

Chicago, Illinois, US

Andrew Thomas Evans wrote:
I'd also like to see how many of those shots didn't turn out or weren't as great, as well as some of the printing that went on to create the image we see.

Since the images were shot on Kodachrome, would there have been prints?  If you were shooting a transparency, wouldn't you have to get everything you want with a single click?

Dec 03 12 09:30 pm Link

Photographer

fullmetalphotographer

Posts: 2788

Fresno, California, US

http://www.wjactv.com/gallery/news/disa … X/#1520908

This is one that got me is shooting a series of images of the Hindeburg with a Graflex Pacemaker Speed Graphic 4x5.

Dec 04 12 02:06 am Link

Photographer

Drew Smith Photography

Posts: 5210

Nottingham, England, United Kingdom

WOW!

Do they pop. Love the colours.

Dec 04 12 02:08 am Link

Photographer

Wild Image Media

Posts: 173

Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia

I'm not a lover of film, but Kodachrome was always amazing.

Dec 04 12 02:20 am Link

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Photographer

Giacomo Cirrincioni

Posts: 21383

New York, New York, US

aquarelle wrote:

Since the images were shot on Kodachrome, would there have been prints?  If you were shooting a transparency, wouldn't you have to get everything you want with a single click?

Oh sure, prints were certainly possible.  The prints you can (or could) make from slide film are the most gorgeous color prints possible.  You'll never find a digital print that replicates it.

He certainly captured the frame in a single click, although I'm sure he bracketed his shots and doubled up.

Dec 04 12 06:22 am Link

Photographer

WMcK

Posts: 5286

Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom

70 years ago the results relied much more on the skill of the photographer rather than the quality of the camera. Cameras were very basic but capable of superb results in skilled hands.

Dec 04 12 07:51 am Link

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Photographer

Giacomo Cirrincioni

Posts: 21383

New York, New York, US

I suppose I'm not sure why anyone would think cameras are worse or better?  For certain applications they are, as they have more features, but unless you're shooting action, most are the same.

As another poster said, it's just a light tight box.

In many aspects, cameras have gotten somewhat worse when you look at all the variables, especially when it comes to prints.  More convenient for the masses, but that's about it.

Dec 04 12 07:56 am Link

Retoucher

Aleksandr Olkhovskiy

Posts: 166

Novosibirsk, Novosibirsk, Russia

Looks amazing

Dec 04 12 08:28 am Link

Photographer

Creative Image

Posts: 1327

Avon, Connecticut, US

AJScalzitti wrote:
70 years ago a camera was just a light tight box that held the lens and film.  That is all it took really and the person who can "see" the image.  These days we make the mechanics of it easier but it's still about the person in front of and behind the black box that matter.

the Leica and the Rollie are more than 70 years old, as are many other fine cameras.

Dec 04 12 08:31 am Link

Photographer

johnnycrosslin

Posts: 465

Dallas, Texas, US

thanks for sharing - wow!

Dec 04 12 08:36 am Link

Photographer

FEN RIR Photo

Posts: 719

Westminster, Colorado, US

I also happen to think that a lot of the Civil War Photographers did a damn good job!!

On a side note my Grandmother was 20 years old and building battleships for the Navy.

Dec 04 12 08:42 am Link

Photographer

Legacys 7

Posts: 33856

San Francisco, California, US

Paramour Productions wrote:

Oh sure, prints were certainly possible.  The prints you can (or could) make from slide film are the most gorgeous color prints possible.  You'll never find a digital print that replicates it.

He certainly captured the frame in a single click, although I'm sure he bracketed his shots and doubled up.

This. I use to shoot chrome 4x5. The clarity on print and on chrome is incredible.

Dec 04 12 08:56 am Link

Photographer

Legacys 7

Posts: 33856

San Francisco, California, US

Paramour Productions wrote:
I suppose I'm not sure why anyone would think cameras are worse or better?  For certain applications they are, as they have more features, but unless you're shooting action, most are the same.

As another poster said, it's just a light tight box.

In many aspects, cameras have gotten somewhat worse when you look at all the variables, especially when it comes to prints.  More convenient for the masses, but that's about it.

Ditto to this. And I'll also add. Digital cameras have a shutter life compared to those old film cameras that we can still use to this day.

"light tight box." makes me think of when I use to shoot pin hole photography with a tin cookie can. fun stuff.

Dec 04 12 08:59 am Link

Photographer

Bob Helm Photography

Posts: 18210

Cherry Hill, New Jersey, US

It wasn't that the cameras back then were great but the fact you were using 4x5 and larger and most importantly the photographers were craftsmen who understood their trade. Doubt few of them worried about how many clicks their shutter was good for and few shot a thousand frames a day. They took their time and were perfectionists... well at least the good one.

Take an early Leica and a M6 if you want to see how far cameras have come. And I would much rather carry a SB900 than a truckload of #1 flahbulbs.

Over the years a lot has changed in photography and for the most part for the better. Look at the early sports photos from the 40-60's and compare to todays. In glamour look at the work of  Bunny Yeagar and you average MM photographer. Each in their own way and time are good.

Dec 04 12 09:19 am Link

Photographer

End of the Road Studio

Posts: 167

Albuquerque, New Mexico, US

I still use "old" film cameras.  Some are 80+ years old, some of the lenses are older.

For examples of a master of the color print see:

http://www.getty.edu/art/exhibitions/porter/

Like so many other processes, dye transfer is gone. If you ever have the chance go see some of the original prints he made.

How many of us now a days actually go to galleries and look at original prints?

Our discussions on this and other forums use digital imagery to support our point of view.  Those of use still using film have to convert the film image to digital to display it on the web.  What's missing is the opportunity to study the subtle qualities of the "physical" print.

Dec 04 12 09:23 am Link

Photographer

Legacys 7

Posts: 33856

San Francisco, California, US

End of the Road Studio wrote:
I still use "old" film cameras.  Some are 80+ years old, some of the lenses are older.

For examples of a master of the color print see:

http://www.getty.edu/art/exhibitions/porter/

Like so many other processes, dye transfer is gone. If you ever have the chance go see some of the original prints he made.

How many of us now a days actually go to galleries and look at original prints?

Our discussions on this and other forums use digital imagery to support our point of view.  Those of use still using film have to convert the film image to digital to display it on the web.  What's missing is the opportunity to study the subtle qualities of the "physical" print.

I'm one of those that do go to galleries. We have a lot of them here. Plus, being an art major, majoring in photography, I had to frequent the galleries. Those were some fun times during my first two years.

I've been blessed to see some of the most well known photographers film prints as well as not so well known fine arts photographers, local foreign and from other States.

Dec 04 12 09:42 am Link

Photographer

Leonard Gee Photography

Posts: 16412

Sacramento, California, US

AJScalzitti wrote:
it's still about the person in front of and behind the black box that matter.

This would be the main point. It's not the camera at all. Large format with lens made of a limited set of glass types and only a single layer coating from a hand calculated formula didn't produce very high resolution nor contrast.

Kodachrome has a very narrow exposure latitude and very low speed (ASA 6). There were no LCD screens, no reasonably accurate light meters (1/2 stops for full range deflection? dream on) and no polaroid. With the amount of light required for large format and the expense of the Kodachrome, I seriously doubt that there were many sheets exposed.

What the images show is a very competent craftsman that knows very well how to use the tools available. You over expose old Kodachrome by 1/3 stop and you loose the saturation. Under expose it by 1/3 and the colors get a bit muddy and shadows are black. The early 60s formulation got better and increased the speed to a whopping ASA 25.

Large format is much more forgiving with resolution and detail. At those distances and depth of field, the amount of light and the skill of the setup with the subjects is astounding when you consider that there were only 1-2 sheets exposed per image.

Dec 04 12 10:23 am Link

Photographer

Image Works Photography

Posts: 2890

Orlando, Florida, US

The workings of a camera have been there now for 100 plus yrs. Its the photographer and how he uses the equipment.Thats when someone in here starts talking about the next new camera and how it will kick butt- they don't look in what is at hand. From these I can see shadows around the subjects which looks like a source of light was used to fill in the subjects and pop the colors.  Also the colors are more typical of the era and a good job has been done in preserving the negative. Thats probably the most intriguing- how well preserved since colors fade away and no digital technology was there. PS Love how the photographer used the edge lighting six pics down. Another testament that light is photography.

Dec 04 12 10:39 am Link

Photographer

Leonard Gee Photography

Posts: 16412

Sacramento, California, US

GreatMomentsPhotography wrote:
Also the colors are more typical of the era and a good job has been done in preserving the negative. Thats probably the most intriguing- how well preserved since colors fade away and no digital technology was there. PS Love how the photographer used the edge lighting six pics down. Another testament that light is photography.

I guess, from a few other posts, some newbies have no concept of color reversal film, Kodachrome and color processes. Kodachrome is a reversal film, no negative. The film is processed, re-exposed, the dyes coupled to the silver grains, then the silver is removed. The final positive you get is the same film you exposed in the camera.

Colors do not "fade". The dyes that filter and reflect the light change. Kodachrome, Cibachrome, Technicolor, dye transfer and many other color processes ensure stable colors over time.

Dec 04 12 10:50 am Link

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Photographer

Giacomo Cirrincioni

Posts: 21383

New York, New York, US

End of the Road Studio wrote:
I still use "old" film cameras.  Some are 80+ years old, some of the lenses are older.

For examples of a master of the color print see:

http://www.getty.edu/art/exhibitions/porter/

Like so many other processes, dye transfer is gone. If you ever have the chance go see some of the original prints he made.

How many of us now a days actually go to galleries and look at original prints?

Our discussions on this and other forums use digital imagery to support our point of view.  Those of use still using film have to convert the film image to digital to display it on the web.  What's missing is the opportunity to study the subtle qualities of the "physical" print.

Legacys 7 wrote:
I'm one of those that do go to galleries. We have a lot of them here. Plus, being an art major, majoring in photography, I had to frequent the galleries. Those were some fun times during my first two years.

I've been blessed to see some of the most well known photographers film prints as well as not so well known fine arts photographers, local foreign and from other States.

I'm one of those who sells original prints in galleries, so yes, I look at them all the time.  Museums as well. 

The print is still the product.  The main complaint I hear from gallery owners regarding new photographers is not that they're shooting digital (although there are still those who feel that way in many markets), but that they don't know how to craft a fine art print.  Even if a gallery likes the subject matter, if the printing is not up to par, they will pass.

Do I worry about how a print looks when shooting batteries for my commercial work?  Not at all, other than how it will reproduce in a catalog of advertisement, but honestly, that's mostly out of my hands once I deliver the final file.

But for *MY* work?  Work that I intend to exhibit and sell?  The print is everything.

Dec 04 12 12:22 pm Link

Photographer

The Sweaty Sock

Posts: 463

Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom

Awesome stuff. A clear view of a bygone era. Thanks for sharing.

cheers

Gordon

Dec 04 12 12:39 pm Link

Photographer

nyk fury

Posts: 2918

Port Townsend, Washington, US

a few months ago i started collecting victorian era cabinet cards. i am discovering i really like the photography from around 1890-1907 or so. work after WW1 seems to have degraded to my eye, become flatter, duller.

Dec 04 12 12:41 pm Link

Photographer

Rieni Otten

Posts: 193

Auxerre, Bourgogne, France

Erik Ballew wrote:
I also happen to think that a lot of the Civil War Photographers did a damn good job!!

On a side note my Grandmother was 20 years old and building battleships for the Navy.

My granddad was Jewish and had to flee to Spain. When the Americans landed in the south of Europe he joined the US army and showed them the way to Berlin. After that he returned back to his family in Holland.

Dec 04 12 01:50 pm Link

Photographer

Legacys 7

Posts: 33856

San Francisco, California, US

Andrew Thomas Evans wrote:
I'd also like to see how many of those shots didn't turn out or weren't as great, as well as some of the printing that went on to create the image we see.

Plus as others have said, I love my speed graphic but I wouldn't want to shoot everything with it - what a pain in the butt! Not to mention flash bulbs!



Andrew Thomas Evans
www.andrewthomasevans.com

There was a time that large format was the only choice. Metering isn't hard at all. But I think that many don't pay much attention to it like they use to due to the convenience of digital. I come from the film era before the digital scene came into play. I'd learned how to expose negative and positive film, dark room etc. This was before my school years. During my school years, digital was starting to go but wasn't mainstream yet. This meant that we still had to learn from shooting film.

Film makes you think about the exposure before shooting off random shots. You meter it and go from there.

Dec 04 12 02:13 pm Link

Photographer

Legacys 7

Posts: 33856

San Francisco, California, US

Andrew Thomas Evans wrote:
I'd also like to see how many of those shots didn't turn out or weren't as great, as well as some of the printing that went on to create the image we see.

Plus as others have said, I love my speed graphic but I wouldn't want to shoot everything with it - what a pain in the butt! Not to mention flash bulbs!



Andrew Thomas Evans
www.andrewthomasevans.com

There was a time that large format was the only choice. Metering isn't hard at all. But I think that many don't pay much attention to it like they use to due to the convenience of digital. I come from the film era before the digital scene came into play. I'd learned how to expose negative and positive film, dark room etc. This was before my school years. During my school years, digital was starting to go but wasn't mainstream yet. This meant that we still had to learn from shooting film.

Film makes you think about the exposure before shooting off random shots. You meter it and go from there.

Dec 04 12 02:13 pm Link

Photographer

End of the Road Studio

Posts: 167

Albuquerque, New Mexico, US

Legacy 7 wrote: "I'm one of those that do go to galleries. We have a lot of them here. Plus, being an art major, majoring in photography, I had to frequent the galleries. Those were some fun times during my first two years.

I've been blessed to see some of the most well known photographers film prints as well as not so well known fine arts photographers, local foreign and from other States."

I was similarly blessed. Growing up in SE Wisconsin I spent a lot of time in the museums and galleries in Milwaukee and Chicago.  I curated a show of Edward Weston's work for the local museum. Adams, Weston, Stieglitz, Burnhard, the list goes on.

I agree that it is the person behind the camera but this is the same person presenting the work!

Dec 04 12 04:28 pm Link