Ensign cameraThe camera Obscura is believed to be an Arabic invention in the eleventh century where a dark room with a pinhole, produced an inverted image on the far wall and this was used for observing solar eclipses. Leonardo da Vinci originally described the idea.

In 1568 Daniel Barbaro produced a box with a lens instead of a pinhole which effectively was the first camera with a lens. He also experimented with using a smaller diaphram to produce a sharper image.

Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre and Joseph Nicephore Niepce worked together and after many years Daguerre using silver plates developed a photographic process in 1839, and from that time the camera was born. For many years the camera remained a cumbersome instrument until Geoge Eastman 1854-1932 founded the Eastman Kodak Company from which roll film developed, together with many other camera developments.

Here atĀ alldigi.com we have an example of an early camera using roll film, it is the Houghton Butcher – No 5 Ensign Carbine. This camera was manufactured in 1930 and gives a good indication of the type of equipment photographers used at that time. This camera illustrates what photograpy is all about, recording the precious moments in your life and many photographs in the 1930’s to 1940’s were taken with this camera.

Some of the details and specifications of this camera are as follows:

  • Body serial number F10262
  • Lukos Anastigmat lens- F=4.5 10.5 cm
  • Lens Serial number 176984
  • Shutter Vario 25 50 100 B T
  • Shutter serial number 371

This camera has shutter speed settings of 1/25, 1/50 and 1/100 second, B setting where the shutter opens while the shuttter lever is pressed and T setting where the shutter opens and closes on successive shutter lever actions. The lens is a 105mm focal length with a variable aperture of f4.5 to f25. The camera is provided with a simple optical viewfinder and for fast action photography there is a separate fold out wire frame viewfinder.

This camera is a far cry from the sophisticated digital cameras we have today. When we consider the cameras used by the early photographers from the last century, it makes us marvel at the results these photographers obtained with the extremely simple equipment and it also makes us appreciate the sophisticated photographic equipment we use today. ‘It is the memories that are important, not the camera’.

The first 35mm SLR camera was the German made Exakta produced in 1936 and the first digital camera commercially available was the 1990 Dycam which connected directly to a computer. In 1991 Kodak produced the Kodak DCS-100 digital SLR camera based on the professional Nikon film body, with a 1.3 Megapixel sensor, today we can purchase a 10 Megapixel digital SLR camera for around five percent of the cost of the original Kodak camera.

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