History of cameras and 35mm film

Although camera Obscura goes back to ancient times, it is not a brand name, but rather a technology type. The development of cameras was progressive throughout the ages, however there seems to be no record of any dedicated manufactures prior to Johann Christoph Voigtländer. Even here, Voigtländer was an optical company specialising in lenses since 1756.  It was not until 1841 that it produced its’ first camera; the all-metal daguerrotype camera (Ganzmetallkamera).

Voigtländer became a technology leader and the first manufacturer to introduce several new kinds of product that would later become commonplace. These include the first zoom lens (36–82/2.8 Zoomar) in 1960 (although zoom lenses were already in use on movie cameras at the time) and the first 35mm compact camera with built-in electronic flash (Vitrona) in 1965. From 1999 until the present (2010), Voigtländer branded products have been manufactured and marketed by Cosina (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voigtl%C3%A4nder).

A British patent was granted in 1861 for the first internal mirror SLR photographic camera, but the first production photographic SLR did not appear until 1884 in America (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_single-lens_reflex_camera), so the SLR pre-dates roll film.

35mm roll film was introduced in 1892 by William Dickson and Thomas Edison, using 70mm film stock supplied by George Eastman. Edison had it cut lengthwise to get two 35mm lengths from the one 70mm length. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/35_mm_film). It was initially used for producing movies, before it found its’ place in still photography.

It was not until 1934 that it came in cartridges known as 135 film. The term 135 was introduced by Kodak as a designation for cartridge film 35 mm (1.4 in) wide, specifically for still photography.

While the Leica camera popularised the format, there were a number of 35 mm still cameras using perforated movie film before the Leica’s introduction in the 1920s (Full scale production of the Leica did not begin until 1925). The first patent for one was issued to Leo, Audobard and Baradat in England in 1908. The first full-scale production camera was the Homeos, a stereo camera, produced by Jules Richard in 1913. It took stereo pairs, 18×24 mm, with two Tessar lenses, and was sold until 1920 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/135_film).

The first SLR in the 35mm format was the Soviet Union’s Спорт (“Sport”). Prototyped in 1934, it was a very smart design with a 24mm x 36mm frame size, but did not enter the market until 1937. The first German 35mm SLR camera was the Ihagee Kine-Exakta, produced in 1936, which was fundamentally a scaled-down Vest-Pocket Exakta. This camera used a waist-level finder. It may have just pipped the post to market over the Спорт (“Sport”). However the first “fixed” eye-level pentaprism 35mm SLR, the historic progenitor of many later SLRs that adopted this arrangement, was the Contax S from Zeiss in 1949 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_single-lens_reflex_camera).

A whole series of developments took place from this point onwards: These facts were extracted from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_single-lens_reflex_camera

The Asahi Optical Company was the first Japanese company to produce a 35mm SLR (1952). The Asahiflex IIB of 1954 was the first Japanese SLR with an instant-return mirror. Previously, the mirror would remain up and the viewfinder black until the shutter was cocked for the next shot. In 1957, the Asahi Pentax became the first Japanese fixed-pentaprism SLR; its success led Asahi to eventually rename itself Pentax. This was the first SLR to use the right-hand single-stroke film advance lever of the Leica M3 of 1954 and Nikon S2 of 1955. Asahi (starting with the Asahi Pentax) and many other camera makers used the M42 lens mount from the Contax S, which came to be called the Pentax screw mount. So while Asahi Pentax can’t claim inventing many of these features, they were the first to bring them all together in a 35mm SLR camera. Pentax is now part of the Hoya Corporation.

Miranda SLR cameras were sold in Japan from August 1955 with the launch of the Miranda T camera. The camera was narrowly the first Japanese-made pentaprism 35mm SLR. It featured a removable pentaprism for eye-level viewing, that could be removed for use as a waist-level finder.

The Zunow SLR, which went on sale in 1958 (in Japan only), was the first 35mm SLR camera with an automatic diaphragm, which stopped down to the preselected aperture upon release of the shutter. The automatic diaphragm feature eliminated one downside to viewing with an SLR: the darkening of the viewfinder screen image when the photographer selected a small lens aperture. The Zunow Optical Company also supplied the Miranda Camera Company with lenses for their Miranda T SLR cameras.

It seems Canon’s only record was from the Canonflex R2000, the first 35mm SLR to feature a top shutter speed of 1/2000 of a second around 1960.

Nikon’s ‘F’ model, introduced in 1959 as the world’s first system camera, became enormously successful and was the camera design that demonstrated the superiority of the SLR and of the Japanese camera manufacturers. This camera was the first SLR system that was adopted and used seriously by the general population of professional photographers, especially by those photographers covering the Vietnam War, and those news photographers utilizing motor-driven Nikon F’s with 250-exposure backs to record the various launches of the space capsules in the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space programs, both in the 1960s. After the introduction of the Nikon F, the more expensive rangefinder cameras (those with focal plane shutters) became less attractive.

Tokyo Optical’s Topcon RE-Super (Beseler Topcon Super D in the US), just preceded the Pentax Spotmatic into production with the first TTL (through-the-lens) metering system in 1962. Topcon cameras used behind-the-lens CdS (Cadmium Sulfide Cells) light meters which were integrated into a partially silvered area of the mirror.

So while the Eastern Europeans were first off the mark with 35mm SLR camera technologies, by the 60’s the Japanese were leading in new innovation.

The Minolta XD11 was the first SLR to offer both aperture-priority and shutter-priority modes in 1977, it was not until the next year that the Canon A-1 came out with a microprocessor computer powerful enough to offer both of those modes and add the ability to automatically set both the shutter speed and lens aperture in a compromise exposure from light meter advice.

The first true 35mm SLR autofocus camera that had a successful design was the Minolta Maxxum 7000, introduced in 1985.

Canon was the first to embrace the full power of camera electronics using microprocessors and reinventing their whole range to release the EOS series in 1987, which has carried over to today’s digital range. Canon was also the first Japanese manufacturer to make a 35mm camera, although not a SLR type. That honour went to Ashai (Pentax).

In 1999, Nikon was also the first to release a digital SLR developed entirely by a single manufacturer for the professional consumer market. High-end Digital cameras before that were prohibitively expensive, limiting them to commercial use only.

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