Tue. Apr 13th, 2021
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Collecting vintage and antique cameras has become more popular recently, especially as digital cameras have replaced film cameras in many homes.

Eastman Brownie Ad
Eastman Brownie Ad

Many share a passion for collecting vintage cameras, vintage photographs or both. The term vintage in the camera category, seems to apply to cameras made in the 19th Century and early 20th Century, however, eventually it will turn out that almost any film camera will be considered vintage with few companies making any type of film camera any more. Some people think the foldup cameras were the earliest, they were not,  although they were in existence by the end of the 19th Century. Antique and vintage cameras are valued by collectors for many reasons, from the historical significance of 19th century wood cameras to the fine optics of classic vintage Leicas. Some even use these old cameras to enhance their decor or to make a bold statement, they are also used as conversation pieces or used to create works of art. The antique cameras are fascinating from an engineering and manufacturing stand-point, as they were typically well build from high quality materials to be durable and long lasting. Kodak and Polaroid are two well known names in camera collecting, as well as Bolex for movie cameras. The principles of the camera obscura – a simple light projection box – have been understood for thousands of years, but it wasn’t until the late 18th century that Thomas Wedgwood discovered he could make simple prints using silver nitrate exposed to the sun. Over the next 100 years, a series of technical advances brought cameras into everyday life.

Nicephore Niepce and Louis Daguerre formed a partnership around 1829, and developed a new chemical bath for prints, which shortened the exposure process to only eight hours. Daguerre continued this research until he perfected the Daguerreotype, a print made on silver that was used up until the mid 1850s. Daguerreotypes, Cyanotypes, Ambrotypes, and Tintypes were made with wood cameras, which were essentially camera obscuras with lenses, allowing for clearer image refraction. It wasn’t until George Eastmans 1885 invention of film that cameras got smaller (with his Kodak film loaded in, you would send the whole camera back to the factory to have it developed). Oskar Barnack began experimenting with 35 mm film in 1914 and built some prototypes of what eventually become the Leica I, the first practical 35 mm camera, released in 1925. More improvements came when Kodak introduced the Retina I, the first camera to use a modern 135 film cartridge. Photography soon became affordable to all, even before the 1947 introduction of Polaroid’s instant camera.

Development of movie cameras kept pace, building atop the basic slide projection technology (magic lantern) which had been in use since the 1500s. The first movie cameras were developed around 1888, and Thomas Edison produced the first copyrighted film in 1894. In 1895, the Lumiere brothers of France first showed off their ‘Cinematographe,’ a handheld combination projector and camera, in the first commercial public film screening.

George Eastman
George Eastman

George Eastman (1854-1932), was an ingenious man who contributed greatly to the field of photography. He developed dry plates, film with flexible backing, roll holders for the flexible film, a Kodak camera (a convenient form of the camera for novices), and an amateur motion-picture camera. Through his experimental photography, he accumulated a large sum of money. His philanthropic personality prompted him to give his money to various business endeavors, including the University of Rochester.

Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre
Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre

Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre (November 18, 1787 – July 10, 1851) was a French artist and chemist, recognized for his invention of the daguerreotype process of photography.

Daguerre was born in Cormeilles-en-Parisis, Val-d’Oise, France. He apprenticed in architecture, theater design, and panoramic painting. Exceedingly adept at his skill for theatrical illusion, he became a celebrated designer for the theater and later came to invent the Diorama, which opened in Paris in July 1822.

In 1822 Joseph Nicéphore Niépce produced the world’s first permanent photograph (known as a Heliograph). Daguerre partnered with Niépce three years later, beginning a four-year cooperation. Niépce died suddenly in 1833. The main reason for the “partnership”, as far as Daguerre was concerned, was connected to his already famous dioramas. Niepce was a printer and his process was based on a faster way to produce printing plates. Daguerre thought that the process developed by Niepce could help speed up his diorama creation. Daguerre announced the latest perfection of the Daguerreotype, after years of experimentation, in 1839, with the French Academy of Sciences announcing the process on January 7 of that year. Daguerre’s patent was acquired by the French Government, and, on August 19, 1839, the French Government announced the invention was a gift “Free to the World.” Daguerre and Niépce’s son obtained a pension from the Government in exchange for freely sharing the details of the process. Daguerre died in Bry-sur-Marne, 12 km (7 mi) from Paris

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2 thoughts on “Vintage and Antique Cameras”
  1. I have exhausted my efforts , to find out about a camera I have. Probably 1920-1930’s It is in very good condition, fold out and all it has on it, is a round silver plate on the back , MADE IN FRANCE inside where all the #’ to operate it has MONTE CARLO. Where can i get info. on this camera? Thank you much. BG

  2. Hi, Barbara – thanks for the visit.
    Can you email a picture or 2 of the camera ?


    View our Vintage Cameras HERE

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