Book Review: Camera, A History of Photography from Daguerreotype to Digital

By Diane Berkenfeld

Camera, A History of Photography from Daguerreotype to Digital, (ISBN 9781402756566) is an impressive volume tracing photography from the earliest cameras through present day digitals. The book is written by Todd Gustavson, the technology curator for the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film, and published by Sterling Innovation, an imprint of Sterling Publishing (www.sterlingpublishing.com). The book, which spans a timeline of almost 200 years, includes photographs of over 350 cameras from the collection, as well as more than 100 historic photos, ads, and drawings, and tops out at 368 pages.

The George Eastman House is the oldest photography museum in the world. The museum’s collections include 400,000 photographs from 9,000 photographers; more than 20,000 items of camera technology; and one of the world’s most comprehensive library of photographic books, manuscripts, and journals. Author Todd Gustavson has been working with the museum’s technology collection of 20,000+ artifacts, for more than 20 years.

“Each camera represents an insight—some by a single inventor, others by a team of scientists and engineers—that there was a way to do things better,” writes Gustavson in the book’s introduction, to the reasoning behind those cameras included. In addition to the history of cameras, from the very first known photograph through modern day, special cameras from the George Eastman House collections that were owned by renowned photographers were also included as well as some of the most iconic imagery by these photographers, using those cameras that are now part of the Eastman House collection.

“While choosing collection items for the book, it was continually exciting to access the Eastman House archives, which feature both the images and the cameras that together tell the story of the history of photography,” said Gustavson. “This is the first time a book has showcased photographic history in this way, illustrating a photograph next to the camera that took the image, either the exact model or in most cases the actual camera.”

The book features the first faint image caught by Niepce’s camera obscura in 1826, Joe Rosenthal’s Speed Graphic, which took the Pulitzer Prize-winning image of the flag raising at Iwo Jima; and two cameras owned and used by Alfred Stieglitz that created his famed photographs of New York City and wife, Georgia O’Keefe.

Camera also features artifacts such as the Giroux daguerreotype camera from 1839, signed by Daguerre; an 1840 full-plate daguerreotype camera owned by Samuel A. Bemis, one of the first cameras sold in the United States; an 1860 sliding-box camera from Mathew Brady’s studio; a 1884 Racetrack camera owned by Eadweard Muybridge; the earliest-known Kodak camera, no. 6 off the line in 1888; and a 1900 Brownie from the first month of production. Also included in the book are Ansel Adams’ own Brownie and Kodak Vest Pocket cameras; the pre-production model from the O-Series Leica; a NASA Lunar Orbiter from 1966; and the first digital camera, created by Kodak’s Steve Sasson in1975, along with an image it created.

Also included are Deardoff and the Sinar P2 large format cameras; Hasselblad, Mamiya and Rolleiflex medium format cameras, Pentax, Minox, Nikon, Canon, Olympus, and Minolta cameras are also included, among other less known brands; Edwin Land’s Polaroid cameras including the popular SX-70; and the Kodak Handle Instant Camera, which was an instant camera introduced in 1977, but was short lived when Kodak lost a patent suit to Polaroid. Early Fuji Quicksnap, the first one-time-use camera is included too.

I think Camera is a wonderful treasure trove of photographic history, however I feel it ends too abruptly in the digital age. Early cameras—both Kodak branded and those made by others—are featured in great length. But when the book reaches film cameras of the late twentieth century and modern-day digitals, I can think of at least a dozen additional cameras that might have been included.

(I will preface the following list by saying I don’t know if these cameras are part of the Eastman House collection.) These include: APS or Advanced Photo System film cameras; the Ricoh RDC-1, an early digital with direct modem access; the Minolta Dimage V, which had a lens that could be removed from the body and attached via a yard-long cable for shooting; the Kodak EasyShare V570 with its dual lenses, and the Sigma SD9, the first camera to utilize the Foveon X3 image sensor. I would even go so far as to say the Polaroid 20×24 camera should have been included.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn about the early miniature and spy cameras of the 1800s. I also enjoyed seeing the actual cameras (in most cases) that were used to capture some of the most famous images. I wonder if the Eastman House collection includes more of these camera/photograph combinations. Also interesting was the included essays by Steve Sasson, the father of the digital camera. For the average digital camera/photography enthusiast, who may have never heard of Sasson, the expanded coverage is a treat.

Camera, A History of Photography from Daguerreotype to Digital would be a great addition to the library of any camera enthusiast or photographer. With the price of $45, the book is well worth the investment.

For more information about the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film, go to www.eastmanhouse.org.

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Product Review: ExpoImaging's Ray Flash Ring Flash Adapter

By Diane Berkenfeld

The Ray Flash is an adapter that fits over the head of your DSLR’s accessory flash and turns your flash into a ring flash. The Ray Flash uses the power of your flash—redirected through the adapter’s body—onto your subject. The Ray Flash has a center diameter of 4 1/8-inches and can accommodate most professional 35mm interchangeable lenses.

A range of models are available so you’ll want to check the ExpoImaging website for your DSLR/flash combination to see which one will work for you. The reason behind this is that there are differences in the height of different models of flashes sitting on various camera bodies. Originally the Ray Flash was designed to work with Canon Speedlites (580EX and 580EX II) and Nikon Speedlights (SB800 and SB900) but they will work with a range of other camera/flash combinations including cameras/flashes from Olympus and Sony; as well as flashes from Metz and Sigma.

The question is, when so many camera manufacturers and some lighting equipment makers make dedicated ring flashes, why would you go with an adapter instead? Price. The price ranges start at around $225 to $400 or so for dedicated ring flashes from camera makers and companies including Sunpak and Sigma; and upwards of $1,000 to $1,800 for ring flash heads from companies like Lumedyne, DynaLite, Comet, and Elinchrom. The ring flash heads average 3,000 watt seconds (w/s) of power. And if you own a lighting system that isn’t compatible, you’re out of luck—unless you’re willing to go out and spend thousands of dollars more for a full system of lights.

But when you’re looking for portability, a smaller unit is necessary. Street price for the Ray Flash is $199. which is a less than the cost if you were going to go out and buy a dedicated ring flash. And, by design, you’re getting more versatility out of your equipment, since you can most likely use a flash you already own.

Using the Ray Flash

(l. to r.) Installing the Ray Flash on a flash is quick and easy. Just slip it on, and turn the locking mechanism (on the top of the Ray Flash) to secure the adapter to the flash.

(l.) Final image; (r.) Close-up in Adobe Lightroom. Note the distinctive Ring Light highlights in the eyes. Photos © Diane Berkenfeld.

You will lose one stop of light from your flash by using the Ray Flash adapter. Because of the design, you can still use TTL modes with the Ray Flash adapter. Depending upon your shooting situation, though, you may want to use the flash on manual instead of TTL, to compensate for the light loss. A locking mechanism secures the adapter to your flash head, so it won’t slip off. And there is no change in color temperature.

Another example of the soft lighting from the Ray Flash. Photo taken with the Ray Flash on a Sigma EF 530 DG Super flash, Nikon D300s. Photo © Diane Berkenfeld.

The lighting from a ring flash is distinctive—virtually shadowless lighting on the front of the subject with a soft halo of shadow around the edges. The further away your subject is from the background, the harsher the shadow behind the subject will be. With other lighting methods, it is usually the opposite, in that you’ll get softer shadows the further your subject is from the background.

The Ray Flash, or any ring flash for that matter is ideal for Macro photography, however you can use the Ray Flash for wider compositions such as portraits too.

I tested out the Ray Flash (model #RAC 175-2) with a Nikon D300s body, AF-S DX Nikkor 18-200mm F/3.5-5.6 G lens and Sigma EF 530 DG Super flash. I also decided to try it out with the Lensbaby Composer and Fisheye optic on the D300s and the Sigma flash.

Using the Ray Flash adapter is very easy, it just slips over the head of the flash. I had no problems using it, in fact, when using the Nikkor lens, I held the D300s body with my right hand, and zoomed the lens with my left. When I tried taking photographs with the Lensbaby, which was much shorter than the Nikkor, I found it a little more difficult to shoot, but not impossible. Because I was using the Fisheye optic, I could see the back of the Ray Flash adapter in the viewfinder. For the image of Mardi Gras beads (below) that I shot with the Fisheye Lensbaby, I actually liked the circular crop that I ended up with.

(l.) This image was captured with the Lensbaby Composer on a Nikon D300s, using the Fisheye optic. The black ring is the back of the Ray Flash - visible because of the Lensbaby's shallow physical size and Fisheye's wide field of view; (r.) Final cropped image, exposure adjusted slightly, bringing out the blacks. The outline around the circle was created in Photoshop. If you look really closely you can see the reflection of the Ray Flash in the highlights. Photos © Diane Berkenfeld.

If you’re looking for an economical ring flash lighting solution the Ray Flash adapter might be right for you.

For more information, go to the website www.expoimaging.com.

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Lark publishes new Magic Lantern Guides book for the Olympus E-P1

LarkOlympus E-P1Lark Books has published Magic Lantern Guides – E-P1. The new book is authored by Frank Gallaugher, who has years of experience shooting with Olympus cameras. The book (ISBN: 1-60059-671-1) costs $14.95 and will be available November 3, 2009.

Magic Lantern books help new digital photographers take the trial and error out of using and shooting with their new cameras. No matter if you’re a beginner or more experienced photographer, Magic Lantern Guides offer practical information and smart advice, while explaining all the features of a DSLR or interchangeable lens camera, and are written in an easy to read style. The Magic Lantern Guides are easier to understand than many of the manuals that come with these types of cameras.

You can check out the website at www.larkbooks.com to find out more about this book or see the other titles that Lark Books publishes.

— Diane Berkenfeld

[Editor's Note: Read the PictureSoup review of the Olympus E-P1 on this website.]

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Industry Volunteerism: PMDA Soldiers' Angels Portraits of Love Project Serves Families of Armed Forces Serving Abroad

PMDA soldiersangels logo

The PMDA Soldiers’ Angels Portraits of Love project is a great volunteer program within the photo industry that we here at Picture Soup wanted to share with our visitors. The PMDA (Photo Manufacturers and Distributors Association) has partnered with the Soldiers’ Angels volunteer organization to create the PMDA Soldiers’ Angels Portraits of Love Project, with the goal of taking the portraits of 10,000 families of service men and women who are serving abroad this September and send both the families and the service men and women a print by the holiday season—at no cost to the families.

You can find out more about this great volunteer effort within the photo industry by going to the website www.pmdaportraitsoflove.com. You can also sign up to volunteer as a photographer via the website; or as a military family, you can find a participating photographer.

As an industry we think this is a great way that photographers can share their talents while bringing families of those serving in our armed forces around the world a little closer for the holidays.

Along with PMDA, Fujifilm, SeeHere.com, Independent Photo Imagers (IPI), Nikon, Canon, Tamron, Samsung, Pentax, Olympus, Microsoft, HP, GE, Casio, ArcSoft, National Geographic Magazine, Cameo Style, Popular Photography magazine, Photo Industry Reporter, Tiffen, and American Photo magazine are also sponsoring this program.

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