Darth Vader's Camera

The camera. A camera is a device that allows light to be captured on a sensitive media. All cameras operate on this same principle, from the first cameras in the 19th century to the one on your cellphone. Sure, the technology has changed since the first perminant photo was captured in 1829. So what is a camera, how does it all work….it’s actually pretty simple, light is reflected off an object, travels through a lens, and strikes a light senstive media. Yes, it’s that simple.

The complex part is all the different cameras that we have avalible today…

The Point & Shoot
A point and shoot camera is just that, you point it, shoot it, and the camera does all the work for you. Often these use simple viewfinders off set from the actual lens. In the case of digital and cellphone cameras. Most feature a fixed lens or basic zoom. Although not known for image quality, you can actually produce excellent photos from them in the right hands. You often will not have much in the way of control over settings on the low end of the spectrum of P&S cameras, but higher end models feature a full set of creative controls.

If you’re just looking for something simple to carry around, the point and shoot is for you!

New Toy!
The Canon G series cameras, are high end digital Point & Shoot cameras

E.V.I.L. Cameras
No, these cameras will not steal your soul, in fact they’re fairly new kids on the block. EVIL standing for Electronic Viewfinder, Interchangable Lenses, are based on the older Olympus PEN series of half-frame 35mm (film) cameras. These compact cameras often feature near full sized sensors and have a wide range of lenses, and full creative control over the camera settings. Olympus was the first to introduce these digital cameras with their E-P1 series, Panasonic, and Sony all have entries into this market.

A step up from the point and shoot, it gives you quality and a wide range of creative control.

The PEN is Mightier
The Olympus E-P1 is based around the Micro 4/3 sensor and was the first EVIL camera on the market.

A classic design in cameras. The rangefinder at quick glance may be mistaken as a point and shoot, and EVIL cameras may be mistaken as a rangefinder. What makes a rangefinder different is how the focus works. In early rangefinder cameras, there was a second viewfinder, or in this case rangefinder, where the operator would align two images to ensure the image was in focus, then use a second finder to compose the shot. The viewers in rangefinders are almost exclusivly offset from the lens which makes them difficulty to compose a shot, but there are often aids in the viewfinder to help with composing the shot. Rangefinders can feature both a fixed lens (Minolta’s Hi-Matic series, and Fuji’s X-100 digital), or can have interchangeable lenses (Leica cameras, all the them).

Rangefinders are classic cameras, not for the faint of heart, or people on a budget. Great for low profile photography such as street, but packs a punch when you need it, especally with quality cameras and lenses on hand…but they will cost you.

I Leica You, You Leica Me
The Leica IIIc, a classic rangefinder from the 1950s. Hard to use by today’s standards but still puts out quality images.

Single Lens Reflex
When someone mentions a camera this is often what they mean, the single lens reflex, or SLR. SLR’s feature one lens, one viewfinder and a mirror and prisim that allows the operator to see exactly wha the lens sees, henses “Single Lens” the “Reflex” comes when the photo is taken, the mirror moves up allowing the light to hit the media. All SLR cameras feature interchangeable lenses. These days SLR cameras, despite their size and mystic are very easy to use and are avalible to people even on a budget. SLRs offer the best creative control over your photo, from focus, and exposure settings. You can find SLR cameras in digital, 35mm, 120, and even 110 formats.

If you’re looking for a way to expand your skill, knowlege, and understanding of photography, the SLR is for you. Just remember, just because you own one…doesn’t mean you’re automatically a professional. I own several, and I’m still learning.

The WorkHorse
The Nikon F4 is an example of a Professional level SLR from the late 1980s

Twin Lens Reflex
Twin Lens Reflex, or TLR, are cameras that aren’t much in the public eye these days. As the name sugguests these cameras feature two lenses. The top lens, or viewing lens is where the operator composes the shot and sets the focus, the bottom lens, or taking lens, is what actually exposes the media to light. These cameras cut a certain figure and are often rare these days. You can find them in both medium format and 35mm, however no digital TLRs are on the market. A majority of TLR cameras use a fixed lens, however Mamyia released a line of TLRs that have interchangeable lenses.

If you want to try your hand and something unique and new, pick up a TLR.

Rolleiflex 2.8F
A Rolleiflex is a top of the line TLR.

View Cameras
The view camera is a type of camera first developed in the era of the Daguerreotype and still in use today, though with many refinements. It comprises a flexible bellows which forms a light-tight seal between two adjustable standards, one of which holds a lens, and the other a viewfinder or a photographic film holder. The bellows is a flexible, accordion-pleated box, which encloses the space between the lens and film, and has the ability to flex to accommodate the movements of the standards. The front standard is a board at the front of the camera which holds the lens and, usually, a shutter. At the other end of the bellows, the rear standard is a frame which holds a ground glass, used for focusing and composing the image before exposure, which is replaced by a holder containing the light-sensitive film, plate, or image sensor for exposure. The front and rear standards can move in various ways relative to each other, unlike most other types of camera, giving control over focus, depth of field and perspective. The camera must have some means of support, usually provision for mounting it on a tripod.

View cameras are not for the faint of heart, they’re big, heavy, and required a very good understanding of photographic technique, not something you take on lightly. You should also have provisions to develop your own film as sheet film is expensive to develop in labs.

Sorry, no photo, as I don’t own a view camera….yet

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