The History, From Chemical to Digital, Prt.2

Last week i discussed how the first commercial photo processes were created, first the daguerreotype process as well as the calotype process. The daguerreotype process was printed onto polished metal whereas the calotype produced a type of early negative. Since the very first photo was taken people and scientist have been questing to give their photos color. The problem was that since pictures were created by long exposures the color was very light sensitive and even under dim light the colors would soon dissipate. The first color photograph that had color that did not fade or was considered durable was taken by Thomas Sutton in 1861 for Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell. His idea was to take three identical exposures with a blue, red and green filter which would after be projected through the identical corresponding color projection film . This was comparable to a modern day foveon type of sensor, which instead of a mosaic type filter being overlayed onto a sensor the foveon has three varying colored silicon layers that translate all light into a sensor. The problem with that way of creating color was that it was very inaccurate and didn't provide very clear details.

The next major invention in the world of color photography was the autochrome plate. The autochrome plate was truly revolutionary in the world of photography as it created accurate color using a mosaic pattern using dyed starch grains to create a color photograph. It is basically the same process that the bayer type sensor uses to create images now. The autochrome was created by the Lumiere brother in France and marketed in 1917 and was in use till the 1930's when the first color film was invented and put into general use. The process was done by separating variously dyed starch grains by size and organizing them onto a glass sheet that was covered in adhesive. To make the mosaic more conducive to light transmission the plate was then pressed with over 5 tons of weight to flatten and align the pattern. To put into prospective how many starch grains were required, the was 5,000,000 gpi (grain per inch) ratio used to produce the autochrome plate. Even with all these advances in technology there was no way that was fast enough to capture quick shots or to make handheld photography viable.


The last major innovation in the advances toward modern color photography was colored film and advent of Kodak's widely popular #1 model. The camera came with a 100 shot roll of film pre-loaded, the idea was to take 100 shots and return the camera to the factory to have the film exposed and a new roll of film loaded into the camera to use. With Kodak's popularity increasing and being a cultural phenomena at the time it allowed for Kodak to work towards creating a colored film which was finally debuted in 1935 and truly revolutionized the industry it was known as Kodachrome. It captured red, green and blue colors in 3 layers of emulsion, and with this process colors like magenta and cyan are captured in the layers. While Kodak would popularize film and colored film in general it wasn't until 1913-1915 that 35mm cine film became popular for use in still photography.

While the 35mm format had been around since 1908 the format didn't achieve it's legendary status until 1925 when Leica released the ur-leica camera body which used 35mm film natively. This soon spawn several competitors like Contax and Ziess. The competition between these 3 companies jump started the photography industry and led to the eventual development of notable brand such as Canon, Nikon, and Fuji. All this innovation and the war of competing technology led to the Reflex type camera. With the advent of the Reflex patterned camera the industry soon advanced towards digital media. Which I will discuss in detail in the next blog post. Thanks for sticking around and listening to what i believe to be a fascinating history of photography. Full reviews and sample photos from the Panasonic Gx8, Sigma Sd Quattro and Sd Quattro h, FujiFilm X-Pro 2, and Olympus Tg-4 are upcoming along with lens reviews from each ecosystem.