How a Single Pin Hole Changed the World Forever

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What’s more interesting than watching footage shot from high speed cameras and super slow motion cameras? Camera technology has progressed to the point where it is possible to hide a camera in the head of a pin, but in this age of Youtube and selfies do you know the humble beginnings of photography? It might surprise you to know that much of photography started as an accident.

The Advent of All Photography, the Pinhole Camera

In these modern days cameras can cost you anywhere from a couple of dollars to over to hundreds of thousands, but the beginning of every high speed camera, whether it be film or digital is the pinhole camera. This pinhole camera or camera obscura was able to project an inverted image in a darkened room. The pinhole camera was invented in the Middle Ages, but the principle behind the proto camera was first observed by Aristotle in or around 330 BC. The first use of this pinhole camera was in 1920 to create a heliograph or sun drawing. The process was fairly similar to how modern screen printing takes place, chemicals were used to absorb light and a engraving was placed over the treated plate to created an image. But once the image was exposed it faded away after a limited period of time. The other downside of this process was that it took up to eight hours of sun exposure to complete.

Enter Louis Daguerre’s Method of Photography

The heliograph was innovative in that it provided practical applications for the pinhole camera. The camera obscura effect, which for a long time was relegated to the realm of entertainment and a mere curiosity. The heliograph gave a glimpse to the artistic possibilities of camera technology, but it had several drawbacks. The first drawback was that it took over eight hours to develop a picture using the sun. The second being that the image created would only last for a short time before disappearing on the etching plate that served as the archetypal film. This all Changed with Louis Daguerre. What Frenchman Louis Daguerre was able to do with the existing heliograph process would in essence be the groundwork for all future film technology to follow. Firstly Daguerre was effectively able create a high speed camera that was able to reduce the exposure time from eight hours to a mere thirty minute, a huge improvement. He was able to formulate a fixing process which used a silver plated sheet. This process named the Daguerreotype allowed the picture to be saved indefinitely.

The Invention of Negative to Positive Process

The next great innovation in the realm of photography came with Henry Fox Talbot’s invention of the Negative to the Positive process. This process used paper sheets that had been treated with a silver to create pictures. The advantages of this process was that the paper was much easier to transport than the original metal or glass plates used in the daguerreotype process.

The Advent of High Speed Cameras and Film

The flexible film as we know it today was created by George Eastman, of Eastman-Kodak fame in 1889. This film was durable yet flexible, easily rolled and transported. This type of film in essence ushered in the age of mass produced affordable film for the consumer.

What we can do with cameras today is amazing. If you were to show one of the forefathers of photographer the type of technology that we have at the tip of fingers today they would probably collapse. Camera technology shows o signs of stopping, cameras become smaller and more powerful all the time. There are even cameras that use microwaves to see through objects and walls in real time, the sky is the limit. So the next time you take a selfie, or post a video of your cat online, think about he humble beginnings of the camera and how far it has come from being just a pinhole in a piece of paper.

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