End of the Film Era

In the nineteen fifties the large studio cameras were still in use but the film holders were downsized to five by seven and even split five by seven in order to save costs. The Speed Graphic cameras used by many newspaper photographers held four by five inch sheet film.. It’s sensitivity boasted speeds of four or eight hundred ASA without affecting the appearance of grain to any extent. The holders were unwieldy with only two pieces of film in each, except for the film packs that held a thinner film pack of twelve.

Color film had been invented in the forties, but the color appeared weak and tinted with shades of orange and aqua green. Kodachrome gave the best color but was affordable only in 35mm size for slides. There was Agfacolor and Ektachrome in four by five sheets but the color left something to be desired. Candid weddings became popular in the fifties but the case of thirty film holders weighed over forty pounds.

In the sixties, the twin lens cameras using 120 roll film were the rage. Finer grained film duplicated the quality of the four by five film holders and the cameras weighed one quarter as much. Twelve exposures and later 24 exposures made candid photography much more convenient. Only the German lenses passed the critical eyes of the professional photographers. Rolleiflex and the single lens reflex, Hasselblad, made the grade.

By the seventies, better quality film by Kodak and Agfa allowed the use of 35mm single lens reflex cameras for most journalistic work. The larger sizes were still used for magazine publications, producing stunning detailed perfectly colored photos. The new multi coated, multi element lenses from Germany and Japan contributed much to the quality. Some camera manufactures experimented with half frame 35mm, 16mm and even 8mm film but one had to sacrifice some quality for compactness and weight savings.

The next two decades saw many improvements in camera automatic functions like the Minolta Maxxum with its built in motor drive, LCD readouts and program exposure but the film remained virtually the same. One hour film service reigned and custom labs could produce sharp grainless photographs in wall sizes.

If you didn’t mind seeing little squared in your three by five snapshots, digital cameras were available in the mid nineties but the year 2000 saw massive changeover to digital ‘film” with full size sensors and six to eight mega pixels of smooth detail.. The cost of changing from film to digital was daunting, but the benefits were irresistible to the professional photographer. No more hand coloring, hand retouching, waiting for proofs, smelly chemicals, space eating darkrooms and large storage facilities for storing the spent film. But we’ll never forget the amazing one hundred year reign of film.