Heaven Is a Single Lens Reflex Camera

“The wish to capture evanescent reflections is not only impossible… but the mere desire alone, the will to do so, is blasphemy. God created man in His own image, and no man- made machine may fix the image of God. Is it possible that God should have abandoned His eternal principles, and allowed a Frenchman… to give to the world an invention of the Devil?”
The French chap who made this quote was quite convinced that taking photos would not happen because it was against God’s will. This, I would suggest, is the first of what would become a classic tradition in the world of photography and that is “What is the Right Way” arguments to get the end product, the photo. We will poke our nose into some of these camps of “The Right Way” in later writings.
Film, as it left the world of glass and metal plates and became celluloid (plastics in today’s terms) came in two forms, flat or sheet film and roll film. Sheet film had a variety of sizes but had to have “holders” or reusable containers that would slide into the camera, and this was quite limiting.
Roll film settled down into basically two formats. The first was the roll film with the paper backing. This backing took up room, requiring a camera with some space inside. It seemed like everyone had their own idea as to film size and the camera to use it, resulting in a real mess of film as well as a huge variety of cameras.
One camera format variation was based on film that was 2 1/4 inch wide by various lengths and became known as the “Medium format” camera. This type camera became popular around the 1930’s and earlier. These were generally “Bellows” (fold out) type cameras which changed into the workhorse camera, the “Twin Lens Reflex” beginning in the 1950’s.
Later these developed into the “Single Lens Reflex” led by the Swedish jewel, the Hasselblad. Just holding one of these was a thrill for any photographer. Interchangeable lens were an innovative advantage with these type cameras and it later had a 21 MM lens (150 degree coverage?).
It should be noted that the “through the lens viewing” cameras were really difficult to construct and came into to general usage later due to the high tech nature of the mechanical process. Our present digital cameras are not bothered with rolling film and flopping mirrors.
Perhaps the most ubiquitous camera was based on another film that was rolled up, without paper, in a small can, the 35MM film canister. A great variety of cameras were made for this film. But unlike the larger paper backed roll film, the 35MM the format and basic camera were much the same. Again, the prime beginning was around 1900 and the canister came about the 1930’s.
Actually the 35 MM single lens reflex camera was not fully developed until the early 1950’s. Most of the improvements and production moved from Germany to Japan. It is remarkable to think that these innovative film cameras are now completely outdated.
Due to its handy size, the improvement in lens quality and technical quality, the 35 MM became the camera of choice and is really the daddy of the earlier digital cameras. The common digital camera in mass use has departed significantly from the standard 35 MM but the camera in use by most serious photographers looks all but identical to the last of the great film cameras, the 35MM SLR.
Interesting note: In a design contest for the interior workings of the renovated Hasselblad, one of the winners was Sixten Sason, the designer of the original Saab bodywork. Saab was the first automobile company to come out with the crash proof interior frame work. Hasselblad was having structural problems with the new single lens reflex.

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