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Among the first pioneers of developing the pinhole Camera was Alhazen Ibn. His invention marked the evolution of the first pinhole camera in the middle ages of 1000 AD. The camera he invented was otherwise known as the Camera Obscura. However, the first cameras were synonymous with upside down images and Alhazen broke the ice with the pinhole camera. In other words, his camera was able to take upright images unlike other existing cameras. Initially, there existed optic laws that necessitated the working of the pinhole camera. This invention was primarily necessitated by Aristotle back in the 330 BC. His biggest motivation was the sun's ability to create a circular image even after being viewed from a square hole (1).
Pinhole photography is taking pictures with a pinhole camera. In a pinhole camera, a minute hole replaces the lens to allow light to enter into the camera. Principally, a pinhole camera is a small box that has a tiny hole at one end and a film on the other. The characteristic of images formed are softer and blurred than images made with a lens (2).
The fundamental optical principles of the pinhole are available in Chinese literature from as early as fifth century BC. "Chinese scholars were said to have revealed early enough that light travels in a straight line" ( Sultanik, 1995, 4). An early Chinese philosopher Mo Ti was the first person to discover and record the features of a pinhole camera. He revealed that beams of light from the top of an object, when passed through a minute hole, will normally give the bottom part of an image. Another scholar of Chinese origin Yu Chao-Lung employed model pagodas to produce a pinhole image on a screen in the tenth century. Nevertheless, geometric theory on image establishment did not come out from the experiments and observations (3).
An Arabian physicist and mathematician Haytham did some experiments with formation of images in the tenth century AD. From his findings he concluded that light travels in a straight line. In the subsequent centuries the pinhole camera basic technique was utilized by optical scientists in a variety of experiments to assess the sunlight produced from a tiny opening. In later centuries the pinhole was mainly utilized for scientific purposes in astronomy.
Other scholars have investigated and described the images produced by a pinhole camera and this has formed the basis of its development. The first pinhole photograph was made by a Scottish scientist in the 1850s. The pinhole photography has evolved over the decades and commercial pinhole cameras have been produced and used in various scientific studies(4).
The First Photographs
Joseph Nicesphore was among the first people to be able to successfully take images from a pinhole camera (5). This happened in the eve of 1827 around summer time. Prior to this breakthrough in photography, the pinhole camera was often used for drawing purposes or for viewing objects. Photography was not among the first uses of the pinhole camera. Joseph's invention or use of the pinhole camera for photography purposes was to be the prototype that is used today to make modern photographs. In essence, his technique uses light to make the picture.
Joseph successfully made the first pinhole camera photos by placing an engraving on a metallic plate and achieving the image through exposure to sunlight. This metallic plate was coated with bitumen for photographic reasons. Light did not pass through the obscured areas of the photography but the white areas of the engraving allowed light to pass through, hence reacting with the chemicals on the plate. This successful light penetration and reaction with the chemical led to the creation of the first photograph when it was washed in a solvent. This first image was not of high quality though. One other shortfall of this photography method was that it took up to eight hours of light exposure for the image to be developed and even after being developed, the image could easily fade away (6).
Step to Modern Photography
Even though, Joseph was making considerable gains in photography with the pinhole camera, another revolutionary by the name Louis Dagouere (a Frenchman), was also making considerable gains from research aimed at taking a photo through the pinhole camera(7). It however took Louis more than ten years to uncover the secret of reducing the exposure time. He was then able to produce images from exposure time of thirty minutes or less. Moreover, he was able to establish a way where the image would not fade afterwards. In this regard, Louis was among the first people to come up with the first logical and practical processes to photography (grounds to which modern photography stands today)(8). Progressively, both Louis and Joseph joined efforts to merge their discovery and develop the pinhole camera to produce higher quality image.
In 1839, Joseph died but Louis' dreams were still alive because he made another breakthrough by improving the photography to be more effective and convenient. His images were filtered through copper, in form of a sheet. The silver surface was later coated with iodine because it was supposed to be sensitive to light. Long exposures to light enabled the successful washing of the image in silver chloride. This was the breakthrough to creating images that were long lasting. Previous images would easily fade away after being developed. Around 1850, this photography technique was widely used across the globe, especially after rights to its reproduction were sold to the French government. New York Studios also adopted it.
Negatives and Positives
Negative images which were quite popular until the advent of the digital cameras were an invention by Henry Fox. Paper used in the photography process were made sensitive to the effects of light by a silver salt solution which created a black background that when normally viewed against the light, shows the negative image. Henry only had to reduce the effects of the shadows and the lights to have a clear image from the pinhole camera. He made this invention around 1841 and named it Calotype to symbolize a beautiful picture to look at (9).
Tintypes contributed to the immense development in photography we see today. This type of photography was initiated by Hamilton Smith around 1856. Light sensitive material was made by a thin sheet as a basis for producing a high quality image.
Wet Plate Negatives
Wet Plate negatives were highly used in 1851 upon its development. It was developed by an Englishman by the name Fredrick Scoff (10). This technique incorporated the use of collodion. It was made as a vicious solution and silver salts were used to act as light pigments for the photography process, especially in coating the glassware. The glassware improved the quality of the negative because, unlike paper, it was more stable and detailed. This brought a new area to photography because it was easier to coat materials on glass than on paper. Nonetheless, this method had a catch because the wet plate had to be hastily made before the emulsion died. Users therefore had to be as fast as they could. Some users however mocked this method because they referred to it as carrying a portable dark room.
Development of the Hand Held Camera
The ability of the image development to quickly absorb water was the advent of the first hand held cameras. This was especially facilitated by the development of the dry plate in 1879 (11). It incorporated the use of a negative glass plate which was mixed together with an emulsion composed of dry gelatin but could nevertheless store dry plates for extensive periods of time. Dark rooms were no longer necessary and technicians could independently make their own films. This also made it possible for cameras to be hand held.
Flexible Roll Film
The invention of the film marked a phase in the development of photography and the manufacturing of cameras. "Elsewhere George Eastman was making great progress in development of photography, he eventually managed to develop the firm in the 1880s" (Bellis, 2008). He pioneered in development of the film (12). In 1889, he used a flexible base to make the film which eventually turned out to be a long sheet of unbreakable and durable film which could be rolled into the camera. Emulsions were also coated on the film but with the use of a cellulose nitrate film base which closely resembled the developments by Eastman. It facilitated the manufacturing of box cameras which were produced in mass during the period of 1889 to 1890.
Colored photos hit the photography market at the onset of 1940s. The only possible exceptions were probably the Kodachrome which were introduced a little bit earlier. Colored films highly relied on the technology of dye coupled colors. This was a relatively new technology. A chemical process was initiated that integrated three levels of the dying process which then developed a color image. The invention of the color images later initiated a number of camera inventions that eventually led to the development of the Polaroid or instant photos.
Edwin Herbert was the inventor of the Polaroid camera (13). He contributed to the development of the field of photography by developing and printing photos at the same time (instantly). The first instant cameras were available to the general public around the periods of 1948-1950.
In 1986, the first disposable cameras were made by the Fuji Company because they were motivated by the primary reason of recycling the parts of the camera (14). They have tried to perpetrate this message across all markets, even branding it as a "single-use" camera.
The first digital cameras were developed in 1986 using the electronic technology for digital use. This type of camera uses pixel technology to develop images and is widely used today to replace the film cameras.
Developments in the field of photography have come a long way. The first pinhole cameras were developed to make images upright, considering the first cameras failed to achieve this. These first cameras were also marred with the problem of long exposures to sunlight and often faded images in no time. However, with the invention of the film, light and shadows were easily used to develop images that lasted long. It also led to the development of portable cameras. Currently, the film cameras are quickly being replaced by the digital cameras which have a sharper focus and high image quality because of the pixel technology. Photography is however still developing and more inventions are expected in future.