Camera Predictions from four decades ago.

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My good friend and fellow photographer, Sam Bruno, stopped by excited about some rumours after he had read predictions regarding upcoming changes to the next Nikon camera. Rumours, predictions, prophesies, opinions, and conjecture by so-called insiders about what camera manufacturers will be doing in the future are rarely very accurate, but fun to talk about anyway.

I dug out an article that I wrote in 2007 on a magazine commentary I thought might be an entertaining re-read.  In the May 1974 (39 years ago) issue of Photo World Magazine was an article entitled “Tomorrow’s Camera: Report from Japan.”  The article by author Tony Chiu first discussed what would be the “next major technological breakthrough in Japanese-manufactured SLRs…a solid-state shutter, which would make cameras less prone to jamming,” and praised that breakthrough. One must remember that in 1974 cameras were mechanically pulling film off a roll, and in front of the shutter.

On miniaturization, he wrote that, “The manufacturers had misgivings about reducing the current dimensions of their SLRs because the decreasing weight reduced protection against shutter vibration.”

On lenses Chiu commented that, “It is conceivable that 10 years from now a compound lens (a lens that has several elements, like all lenses have now) may weigh more than the SLR body. Although light weight, plastic lenses have long been an industry dream, there is today no major research toward their development.”

In the article he mentioned also that electronic shutter cameras “in the next decade” would be an  “expensive option available only to top-of-the-line models.”  I am amazed at the changes that have occurred since 1974.  Is it conceivable that the writer of that article would have been astonished at modern developments, and would the thought have crossed his mind that even inexpensive cameras would have electronics?

This next part is really interesting because each of the major companies was asked what their predictions for cameras of the future would be:

Canon – Suichi Ando visualized a portable camera small enough “to be carried in the pocket”, and capable of using 35mm film. Such an instrument would have a “universal lens, which can be changed by the flip of the finger from microphotography to telephotography.”

Nikon – Takateru Koakimoto said that the perfect camera would be one that excludes the chance of human error: “It will be fully automatic, perhaps with a small computer to control the exposure.”  I say that he wasn’t far off in his prediction.

Olympus – Yoshihisa Maitanni believed the ideal camera would have a universal lens and one button will wind the film, focus the picture, frame the image and make the perfect exposure.  He also thought that “Images will be projected directly on to a sensitized material,” fully edited, and enlarged.

Ricoh – Tomomasu Takeshita predicted that major advances in the film industry would reduce the film size. “Within 20 years the 16mm camera will replace today’s 35mm camera.” Such an instrument, as he saw it, would be considerably smaller and simpler – it would have a one-piece plastic lens in a partial return to the “pinhole concept” as well as an “electronic crystal” shutter.

Yashica – Nobukazu Sato’s dream was one that would not utilize film. “Just put the paper into the camera, make the exposure, pull the paper out and spray it.” Such a camera would make use of ultraviolet rays, and would also feature a universal lens and a fully automatic focusing system.  Both Ricoh and Yashica are no longer manufacturing cameras.

The writer of the article continues to say “Will we see such marvels in or lifetime?”

“Perhaps by the end of this century” a photographer’s choice could be  “For the amateur, a single lightweight, compound (today one would use the word “zoom”) lens will replace three or four of today’s standard lenses. And price – as it is today (1974) – will remain just within reach at the upper end of your budget.”

Digital camera technology wasn’t even a dream in 1974. Yes, they were printing digitally, but not taking pictures.  I can remember one of my first jobs working as a photographer for the California Office of Alternative Education in 1972. I bought myself the newest and coolest Pentax camera, a Spotmatic II.  The batteries it used aren’t even made today. And Pentax had just come out with a technological breakthrough, “multicoated lenses”. Will the cameras that we think are amazing today even be around in 20 years? I wonder what the future will bring?

I always appreciate comments. Thanks, John

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com

12 responses to “Camera Predictions from four decades ago.

  1. As you say it’s always fun to read old predictions. I still remember the hype about solid-state shutter. Now the technological development took quite a different direction, didn’t it? It only shows the value of predicting future developments are mostly entertaining – which of course in itself isn’t bad at all.

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    • Glad ya liked my article Bart. I suppose everything is relative. The best cameras are still out of reach for most people. and the technology of the day always seems amazing at the time.
      Gosh, I remember how exciting it was to have in-camera, thru-the-lens metering. Multicoated lenses and wow!! TTL flash was unbelievable a first.

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