My friend Drew, who had worked with me in a camera shop over 40 years ago stopped by my shop this week and mentioned he browsed through and old second hand store book that discussed the future of film photography. We spent the afternoon talking about the cameras we owned back then that were the “state of the art”.
We never could have imagined the amazing transformation photography has taken place since then.
With that in mind I dug out an article I think might be an entertaining re-read.
In the May 1974 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 (like zoom 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 we 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.”
Will the cameras that we think are amazing today even be around in 20 years? I wonder what the future will bring?