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history of the camera
eastman kodak
dangerous chemicals
specialized equipment
scoff
A Short History Of The Camera - The Dry Plate Makes Handheld Cameras Possible
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A Short History of the Camera  -  The Dry Plate Makes Handheld Cameras Possible

During the fairly short period since the post-daguerreotype to the development of the dry plate process of photographic development, cameras were not portable. The wet plate method was definitely an improvement over the dagerreotypes and was a happy alternative to the dangerous chemicals and processes required in that procedure.

However, the older wet plate methods were cumbersome in their own ways and there was still much-needed improvements to be made. The coming improvements would indeed solve many of the arduous processes involved and also turn out new and unexpected advantages.

The dry method takes its place in the history of the camera as being the link between the older wet plate methods and roll film.

The Dry Plate Method Comes into Being, Revolutionizing Photographic Developing

Dry plate photography was a process invented by Eastman Kodak. Opposed to the wet plate method which was invented in 1851 by Frederick Scoff Archer, the English sculptor, the dry plate method offered several outstanding improvements of what was already in existence.

Photographic developing processes prior to this time were known as wet plate. There were about a half-dozen innovations throughout the period of time the wet plate method, considered unique inventions in themselves, each of which improved upon the previous.

The wet plate process were great for the time they came into being, but had several drawbacks, all of which the dry plate method promptly resolved.

Eastman Kodak Founds the Eastman Kodak Dry Plate Company in New York

Eastman Kodak worked to resolve many of the problems that arose with the wet plate processes, such as the longer exposure times, short working windows in which wet plates must be developed before the emulsifier dried onto the glass, ruining the shot, the need for specialized equipment taken to the field where the photographs were being taken, amongst a number of lesser issues.

The solution to the major problems came in In 1879, when Eastman Kodak successfully prepared a glass plate negative by coating gelatin emulsion to the plates and allowed them to dry. Thus the dry plate was invented. The invention allowed for much less expensive processing and no longer the need to have mobile dark rooms taken to the field where shooting was being done.

The resulting prints were also better quality and lasted longer.

Once having perfected the process, Eastman rented a loft in Rochester, NY in 1880, where he began mass producing the dry plates after having built an emulsion-coating machine which uniformly applied the emulsifier to the plates prior to packaging. The following year, Eastman met and formed a partnership with Henry A. Strong, who manufactured buggy-whips. The company, Eastman Dry Plate Company, took off and Eastman was able to quit his job as a bank clerk to tend to his business full-time.

The most important innovation that came with this new process was that now, hand-held cameras were possible, though, these were incredibly bulky, and quite heavy, by today's standards.

The Dry Plate Method Brings About Unexpected Innovations

This invention opened the way for new handheld cameras, therefore put the camera into the hands of more amateur photographers. A further development, the roll film, having been found to already be in use and in the works at a homestead in Wisconsin would be the next major innovation. Several parts of the dry plate processes would be carried over to the perfection of the paper roll film which, by this time, was ripe for discovery and development.

These handhelds evolved further into specialized applications since and today we enjoy all levels of superior camera technology getting into the hands of more amateur photographers than at any other time in history.

To Recap the Above:

  • The older wet plate methods were a great improvement over daguerreotype photography, mostly in the elimination of the highly caustic chemicals required and offering shorter exposure time.
  • In spite of these great improvements, the wet plate method was still cumbersome, required a lot of skill, was a very messy process and only the heartiest of amateurs could do anything with it.
  • The slight improvements of employing a dry emulsifier on the plates brought about many new benefits, some of which included improvements in processing itself, but also made hand-held cameras possible.
  • George Eastman perfected the method and built a emulsifier-coating machine which enabled mass production of the dry plates.
  • Eastman partnered with a good friend of the family and manufacturer, Henry A. Strong. Eastman would then found the Eastman Dry Plate Company.
  • Later, at the discovery and perfection of paper roll film, the name of the firm would be lengthened to "Eastman Dry Plate and Film Company when photographic roll film became viable.

The dry plate photographic process was an important development in camera technology. It paved the way for the fine assortment of modern, highly versatile video and sports cameras we have today.


Street Talk

I will be editing this article to make it even better. I can say many of these things in fewer words, yet keep it within all SA's editorial guidelines. I will be going through my articles periodically and editing them as I see improvements. This will, of course make for much better reading experience.

Reply
  about 7 years ago

I appreciate your kind comment. They get a little long. I'm breaking one down right now because I was shocked to find it just over 1000 words. So, working on saying more with less words, and yet retain the value.

Reply
  about 7 years ago

Now thats what I call an article. Very detailed and informative! Very nice Daniel

Reply
  about 7 years ago

I try to put out quality. It takes longer, but that's the way I am. I think the posting above yours was my thanks for your comment, in case, thank you again!

Reply
  about 7 years ago
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