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Chapter 1

The Camera

A camera is nothing more than a box with a hole in it. In fact, a pinhole camera can be made from a cardboard box, a pin, and film or photographic paper. Insert the film or photographic paper, make a pinhole in the box, and set the camera in the window for awhile. Develop normally.

Because light scatters in all directions, a lens was needed. Just as the eye needs to focus the light on the retina, so the camera need to focus light to capture a sharply rendered image. Further, as the eye has an iris, that's the colored part that opens and closes, so to the camera needs an iris. In the camera the iris is called the aperture of f-stop and functions to control the amount or intensity of the light entering the camera. Just as the iris controls the light entering the eye. That's why the iris will be smaller in bright light than in dim light.

The thirty-five-millimeter, 35mm, camera has become the workhorse of modern photography. Extremely versatile it can be attached to a microscope, a telescope, or just about anything in between.

The format of a camera refers to the size of the image it makes on film. The dimensions of an image made in a 35mm camera are 24mm high by 36mm long.

One inch is 25.4 millimeters long, so that means that a 35mm makes an image that is about one inch high and one-half inches long.

In this chapter we will discuss and present the more common and important features of this camera and discuss some practical advice as well.

How to Load The 35mm Camera

  • Open the camera holding it in your right hand, lens pointing down.
  • Place the right thumb on the geared sprocket nearest your hand.
  • Hold the film in your left hand. The film canister in your palm, the film leader between your thumb and forefinger.
  • Insert the film into the take up spool, pull the film across the camera back holding the film on the sprocket with your right thumb.
  • Place the film canister in its alcove.
  • Lock in the rewind fork.
  • Advance the film and trip the shutter until both the geared film advance sprockets have engaged the film.
  • Close the back of the camera.

How to Hold The 35mm Camera

  • Cradle the camera in the palm of your left hand with your thumb and fingers around the lens barrel.
  • Now your left hand holds the camera securely making the camera difficult to drop.
  • With the left-hand focus the lens and adjust the aperture.
  • While the right hand will advance the film, adjust the shutter speed, and trip the shutter.

The 35mm Camera Features and Functions

Focus Modes

Single Focus Mode. This mode is for those situations when photographing pictures one-at-a-time. The camera focuses where it is set and stays there. This allows the focus to remain on one aspect of the photograph so that the image can be reframed without disturbing the focus.

Continuous Focus. This mode provides for those times when the subject is constantly moving or when changing from one subject to another.

Manual Focus. Here, as the name implies, the focusing is done manually. This is particularly valuable when focusing hyperfocally. Also Manual Focus is excellent should for "focusing on nothing." Here is an example: Lets say the subject is two flowers, one behind the other as seen through the camera.

when the closest flower is in focus the rear one is blurred. When focused on the rear flower the front one is blurred. So what to do? Now focus the camera between the two flowers and use depth of field to render both flowers sharply focused.

By focusing where there is nothing and use depth of field to expand the zone of acceptable sharpness both flowers will appear acceptably sharp.

Focus Tracking. This feature will keep the subject sharp while it is moving.

Locking Auto Focus To a Subject. This feature keeps the camera focused on the subject and not does not allow the camera to be effected by anything that gets between it and the subject.

Eye-Controlled Focus. The camera will focus on what your eye is looking at.

Focusing Screens

The image seen when looking through the camera is located on a sheet of ground glass called a focusing screen.

Most cameras have their focusing screens permanently mounted into the camera body and can only be changed in a repair shop. A notable exception is the professional Nikon cameras. These have interchangeable focusing screens which can easily be changed without tools.

Split image is very popular, and for good reason; it is an excellent screen. With this screen the subject is actually split, visually, in the center of the frame. As the focus becomes better and better the image becomes less and less split. When the subject is sharply focused the image is not split at all. This type of screen is excellent in low light.

One drawback is that when using a lens of f4, or smaller, the split image feature will not work because the focusing screen blacks out in the center.

When this happens simply focus in the area immediately surrounding the split image portion of the focusing screen.

Light Metering

Spot Meter. This meter will respond only to the light in the very center of the viewfinder. Some cameras allow a choice of the diameter of the meter-able area.

Averaging Meter. This meter will average the entire scene. Some cameras have a weighted metering system where the center of the viewfinder has greater weight in determining the exposure. One way or the other, the averaging meter takes into account the entire picture.

Exposure Modes

Shutter-Priority. Here the shutter is selected and camera chooses the aperture.

Aperture-Priority. Here, the aperture is selected and the the camera chooses the aperture.

Flexible Program Mode. Here the shutter speed or the aperture can be changed and the camera will compensate to keep the exposure correct.

Automatic Exposure Lock. Use this when the exposure is not to be allowed to change. For example when exposing for skin tones and the model will be moving. Simply choose the exposure and Press the AEL button and the exposure will not be allowed to change.

Multiple Exposure. This feature allows e two or more exposures to be made on the same piece of film.

Exposure Compensating. This allows the exposure to be changed to something other than what the camera recommends. Generally, exposure can be changed in 1/2 or 1/3 step increments.

Bracketing. This related to making numerous exposures of the same picture, all of which are different.

Erect Image Viewing and The SLR

The Single Lens Reflex, SLR, has one lens for viewing the subject and taking the picture. The term reflex refers to the mirror and prism used to provide an erect image. That is, the image in the camera looks the same as it does to the naked eye. This is not true for all cameras.

Depth of Field Preview Button.

This is one of the more useful features of a camera.

The 35mm SLR is designed so that the aperture remains fully open. This results in a bright viewfinder. Were the aperture not designed this way the viewfinder would get very dark as the aperture is closed.

What the camera does is close the aperture only when the picture is taken. After the picture has been made the aperture opens up again.

How is the depth of field to be seen before taking the photograph? By using the depth of field preview button. Just push the button to close the aperture and look through the camera.

Mirror Lock Up

A mirror lock up button is found on high end cameras and is used to keep the mirror in the up position so that very wide angle lenses can be used. These lenses extend so far into the camera body that the mirror would actually hit the lens.

The Battery

When choosing a new, or used, camera one of the things to be concerned with is the camera's battery. Be sure to ask what replacement batteries cost; some are very expensive and hard to find, especially in remote areas. Keep that in mind if when on the road.

And be sure to check on availability of batteries. If taking that once in a lifetime trip and the battery fails, then what? Many cameras are totally useless without battery power. that means that they are as dead as the battery, totally non functional.

Even if the camera will continue to function, it will do so at greatly reduced capability. So, check out the battery and buy an extra one if when going far from home.

Automatic Cameras

These cameras are easy to use, offer film advance, auto ISO setting with DX coded film, and even power zoom lenses. They are "all electric" if the battery fails, they will not function. This type of camera is an excellent choice for people who want light weight and ease of use. These cameras do not have the versatility of an SLR.

Many people by an automatic camera with the expectation that the camera will do everything needed to make beautiful pictures. While these cameras take great photos their limitations must be taken into account. So, the question becomes what are the camera's limitations and how to get around them.

One of the most common problems is a bright light in the background of the photo. This is called back light, or back lighting. This bright spot might be the sun, reflections on water, or maybe even a bright lamp.

It can fool the camera into a false reading causing the photo to appear dark or black.

What can be done about that? Compensate for the bright spot. To do this tell the camera to give more exposure to the picture.

So, either push the camera's back light button, to compensate for the strong backlighting or re-compose the shot to leave out the bright spot. Or ...

How To Modify Exposure With an Automatic Camera

When the above solutions will not work address the problem directly by altering the camera's exposure system.

Alter the exposure by resetting the ISO setting for this one photograph only.

Remember to reset to the original film speed after the photograph has been taken.

  • Divide the film speed in half and set the ISO to that number. Compose and take the photograph.
  • To be sure, divide the ISO number in half again and take the picture a second time.

When the film speed is reduced the camera will increase the exposure. This is exactly what is required.

Here is an example. To take a picture with a bright spot of light in the background with ISO 200 film.

divide 200 in half. That is 100. Set the ISO to 100 and take the photograph with the bright background visible in the picture.

Now half of 100 is 50 set the camera ISO to 50 and take the same photo again. This is called bracketing the shot. which means taking the same picture with a range of exposures.

Be sure to return the ISO to 200. Some cameras have an exposure compensation dial, the dial usually goes from minus 2 through plus 2. Like this:

-2, -1, 0, +1, +2

The -2 indicates two stops less exposure than normal, or two stops under exposure.

The -1 indicates one stop less exposure than normal, or one stop under exposure.

The  0 refers to normal exposure.

The +1 indicates one stop more light than normal or one stop over exposure.

The +2 indicates two stops more light than normal or two stops over exposure.

To shoot the example above set the dial to +1 and take the picture. Then set the dial to +2 and take the picture again. It accomplishes the same thing as the example above.

The term under exposure refers to too little light and a very dark picture. This is jokingly referred to as, "a black cat in a coal mine." A very dark photograph.

In this case the negatives are very thin, almost totally clear actually. That's why pictures are so dark there is no density in the negative to give the photo any character.

Over exposure is too much light in the photograph. In this case everything is white, burned out as they say. They are said to be, "a white cat in a snow storm drinking milk" because the photos are so light.

Remember the negative is opposite the picture exposure-wise.

The Kodak APS, Advanced PhotoSystem

This format is for the amateur, so you may not want to use it if your interest is that of an advanced or professional nature. There are many models to choose from with various features including a zoom lens and are slightly smaller and lighter than a 35mm compact camera and significantly smaller and lighter than a 35mm SLR. Most will have autofocus, auto-exposure, and are just about idiot-proof. They are great for a pocket or purse. They are battery dependant meaning that when the battery dies, so does the camera.

APS Film

This camera will retain the film in the cassette even after processing. Each APS cartridge will have its own unique serial number. A window will reveal one of four symbols:

      Half circle: The roll is half exposed
      X: The roll is completely exposed
      Square: The roll is developed.
After development the film remains stored permanently in the cartridge.

The size of the frame of the three formats is:

      HDTV: 30.2mm x 16.7 mm (1.2 inches x 0.66 inches)
      Classic: 23.4 x 16.7 mm (1 inch x 0.66 inches)
      Panoramic: 30.2 x 9.5 mm (1.2 inches x 0.37 inches)
As you can see the format is smaller than the 36mm X 24mm of the 35mm camera. The APS negative being only about 58% of the area of a 35mm negative. The APS being (30.2 x 16.7) or 504.3 square millimeters whereas the 35mm format is (24 x 36) or 864 square millimeters. This means that the APS format is only about 58% percent as large as the 35mm format. Film is sold in 15, 25, and 40 exposure rolls.

The size of prints available are:

      HDTV: 4 inches by 7 inches
      Classic: 4 inches by 6 inches
      Panorama: 4 inches by 12 inches.

There is an invisible magnetic coating on the film that the camera can write data on the same way that a computer writes to a floppy disk. The precise data recorded varies from camera to camera and includes: the date and time of day, type of print format that is wanted, the exposure, if the flash was used, and more.

The magnetic coating allows a user to instruct the photo lab to print each frame in one of three formats listed above, namely: HDTV, Classic, or Panorama. The film is loaded by simply dropping a door and dropping in the film. There is no leader as there on 35mm film. This affords easy, simple drop in loading in that the camera automatically completes the process. APS Pictures

Prints are returned from the processing laboratory with the roll's ID number, frame number, and other optional information such as the date and time imprinted on the back. The prints come back with information such as: the roll's identification number (ID), the frame number and other optional data such as the date and time that the picture were taken. An added advantage is that APS processing is returned with a 4 x 7 inch Master Index Print containing tiny thumbnail pictures of each print on the roll, the roll's ID number, and the frame number of each picture. This make it easy ordering reprints a breeze.

Despite the small negative it is possible to get an adequate 8x10 inch print from this camera because of the improvements in film technology. However, the size of the film does limit quality results to 8 x 10 inches. Larger prints are not recommended. Keep this in mind if you will need pictures larger that 8 x 10 or if you will need to crop the negatives.

Medium and Large Format Cameras

Medium format, that is cameras that use 120 film, are popular with professionals and advanced amateurs. There is no need to spend a great deal of money to own one of these cameras as many models are quite inexpensive. These cameras do not necessarily need to use roll film, some will have adapters to use cut film as well.

The large format cameras are, roughly, those that use 4 inch by 5 inch, 4X5, film and larger. They are physically large and can be heavy and award to operate. These cameras are usually, but not always, used on a tripod.

An old time press camera from the 40's or 50's is a good example of a large format camera that can be hand held. When looking for an inexpensive way to get into a 4 by 5 inch camera check into old press cameras. They are great fun and make spectacular photographs.

They are great fun and take spectacular pictures. Yes, I own one, a Crown Graphic. It looks very much like the camera that Jimmy Olsen carried in the original Superman television series from the 1950s.

Go take pictures.

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