The principle of the electric eye (see diagram-on page 65) is simple enough: the objective is to change aperture and/ or shutter speed automatically to best employ available light. A cell activated by light sends a minute electrical impulse to the controls, which in turn change the aperture and in some cases the shutter speed. The still cameras employing the principle are among the best-selling newcomers at the photo dealers. This success seems to prove a statement made by an executive of Willoughbys in New York City, the largest camera store in the world: "Any product at all in the photographic line which is simpler will sell."
The blessings of the electric eye are not unmixed ones. It—and all automation, for that matter—standardizes picture-taking in a manner that robs the photographer of some of his initiative. Says Ansel Adams, "It might well lead to a disastrous extinction of individuality. Better exposures do not always imply better pictures." And Dorothea Lange says, "Surefire things are deadening to the human spirit."
However, for the man who wants a surefire, unthinking man's camera, the electric eye has much to offer. But its user must be aware that the electric eye takes in all the light reflected from the scene—not just the light on the main subject alone, which must be measured by taking a closeup reading with a hand-held light meter. And if one were, for instance, photographing a darkly clothed skier in the snow, one would more than likely get an underexposed skier. Most cameras have, however, a manual override which gives the user control of setting the aperture in conditions where the automatic exposure might give poor results.
While there are as yet only a few electric-eye still cameras, built-in or attachable light meters are now found on many other cameras. From the Samoca L28. ($49.95) to the Exakta Lightmeter IIa ($329.50) they show another effort on the part of the photographic industry to make the choosing of exposures, whether by the tyro or the wizard, a less complicated affair. This convenience should not blind the photographer to the fact that he still has to take pains to get the correct reading for the photograph he wants to take, whether the meter is hand-held or attached. If it is attached, he must move the camera to take a reading—an extreme disadvantage when a tripod is being used. And if the meter is actually built into the camera, he will have to send the whole works out for repair if the meter fails.
If amateur photography took its first flight with the arrival of the Kodak No. 1, it began to soar with the birth of two cameras some 30 years later: the 35-mm. miniature Lei-ca in 1924 and the Rolleiflex in 1928. Many of the world's best cameras have been influenced by these two milestone products. And once the amateur photographer enters their engrossing world of f/ stops, light meters, wide-angle and telephoto lenses, he is almost a sure candidate to join that throng, 2½ million strong, who have climbed to the near-professional plateau.
The Rolleiflex and the more precise of its numerous offspring offer the amateur serious picture-taking, ranging from the purely artistic to photojournalism. One big reason for this was the big reason for the Rollei's success—the ease of viewing and composing pictures in its ground-glass viewer. The twin-lens reflex camera is actually two cameras, with two lenses of the same focal length. One is for viewing, the other for taking the picture (see diagram). The beauty of this is that what you see on the ground glass is what you get, and focusing and composing in the 2¼-by-2¼-inch square are simplicity itself. The negatives which these cameras produce are large enough to make usable contact prints and to produce enlargements without the special fine-grain development recommended for smaller film sizes. This makes it particularly attractive for black-and-white album prints. The 120 film that is used by most cameras in this category (some use 127 film) is available everywhere. The 12 exposures that it takes are perfect for most amateurs who might find the 20 or 36 exposures used by 35-mm. cameras restrictive—if they don't take many pictures and like to change from color to black-and-white.
There are excellent color films available for the twin-lens reflex camera—Ektachrome, Anscochrome and Super Anscochrome, for example (Kodachrome, one of the best for slides, comes only in 35-mm. and bantam sizes). And while in the past pictures in these sizes have not been mounted as slides by the processor, now they can be ordered mounted for a small additional fee. And Eastman's color film, Kodacolor, which comes back from the processor in the form of negatives and prints, is available in 120 as well as 127, 620, 116, 616 and 35-mm. sizes. Since it is a negative color process, Kodacolor has many of the advantages of black-and-white and color film wrapped into one—it can deliver good black-and-white prints or color slides, as desired. Some twin-lens reflexes, however, also have 35-mm. adapter backs, with which the standard 2-by-2 color slides can be taken. The 2¼-by-2¼ slides can also be mounted by the photographer himself, and there are projectors designed for them.
The automatic twin-lens reflex camera also has the welcome feature of advancing the film while automatically counting the exposures and setting the shutter, all in one motion—a development that when added to the Rollei in 1937 won many professional devotees who had ignored the camera before.
The twin-lens reflex family, in this year of the bonanza, has attained such a size that the upward-striving amateur can find literally anything he wants, depending on the lenses he seeks and the money he has to spend. In the 1960 Popular Photography Directory there are 35 twin-lens reflex cameras listed, ranging in price from the Japanese-made Penta Reflex at $14.95 to the Tele-Rolleiflex with a f/4 lens at $399.50. The directory's camera-comparison chart dramatically illustrates the range of choice. All but four of the cameras have 3.5 lenses, and of the others three are 2.8 and one f/4. Shutter speeds of 1/500 second are found on most of them, even on cameras priced as low as Sears's Tower 44, which is $34.50. All are flash-synchronized. Automatic film advance is now found on 22 cameras, and automatic shutter setting on 16. Twenty-one have double-exposure prevention and seven have built-in light meters, including one priced as low as $60—the Yashica LM. Whichever make or model he chooses, the amateur who buys a good twin-lens reflex camera will have stepped a long way up.
The 35-mm. camera is so popular that there are more than 160 different models available today. Paradoxically, when the first of them, the Model A Leica, was introduced at the Leipzig Fair, it was regarded as an expensive gadget. The "gadget," however, proceeded to revolutionize picture-taking, and the 35-mm. camera, with 5 million in use, is now the uncontested king of the advanced camera field.