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When George Eastman introduced Kodak No. 1 in 1888 with the now-classic advertising slogan, "You press the button, we do the rest," amateur photography was born. By 1891 more than 90,000 affluent, newly gadget-conscious Americans had paid $25 for a simple box which came fully loaded with enough film for 100 exposures. Once all the film was used the camera, still loaded, was mailed back to Eastman in Rochester; and for $10 the owner received a reloaded camera and 100 mounted circular photographs, provided they all came out. If they followed the examples Eastman used in his ads, the pictures were of the owner's happiest hours: of sport and play and family. And the camera, only three years after No. 1 hit the market, was becoming as indispensable to a tourist as a Gladstone bag.
Today, 71 years later, there is scarcely a part of the planet that has not been seen by the camera's eye. Man's constant companion, the camera has traveled to the depths of the sea, to the heights of outer space, to equatorial jungles and the eternal ice world of the poles. In the U.S. the still camera is 43 million strong and it takes some 2 billion pictures yearly. Photography is a billion-dollar business, one that has grown twice as fast as the national economy over the last decade. To the sportsman and sports lover this bonanza has a particular significance, for with the modern camera and its growing array of equipment he can come closer to and find more enjoyment in the sport he loves by capturing its fleeting moments of excitement on film and holding them forever. And the picture-taking industry today offers him a succession of cameras and accessories with which he can proceed, step by step, from the level of the simplest box camera to near-professional scope and skill.
Picture-taking has become America's No. 1 hobby, and the world's manufacturers of camera equipment are having a field day turning out the tools. Such a field day, in fact, with electric eyes and remote-control slide projectors, scented flashbulbs and zoom lenses, that what to buy has become a bigger poser for the average amateur than f/ stops and film speeds ever were.
The simple dollar box of yesterday is now a thing of chrome, plastic and promise of better pictures built right into it in the form of flash synchronization and eye-level viewers, all for $5.95. There are over 30 million of these basic cameras in use today, and 1½ million more will be bought this Christmas season. They are still the most popular of cameras, because they take perfectly satisfactory pictures for a minimum of cost and ability. But even the box camera offers scope and gadgets with which its owner can increase his picture-taking power; far from being just a snapshot-taker, it can be used as a relatively versatile springboard to broader and bigger things.
For the beginner, first of all, the box camera is almost surefire. All models have fixed or zone focus which gives reasonably sharp images from four feet to infinity; most have apertures fixed at a setting of f/.12, which is safe under average conditions. There are two shutter speeds, "instantaneous" and "bulb," or "long," for time exposures. The instantaneous speed is approximately 1/60 second—brief enough for the average snapshot, though not fast enough to stop any real action.
To this basic box camera, however, a number of things have been or can be added to extend its scope. Close-up lenses are available for some models, which make portraits possible. The Ansco Cadet and many other cameras have settings for both black-and-white and color which accommodate the aperture to the speeds of the two types of film. A device to prevent double exposures has been built into many models. And while every box camera can take perfectly satisfactory pictures in color and black-and-white in good lighting, it is now also a round-the-clock instrument—every modern, simple camera comes equipped to handle flash attachments, and many have them built right in.
So the box camera has come a long way—but it is still only the beginning. Behind it, row on row, the amateur peering into his camera-store window can see the instruments for his further progress up the ladder—not giant steps, but easy ones both for him and for his pocket-book, with automation and simplicity still helping him all the way.
Even the first step up that ladder, from the low-priced box camera to its middle-priced, more versatile offspring, is a heady one. Suddenly you're in control. You can change the lens opening, the shutter speed and the focus. You can take pictures under less than sun-bright conditions without flashing a bulb in baby's face. You can stop a racing horse. You can control the focus and get sharper contact prints and enlargements. In the range of cameras that reach from the boxes to the realm of Rolleis and Leicas stretch an enormous variety of new cameras of all types endowed with a variety of new developments that are the talk of the business.
The entrance of the Japanese into the camera world after the Korean war shook the entire camera industry from top to bottom. With their superior Nikons and Canons in the 35-mm. field and their highly competitive lower-priced cameras, the Japanese gave a tremendous boost, not only to quality cameras, but also to the popular-priced field, with features formerly available only on much more expensive instruments. Their competition has caused both German and domestic manufacturers to concentrate on this market. The result is an all-out effort to make picture-taking so easy that no one can resist buying a camera, and the big move, particularly in this middle ground ($25 to $100 cameras), is to automation and simplicity. After a national photo trade show last March, the Wall Street Journal said, "From now on the trend away from the baffling, gadget-laden picture instrument moves into high gear."
One of the most controversial of the new developments is the electric eye. First successfully launched by Bell and Howell in 1957 on an 8-mm. movie camera, it entered the still-camera field in 1958 and 1959 with the arrival of such cameras as the Brownie Starmatic ($34.50) and the Bell and Howell Infallible ($44), both of which use 127 film and are little more than glorified box cameras, with the aperture the only part that shifts with the light. Other cameras are the Agfa Optima ($79.95), a 35-mm. camera with a f/3.9 lens and three-zone focusing; the Kodak Automatic 35 ($84.50) with a f/2.8 lens; and the Revere EE ($139.50), a 127-roll-film camera with a f/2.8 lens.