Tagged: photography

Cabinet card (1863 – early 1920s)

A cabinet card consists of an albumen print (although later cards used matte collodion, gelatin or gelatin bromide paper) mounted on a standard sized card backing of 4¼  by 6½ inches. Like the earlier carte de visite, the card displayed details of the the photographic studio that took the photograph, either below the below the photograph, on the back of the card, or both.

They were introduced in 1863 by a British photographic studio, Windsor & Bridge, and became widely used for portrait photography (initially, they were intended for landscape photography), superseding the smaller carte de visite. Cabinet cards were placed in albums like the carte de visite, although it was a few years before albums specifically for the larger size of cabinet cards became available, or could be placed on stands or in frames for display (often in parlour cabinets, hence the name). They reached a peak in their popularity in the 1880s.

The introduction of the simple and inexpensive Brownie camera by Kodak in 1900, meant home photography became much more affordable and the studio portrait less necessary, but cabinet cards continued to be produced as late as the early 1920s.

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Carte de visite (1854 – 1900s)

A carte de visite consists of a small albumen print photograph on paper mounted on cards of around 2½ by 4 inches. The size of the format was patented by a Parisian photographer, André-Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri in 1854, and soon spread to the UK and the US. The standard size meant people could exchange portraits or even buy celebrity portraits and place them in special carte de visite albums. Cartes de visite could also be sent easily in the post unlike the previous daguerreotype and ambrotype photographs.

Carte de visite photographs were created in a camera that had multiple lenses, allowing several images on a single large glass photographic plate to reduce the cost. Since the negative was on a glass plate (using the wet collodian process) any number of further copies could be made.

In England, carte de visite were very popular, with sales running into hundreds of millions annually, and they also became popular during the American Civil War as soldiers and their families posed for photos. Most images were taken in the studio, though there were some of landscapes.

Sales of cartes de visite reached a peak during the 1860s, but they remained popular until the early 20th century despite the introduction of the larger cabinet card in the 1860s. Earlier examples usually use thinner card and the card had square corners. Rounded corners on the mount were introduced in the 1870s.

The introduction of the simple and inexpensive Brownie camera by Kodak in 1900, meant home photography became much more affordable and the studio portrait less necessary.

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Photo CD (1992 – 2004)

Photo CD was an optical disc system based on the Compact Disc that allowed the storage of up to 100 high quality images in a proprietary format. It was introduced by Kodak in 1992, and the format is defined in the Biege Book standard (one of the Rainbow Books covering Compact Disc standards). Kodak’s Photo CD system also included the scanners for photo processing labs that could take scans from film negatives or slides. Photographers could take exposed film to a Photo CD processing lab, where the film would be developed and scanned to a Photo CD, or they could have previously developed film scanned to Photo CD.

Photo CDs were designed to be played on a dedicated standalone Photo CD player connected to a domestic television, but they could also be played in a CD-i player. It was possible to play them on a computer with suitable software, but at the time CD-ROM drives were still uncommon.

The system was not popular with consumers, though it was more accepted by professional photographers.  Although there were around 140 Photo CD processing labs in the US alone by 2000, by this time domestic scanners enabled consumers to scan their own photographs. In 1999, Kodak had also introduced the more affordable Picture CD system, with images in JPEG format burned onto a recordable CD that also held the software required to the view and edit the images on a computer.

Kodak had completely abandoned the Photo CD business by 2004, but never released the image specifications. However, it has been reverse-engineered so it is possible to convert images to other formats.

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Ambrotype (early 1850s – 1880s)

ambrotypeAn ambrotype (also known as a collodian positive) was an image produced by a type of photographic process first used in the 1850s, succeeding the more expensive daguerreotype, with the image on glass (as opposed to film, paper or metal).

The resulting image is actually a negative, but when viewed against a dark backing (such as black velvet, or a layer of black varnish) or on dark reddish-coloured glass, appears as a positive. The collodian emulsion is usually protected by a layer of varnish and a glass cover (or sometimes put in the case emulsion-side down), and usually supplied in a presentation case, like the earlier daguerreotype. Ambrotype images were sometimes hand-tinted.

The term ‘ambrotype’ is a particular variant of the collodian positive process (patented by James Ambrose Cutting of Boston in 1854) where Canada balsam is used to seal the collodian plate to the cover glass, but the term is now used to describe all collodian positive photographs.

The ambrotype was popular only from around 1855-1865, and after that the process disappeared from high-street studios. It continued to be used by open-air photographers until the 1880s as the process took a short amount of time. It was superseded by the sturdier tintype process, and also by albumen prints on paper.

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Tintype (1850s – 1930s)

Tintype (front)The tintype (also known as a ferrotype) was a type of photographic process invented in the 1850s that involved using a thin sheet of iron (not tin as the name suggests) as the backing for the image (as opposed  to film, paper, or glass).

Tintypes became popular in the 1860s and 1870s, but were used into the 21st century despite growing competition from prints on paper, and are currently enjoying a revival in interest. Tintypes could be taken outdoors provided the equipment needed to prepare and develop them was at hand. The process was often used at carnivals and fairs for taking inexpensive novelty photographs in a short amount of time, and a photographer could prepare, expose, develop and varnish a tintype plate in a few minutes. The resulting photograph was sturdy and did not require mounting.

Tintype photographs succeeded the ambrotype, which had some similarities. Ambrotypes also used the wet collodion process, but on a piece of glass that was dark in colour or painted with a black backing. The iron used in tintypes was also coloured black, and the resulting image was actually a negative that appeared positive.

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Stereoview (1850s – 1920s)

Stereoviews consist of two nearly-identical images, each taken a few inches to the side of the other. When viewed through two lenses set 2½-inches apart, approximately the space between the eyes, the result is the illusion of a three-dimensional image. They generally consist of two photographic images pasted onto a 3½-inch by 7-inch card, although earlier ones were sometimes images on glass.

They became popular first in Europe in the 1850s, followed by the US in the 1860s. Until the 1880s, most of the photographic images were created using wet plate negatives printed on albumen paper. From the 1890s, dry plate negatives printed on gelatin silver paper were produced by large companies, such as Underwood & Underwood in the US, or the London Stereoscope Company in the UK.

They faded in popularity in the 1920s, but the idea behind them was used in later formats like View-Master and Vistascreen.

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Sony Memory Stick / Floppy Disk Adaptor (2000 – 2001)

The Memory Stick / Floppy Disk Adaptor (MSAC-FD2M) was introduced by Sony in 2000 for use in several of its Mavica line of digital cameras, and allowed the cameras to use a Memory Stick as an alternative form of storage.

The adaptor had the same form-factor as a 3.5-inch High-Density floppy disk, and incorporated a slot for a Memory Stick. The adaptor could be used in PCs (it could also be used in Macs, but was read-only) after installing suitable drivers. The adaptor required two lithium batteries to operate.

In the new Mavica cameras, users had a choice of using floppy disks for storage (as a number of previous Mavica models offered), or a Memory Stick with the adaptor which had the advantage of higher capacity (at the time, this was up to 64 MB).

By 2001, Sony had introduced Mavica cameras with dedicated Memory Stick slots, so an adaptor was no longer required.

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Mini CD-R / CD-RW (1990s – )

Mini CD-R (CD-Recordable) and Mini CD-RW (CD-Rewritable) are 8cm versions of CD-R/CD-RW. They can hold anything from 156 MB (18 minutes of music) to 210 MB (24 minutes of music).

They can be written to in spindle-based or tray-loading CD-R / CD-RW burners (and read in spindle-based or tray-loading Compact Disc players) but there were also some devices that were specifically designed around the Mini CD-R/CD-RW.

One of these was a number of models in the Sony Mavica line of digital cameras. The first of these was the MVC-CD1000 released in 2000, which could record to Mini CD-Rs. Later models in the line (the last of which was released in 2003) could use either Mini CD-R or Mini CD-RW.

There was also a portable Mini CD-R burner called the Imation RipGo! that was introduced in 2001. This could burn MP3 files to disc, and also play them back. Sony also introduced a Mini CD burner (called the PhotoVault), allowing pictures to be saved from a Memory Stick, USB flash drive, or camera with a USB connection.

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Fujifilm Instax Mini (1998 – )

Instax Mini is a type of instant film, introduced by Fujifilm in 1998, that produces credit-card size photographs. A larger version, originally called Instax, but usually referred to now as Instax Wide was introduced in 1999.

Like the Polaroid SX-70 film system, Instax Mini is exposed through the rear of the photograph doing away with the need for a reflex mirror to reverse the image. Fujifilm also put the pressure plate springs and electrical power source in the camera body rather than the film pack, making the Instax system more economical than similar Polaroid film. Instax Mini film has a speed of ISO 800, and each pack contains 10 photographs.

Instax film was marketed with Polaroid’s permission and the Instax system was even sold in some markets by Polaroid itself. After Polaroid ceased production of instant films in 2008, the Instax system was the only integral instant film system in production until The Impossible Project launched their own in 2010.

Sales of instant film are rising, and cameras such as the Instax Mini 8 are outselling many models of digital camera.

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Vistascreen (1955 – 1960s)

Vistascreen was a system for viewing photographs or illustrations in 3D, similar in concept to the earlier Stereoview. Each card consists of two images at slightly different angles that when viewed together through a special viewer appear as a single stereoscopic image.

The Vistascreen Co Ltd was formed in the UK in 1955. Although the competing View-Master system was already available at this time, the content of most of the View-Master reels was of limited interest in the UK. Most of the original sets of black and white Vistascreen photographs were taken by photographer Stanley Long on a 1920s Rollei Heidoscope stereo camera. Picture cards were supplied in packs of 10 cards, and eventually almost 300 Vistascreen sets were produced. The bulk of Vistascreen card sales were as souvenirs at UK tourist attractions. A small number of glamour photos were also available by mail order.

The original Vistascreen viewers were manufactured in ivory coloured plastic, with plastic lenses, and were designed to fold flat.

In the 1960s, the Vistascreen business was sold to the Weetabix cereal company, and the viewers had the Weetabix logo added. Single cards were given away with Weetabix cereal in a promotion that lasted for a number of years and featured 6 different sets of 25 cards; Working Dogs, Thrills, British Cars, British Birds, Animals and Our Pets. Viewers could be purchased by mail order directly from the Weetabix factory. The original Vistascreen picture cards had a glossy, photographic finish and were of a much higher quality than those given away by Weetabix, which were made from printed card.

The Vistascreen system was cloned and made available in some other markets under different names (such as True-to-Life View-A-Scope in Australia).

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