The Bigger Picture: The PONF Modular System

If you’ve been following PONF for a while, you already know that we set out to build an extraordinary hybrid camera. Our plans have come a long way since the beginning of the year and we wanted to give you a comprehensive update. We’re pleased to announce that our vision has recently expanded in dynamic, innovative ways with the support of new partners. 

More Than Just A Camera

As all types of photographers know, no matter what you’re doing with photographs, pressing the shutter button is only the beginning. We aspire to create an entire PONF Modular System, a bespoke ecosystem of supporting accessories and hardware to bring your entire photography workflow together. The PONF Modular System starts with a modular camera body with a film back and digital back, as we have always planned. The mechanical film back will allow one to take advantage of all of the visual characteristics of film or swap (film) backs mid-roll should you have two of them in your PONF System. Think of your favorite film camera, custom built exactly the way you want.

The digital back will capture images on a sensor, but beyond that, it will contain a powerful microcomputer for storing, processing, and sharing images. Think of all the things you do once you capture an image. Maybe you use a card reader to transfer data to a computer, on which you edit the photos using software and share them to some platform using the Internet. The PONF Camera’s Digital Back brings all of that into one device. As mentioned before, the camera will easily be able to connect with the rest of the tools you need in your workflow: a monitor for larger scale viewing, with a tablet and keyboard for retouching. You’ll have ample image storage within the camera itself, and images will back up wirelessly to the cloud thanks to internet connectivity. Because of the programmable and adaptable nature of the PONF System, the limit of the technology is your imagination. As the Internet of Things grows to include more devices that we use every day, it makes sense that a camera should join them. 

Partnerships Beyond Photography

These new developments would not be possible without the support of our partners. The PONF Fellowship is growing. Each of our partner companies believes in what PONF is designing as the future of imaging technology. We are proud to announce that HP (yes, that HP!) has joined our efforts as a production partner in creating imaging solutions, and will be supporting PONF on key aspects of our manufacturing. Their 3D printing technologies will allow us to make the camera in a host of materials: from metals, to wood, to resins and plastics, and beyond. This means really positive things for the look and feel of PONF. 3D printing will also greatly improve the quality and speed of PONF Camera production when it comes to components and accessories alike.

materials
Potential materials for the PONF Modular System

The second partner which is particularly relevant here is our acceptance into the Inception program with Nvidia. Nvidia is a renowned technology company and their Inception program is an accelerator for startups making innovations in the fields of AI and deep learning. You may have wondered how drones and robotics will come in to play – it’s with Nvidia that PONF will be creating imaging solutions of the future, a smart camera capable of working in tandem with self driving/flying devices, and of intelligently categorizing, editing, or otherwise automatically working with your images. This is an integration of photography and IT as has never been available in the past.

Imaging Solutions Like Never Before

But what does this all really mean? Many ideas that we are looking to execute have never before been accomplished before. Yet through dedicated R&D and the support of technologists and designers from around the world, PONF aims to have it all. AI and robotics in photography will allow the camera to not override, but enhance your vision. Can you imagine if your camera had some knowledge of your favorite compositions and color profiles, to create folders of likely selects while you’re shooting? A camera that was wirelessly tethered and sent images directly to a smart TV or monitor for full size viewing in studio? A camera that was able to track motion and recognize pattern on its own? We’ve been imaging this and more, and that’s exactly the kind of things that AI in photography will make possible.

What do you think? What are the futuristic functions that you can dream of your camera having? We’d like to know! Let us know in the comments or complete the PONF Multiback Camera Survey here. You can keep up with project updates by signing up for our newsletter, or following on Instagram and Facebook.

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The PONF “Tell Your Friends & Test The Camera” Contest

Dearest Fellows, we talk a lot about our revolutionary camera. We imagine by now, you’ve become quite eager to test it for yourself. This is your chance! We’ll be producing our first prototypes soon, and want to let you, our community, in on this excitement. If you help us spread the word about the PONF Multiback Camera, you could be the first lucky tester!

tell your friends

Starting today until the end of June, we will be having a contest to see who can help us spread the word about PONF the farthest. To reward the winner who tells the most friends, we will make you our honorary First Testing Fellow. You’ll be one of the first to work with a prototype of the camera, letting us know your feedback and sharing your results with the PONF Community and the world. It’s an exciting opportunity for anyone who has been following the project to be a part of the development and feedback process.

It’s easy to enter! First, visit the Tell A Friend, Test The Camera page and fill the form, letting us know how you learned of the project, and let us know anyone you’d like us to tell. Each friend whose email you share will count as an entry towards the grand prize. Then to tell more friends, it’s as easy as this: just spread the word about the PONF Camera by sharing the link. Your friends will enter their names with you in the “Who told you” section for an additional entry, and then they can spread the world to anyone they know who might be interested in this camera which will truly be more than a camera.

Tell the whole world! Everyone you know, not just the photographers. PONF is a powerful imaging tool for the curious, the experimenters, the computer programmers, the artists, the bloggers, fashionistas, trendsetters, the innovators, and of course, your friend that always has the latest tech.

What vision will our winner capture and share? How will unique imaging solutions fit into their lives? We’re excited to see! Check back in a few days for the leaderboard, to see how you rank in the contest. Good Luck!

History Lesson: Wet and Dry Collodion, The Precursors to Film (pt. V)

By Gregg McNeill

In this series, we explore the history of photography in terms of image-making methods and various technologies available to photographers at different periods of time, leading up to the present host of available ways to make a photography. It wasn’t always os easy! In the previous entry, we were introduced to wet plate processes, and now move on to dry plate, the precursor to film. Photography is getting easier and easier!

Albumen prints (invented in 1850 by Louis Désiré Blanquart-Evrard) were made by floating a piece of paper on a solution of albumen, or egg white and salt, allowed to dry, floated again on a strong solution of silver nitrate and allowed to dry again, making them UV sensitive. This paper was placed in a contact frame with a glass negative and exposed to sunlight. Once the desired effect is achieved, the print is fixed and toned. This was cheap and it was quick. As a result, anyone of any income level, could afford a photograph. When traveling, if you didn’t return from an exotic locale with a photograph, you weren’t really there.

Castle, Kenilworth, Frederick Scott Archer, 1851_ Albumen silver print.jpgCastle, Kenilworth, Frederick Scott Archer, 1851; Albumen silver print

Shortly after the invention of the Ambrotype, came the Tintype, or Ferrotype. This was a thin sheet of iron with a baked on black enamel coating called japan. The process was the same as the Ambrotype, but yielded a one-off positive image. These were extremely popular, easy to make and, once varnished, very durable. Modern tintypes use trophy plate aluminium.

Tintypes were extremely popular during the American Civil War and many of those images survive today.

Isaac_Yost_of_Company_C,_118th_Regiment_Illinois_Infantry,_standing_in_uniform_with_bayoneted_musket_and_revolver_LCCN2010648383.jpgIsaac Yost of Company C, 118th Regiment Illinois Infantry, Standing In Uniform with Bayoneted Musket and Revolver

Frederick Scott Archer gave away this process free to the world and never made any money from it. He did, however, on 24 February 1854, take out a patent on a Wet Collodion Camera.

Archer Camera.jpgArcher Camera

The camera was akin to the kamra-e-faoree, or Afghan Box Camera. The chemistry was held inside of the camera itself in small trays. The photographer could coat, sensitise, expose and develop an image inside the camera by looking through a viewing window and placing their arms through sleeves attached to the side of the camera. A yellow glass window on the top acted as a “safelight”. Fixing could be done outside the camera, in view of the sitter.

Henry Fox Talbot believed that the wet collodion process infringed on his Calotype patent. He spent most of the rest of his life filing lawsuits against anyone and everyone. One photographer he went after was named Henderson. The Journal of the Photographic Society in June, 1854 wrote about the suit this way; “Talbot has as much right to prevent Henderson, or anyone else, taking portraits by the photographic or collodion processes, as he has to prevent Sir John Herschel from looking at the moon through a telescope”. It was only a matter of time before he went after Archer. Talbot’s lawsuit against Archer would come to nothing.

Frederick Scott Archer died penniless on 1 May, 1857.

On the 1st May, 2010, the members of ‘The Collodion Collective’ (Carl Radford, John Brewer and Quinn Jacobson), unveiled a marker near Archer’s grave. The original Archer family headstone was also discovered and reinstated by them.

FrederickScottArcherMemorial.jpg

The wet collodion process has experienced a renaissance in the last 10-15 years. You can find workshops in the US, UK and Europe. If you are interested in learning this process, I highly recommend taking a workshop, as the hands on training with an experienced practitioner will be less expensive (and far less frustrating) in the long run than wasting chemistry and materials trying to learn on your own.

In 1856, Richard Hill Norris, took out a patent for his Dry Collodion Plates. He found that covering the collodion emulsion with gelatine or gum arabic would preserve its light sensitivity. Photographers could now go out into the field to shoot and not have to carry chemistry or portable darkrooms with them. This meant that they had to carry multiple plate holders, but they could be loaded and processed at their leisure. This made the process an order of magnitude easier and the popularity of photography soared.

On 8, September 1871, The British Journal of Photography published Richard Maddox’s process for gelatin dry plate emulsion. This spelled the beginning of the end of the mass use of the wet collodion process. However, the process would still be in use in the graphics and printing business as well as at tintype photo booths at carnivals, fairs and amusement parks well into the 1960’s.

George Eastman developed a plate coating machine in 1879 and opened the Eastman Film and Dry Plate Company. This greatly reduced the cost of the photographic process and opened it up to many would-be photographers.

Eastman Dry Plates.jpg

There are very few contemporary makers of Dry Plates, but the process is still being practiced and taught.

Box Of Plates.jpeg

Dry Plate would be the most popular photographic process for another 10 years, until George Eastman revolutionized the world in 1888 with a device called the “Kodak” camera, introducing the phrase “You press the button and we do the rest.”

Sources:

http://www.frederickscottarcher.com/
http://www.samackenna.co.uk/fsa/thechemist.html
http://www.historiccamera.com/cgi-bin/librarium/pm.cgi?action=display&login=fredrickscottarcher
http://www.samackenna.co.uk/fsa/FSArcher.html
http://www.edinphoto.org.uk/1_early/1_early_photography_-_processes_-_wet_collodion.htm
http://www.edinphoto.org.uk/1_early/1_early_photography_-_processes_-_wet_collodion_-_thomas_rodger_00.htm
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Scott_Archer
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis-Nicolas_M%C3%A9nard
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collodion_process
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collodion
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ambrotype
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tintype
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dry_plate
http://www.thevictorianphotographer.com/workshops/
http://www.johncoffer.com/
https://www.topshitphotography.com/
http://www.jonathanstead.com/index.html
http://www.streetlevelphotoworks.org/course/dry-plate
http://thelightfarm.com/cgi-bin/htmlgen.py?content=PictorioGraphica
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photographic_film
http://www.earlyphotography.co.uk/site/gloss10.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_photography
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6JDfdHWBVG4
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albumen_print
https://www.etsy.com/shop/Pictoriographica
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renaissance_Wax
Reilly, James M. The Albumen & Salted Paper Book: The history and practice of photographic printing, 1840-1895. Light Impressions Corporation. Rochester, 1980
A Silver Salted Gelatine Emulsion, Richard L. Maddox, British Journal of Photography, September 8, 1871

What Would YOU Do With A Fully Programmable Camera?

PONF set out last year to make the best camera for everyone. There are so many cameras in the world, each one perhaps uniquely suited to different types of photography and the endless amount of subject matter on the globe. Even if they had identical camera tastes, would a wedding photographer need the same type of camera as a medical research photographer in the lab? Perhaps, but perhaps not. They undoubtedly have different goals for their images.

This question of customization not only refers to the physical form of your camera, but the way the camera’s digital back is configured from a software perspective. You know the PONF Camera will be a film and digital hybrid, allowing you to shoot film and digital seamlessly by interchanging the backs. Beyond simply being modular, the PONF Camera will be customizable thanks to the Linux operating system. What does a custom camera mean? Maybe you’ve never even considered the idea.

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Or maybe you have. In our Internet of Things World, more and more objects which before had to be connected with cables or tethered to computers in order to communicate data are now Wifi Enabled. This opens a whole new world of technology, so now, we’re setting the bar high for not only a camera which has Internet of Things connectivity, but also uses it to the fullest. Transferring files to cloud storage wirelessly? Special in-camera scanning software to digitize your negatives? The ability to control peripheral equipment like audio gear or drones? That’s just the beginning. And, it’s only the ideas we’ve had, and we aren’t the photographers PONF is creating the camera for…YOU are!

We’ve chosen Linux as the operating system of the microcomputer which drives the digital back because it’s easy to approach from a programming standpoint. Just like PONF has been an Open Project through the development phase, so it will stay, allowing any programmer the opportunity to give the camera their own personal touch. If you’re not a programmer, it’s no problem. Our team will be happy to consult with you on your needs, to create menus and functionality according to your ideas and specifications. That’s the magic of uniting programming, IoT, and photography. Anything is possible!

So, we want to know, how would you use your PONF Camera’s programmability? What custom functions would you teach your camera? What extra access? We’re excited to hear what our brilliant community can dream up!

Tell us your ideas in the comments below, and be sure to follow PONF Camera progress on our Facebook, Instagram, and by signing up for our newsletter.

What’s The PONF Configurator Tool, Anyway?

By Katherine Phipps

BONUS: More Tech Specs Revealed!

We’ve said time and time again that the PONF Camera is completely customizable, and perhaps you wondered at some point what that meant. It’s an interesting concept, and perhaps one that doesn’t exist in cameras so much as it does in computers. Actually, that we can think of, there has not been a fully customizable camera so far.

For example, say you (or more specifically, me, a freelance creative working on all types of projects) need a super fast processor and great screen resolution for image processing, but you could cut a bit of cost by choosing a slightly smaller SSD in your laptop. Each component of the laptop is selected according to one’s personal needs. Of course, there are “popular setups” which could be a combination of features and settings that a broad group of people would get a lot of use from. We plan to have something like that too.

IMG_0157.jpg

So now, returning to the conversation about cameras, imagine the things that you do and don’t like about cameras that you do and don’t like. If you’ve used a lot of different gear (especially older cameras, and larger ones) you might have a few more preferences than someone who has less tactile experience. One of the most important decisions you’ll make is which lens mount your camera will have. From there, you will also be able to choose the size, body shape, weight, material finish, location of strap lugs, and more. And that’s just for the physical appearance!

Lens Mounts Canon (FL/FD, EF/EF-S), Pentax K, Nikon F, Sony A, M42 Sony E, Micro 4/3 M39 / LSM
Format/ Body Size Reflex: 35mm body with grip (long flange focal distance)  Mirrorless: 35mm small body (i.e. with flange focal distance shorter than rangefinder)  Rangefinder: 35mm mid body (flange focal distance shorter than SLRs)

IMG_20170929_231543.jpg

The digital back will be much more fully customizable for those who have greater technology needs, starting with the size of the sensor. For those unfamiliar, the larger the size of the sensor, the greater the area resolution of the photograph in its uncompressed form, which ultimately leads to a photograph of greater detail. It’s exactly the same as the difference between 35mm and medium format film. One isn’t superior, but does have objectively greater resolution.

Sensor Options: SONY APS-C SONY Full Frame Medium format 50MP (coming 2019!) Medium format 100MP (coming 2019!)

Along with resolution one will be able to determine the processing speed of their camera. A range of frames per second (FPS) will serve more professional and high speed shooters if one desires to use their camera this way.

FPS: APS-C Entry level 1 FPS Top Tier 3 FPS
FPS: Full Frame Entry level 1.5 FPS Top Tier 5 FPS

For other particular use cases, the custom functions might come from the software side rather than hardware. Say you plan to use your PONF digital back to digitize (scan) your negatives using a lightbox. We could create a program within the digital back to make sure an action easy, correcting exposure and perhaps even creating color profiles from within the digital back itself. Maybe you need your digital back (with its wifi capabilities) to be able to operate a drone. We can do this. Imagine the possibilities!

IMG_0536.jpg

So, no matter what you’ll use the camera for, we can help make it the best camera for the job, and something that’s built to last. What will you use your camera for? Comment below!

The Many of Uses For Cameras

By Katherine Phipps

Remember cameras?

Real cameras. Because our quest is to produce a camera for all, we at PONF spend a lot of time thinking about the uses of cameras. Before smartphones were packing imaging sensors as sophisticated as my first DSLR and making simulated bokeh, it seemed to be a lot more common that people every now and then would get themselves a new camera. Or maybe they’d get one handed down from their family. Cameras used to be built to last, silently clicking frames to freeze moments of time as it passed by.

aperture-black-and-white-brand-trademark-236598.jpg

A Time Before Ubiquity

I remember an interesting intersection of time when people had all types of cameras. People had point and shoots of varying cool automatic capabilities. Pro photogs had cameras with big battery grips and lenses like soup cans, many elements of heavy glass, artsy photographers had beautiful view cameras and old, mechanical 35mm and medium format cameras that had silently witnessed the 60s and 70s. People had Polaroids, and didn’t say “that still exists?!” in amazement when you went to snap a photo.

artist-camera-cameras-6182.jpg

Enter the “camera phone” which seemed to for some period of time distract us from the wonders of having a dedicated camera, so much so that to “non-photographers” grow accustomed to shooting photos and now the people taking pictures who never had a dedicated camera perhaps outweighs the number of people who did have a “real camera” and carried it around for some period of their lives, and far less who do so on a regular basis today.

There’s a Million Reasons  To Carry A Camera

So here is a list of all of the uses for photography, in case you were wondering how you might use your new PONF camera. We are excited to help people remember cameras. Do you have another idea for a way to use a camera? Write us a comment with your own ideas below!

  1. Taking photos of your friends
  2. Taking photos of your family
  3. Taking photos of your dog or cat
  4. Taking photos of all the dogs
  5. Taking photos of beautiful light
  6. Wedding photography
  7. Art photography
  8. Landscape photography
  9. Travel photography
  10. News photography
  11. Documenting injustice
  12. Documenting kindness
  13. Documenting everything
  14. Sharing perspective
  15. Wildlife photography
  16. Astrophotography (photographs of the night sky)
  17. Photography for research
  18. Photography for forensics
  19. Photography for education (literally, pictures of Everything!)
  20. Photography for advertising
  21. Photos of products
  22. Food photography
  23. Stock photography
  24. Fashion photography
  25. Historical photographs (the moments are happening right now, folks!)
  26. Medical photography
  27. Architectural photography
  28. Industrial photography
  29. Interior photography
  30. Photo Booths
  31. Event Photography
  32. Concert Photography
  33. Album Art
  34. The Yearbook
  35. Personal photography (a record of your own intimate time and place)
  36. Look around. Tell us the next best use for your camera.

PONF is the Everything Camera.

So there you have it, folks. So many reasons to carry a camera, so many opportunities to look up and around, away from your smartphone. You’ll notice so much more of what’s happening around you, if you only open your eyes. The PONF Camera Systems seek to put all of the possibilities at your fingertips. No matter what your camera will witness on the day to day, we are here to build it perfectly for you.

Stock Photography sourced from Pexels.com

History Lesson: The Calotype and the Dawn of the Paper Processes (pt. III)

Written by Gregg McNeill. 

In this series, we explore the history of photography in terms of image-making methods and various technologies available to photographers at different periods of time. In part one, we explored the origins of the very first photographIn part two, we explored the rise of the Daguerreotype and the popularization of photography.

In 1839, Louis Daguerre was pronounced ‘The Inventor of Photography’. This did not sit well with many others, Nicéphore Niépce’s son, Isidore, for one. He was furious that his father’s work wasn’t even mentioned by Daguerre and spent the rest of his life telling anyone who would listen that it was, in fact, his father, who really invented photography.

There were several other people working simultaneously and independently of each other to perfect a fixed photographic image.

Julia_Margaret_Cameron - John Herschel April, 1867.jpg
Julia Margaret Cameron – John Herschel April, 1867

In 1819, the polymath scientist, Sir John Herschel discovered that hyposulfite of soda (now known as sodium thiosulfate, or “hypo”, common photographic fixer) dissolved silver salts.

Herschel discovered what would become the platinum printing process in 1832, based on his research of the light sensitivity of platinum salts. Around this same time, he also invented other lesser-known photographic processes such as The Chrysotype using colloidal gold as a means of creating an image and the Anthotype (also known as Phytotype) process that used photosensitive material from plants.

In 1839, he shared his sodium thiosulfate discovery with both Louis Daguerre and his friend William Henry Fox Talbot, giving a solution to the vexing problem of stabilizing photographic images to permanence.

Also in 1839, Herschel produced the first photograph on glass. This photo depicted his father’s telescope in Slough, near London. Herschel’s other contributions to photography include coining the term Photography and he was the first person to apply the terms Positive and Negative to photography.

Herschel Telescope First Photograph on Glass, 3 September, 1839
Herschel Telescope First Photograph on Glass, 3 September, 1839

In 1842, Herschel invented the Cyanotype process as a way to reproduce notes and diagrams. (This process was used well into the 20th century for engineering and architectural blueprints.). Cyanotypes have an interesting characteristic in that they will fade under prolonged exposure to sunlight but can often be regenerated by placing them in darkness for a while.

In 1843, Botanist and Photographer Anna Atkins used this technique to produce a book of Cyanotype photograms (objects placed directly onto sensitized paper and exposed leaving a negative impression) called, Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions.

Anna_Atkins_algae_cyanotype 1843
Anna Atkins, Algae Cyanotype, 1843

In May 1839, three months before the big announcement of Daguerre’s invention, a clerk in the French Ministry of Finance, named Hippolyte Bayard, had shown French physicist (and director of the Paris Observatory), Dominique François Arago his own photographic images made with a positive paper process. He had sensitized paper with Silver chloride and inserted the wet paper into his camera for exposure; the paper was then developed out in potassium iodide to yield a positive image. This image was fixed with potassium bromide. Bayard was given a small pension to keep quiet about his process. His photograph, Self Portrait as a Drowned Man is widely considered the very first political protest photograph.

Self Portrait as a Drowned Man, Hippolyte Bayard, 1840, Courtesy of Societé Francais de la Photographie and the George Eastman House, Rochester, NY
Self Portrait as a Drowned Man, Hippolyte Bayard, 1840, Courtesy of Societé Français de la Photographie and the George Eastman House, Rochester, NY

Upon hearing the announcement of Daguerre’s invention, an Englishman named William Henry Fox Talbot rushed to The Royal Institution on January 29th to proclaim that he had been working on a photographic process he called Photogenic Drawing, since 1834, presenting several images he had made. Two weeks later he presented his process to The Royal Society. Talbot’s process couldn’t have been more different, however.

John Moffat, William Henry Fox Talbot With Camera and lens, 1864

(Right: John Moffat, William Henry Fox Talbot With Camera and Lens, 1864) 

Talbot’s Salted Paper or Photogenic Drawing process used fine-grained writing paper sensitized with a weak silver chloride solution, then brushed with a strong solution of silver nitrate. This created a coating of silver chloride, which darkened when exposed to light. The exposure times were often an hour or two for this process, producing a paper negative. This is referred to as a “Printing Out” process, meaning that the image is fully visible when the exposure is completed. (This is different from a “Developing Out” process where the latent exposed image is invisible until it is developed. Daguerreotypes are a developing out process.)

What was so revolutionary about Talbot’s process was that photographs were now easily reproducible. To copy a Daguerreotype, you had to re-photograph it. By contrast, with a paper negative, the process was fairly simple. First, you would wax the paper negative to make it translucent. Second, you would place the waxed paper negative on top of a piece of sensitized paper and place that into a contact frame. This frame was placed out in sunlight to expose.  Once the image was developed to satisfaction, it was processed as normal.

In 1841, Talbot perfected his Calotype process (sometimes referred to as Talbotype). The term Calotype comes from the Greek καλός (kalos), “beautiful”, and τύπος (tupos), “impression”.

WHF Talbot The Open Door (wide shadow) April, 1844
W.H.F. Talbot, The Open Door (Wide Shadow) April, 1844

This was a developing out process using silver iodide. The Calotype Process brought exposure times down from hours to a few minutes in bright sun. The process starts with brushing a high quality writing paper with silver nitrate and allowed to dry. The paper is then soaked in potassium iodide (This formed silver iodide on the paper) and allowed to dry again. When the paper was needed, the silver iodide paper was brushed with “gallo-nitrate of silver” (silver nitrate, acetic acid and gallic acid) and placed in a dark slide to be exposed. The latent image was developed by washing the negative in gallo-nitrate of silver and then stabilized by either a rinse of potassium bromide or fixed in a hot solution of sodium thiosulfate.

Contemporary Calotypists are using several different methods to make their images. Each method has its followers and my research has shown that this process is not easy, but once mastered, produces beautiful pictures. Looking at the Flickr gallery of The Calotype Society you can see the potential of the process.

Edinburgh_calotype_club_1_53_maitland_montgomery_tennent

(Left: Edinburgh Calotype Club, Maitland Montgomery Tennent)

The Calotype is a very different image from the Daguerreotype. The Calotype is a paper process, so the grain and texture of the paper become part of the image, lessening detail and giving the overall image a more painterly quality. This was seen as much more desirable for portraits and artistic landscapes. Because of this, Talbot is often seen as the first photographic artist. His monograph called The Pencil of Nature is regarded as the “first photographically illustrated book to be commercially published”. It was published in instalments and contains his own account of the invention of the Calotype process; as well as several insights into the making of images and their use outside of being pieces of art. You can view and search Talbot’s vast collection of Calotype negatives and prints here.

The_Pencil_of_Nature cover
The Pencil Of Nature cover

The United Kingdom and Scotland, in particular, was a locus for Calotype photography. The Edinburgh Calotype Club, founded in 1842, was the world’s first photography society. They had many distinguished members and their body of work, Pencils of Light, is still available to view, in person, at The National Library of Scotland.

The Calotype studio of Hill and Adamson at Rock House in Edinburgh, produced some of the first social documentary photography with their images of the fisherfolk of Newhaven. The work of Hill and Adamson can be seen at The National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh.

Hill and Adamson Fisherman and boys 1843 (right: Hill and Adamson Fisherman and boys 1843)

Many historians believe that the invention of the Calotype marks the real birth of Photography in the mainstream consciousness. It’s repeatability and relative ease to produce (when compared to Daguerreotypes) and the overall mass appeal of the images themselves really brough photography to the masses. There was, however, still a desire for the amazing detail of the Daguerreotype and that is where Fredrick Scott Archer came in.

Next up:  Wet Plate Collodion: The Precursor of Film

Sources:

Talbot, William Henry Fox. Pencil of Nature Published by Longman, Green and Longmans, London 1844

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/33447/33447-h/33447-h.html

William Henry Fox Talbot Collection http://foxtalbot.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/search

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/33447/33447-h/33447-h.html

https://digital.nls.uk/pencilsoflight/history.htm

http://www.edinphoto.org.uk/1_edin/1_edinburgh_calotype_club_0.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edinburgh_Calotype_Club

http://www.edinphoto.org.uk/1_early/1_early_photography_-_equipment_catalogue_1856_chemicals_for_the_calotype_process.htm

http://www.foxtalbot.dmu.ac.uk/

http://special.lib.gla.ac.uk/exhibns/month/Feb2007.html

http://fourtoes.co.uk/iblog/strines-journal-calotype/

Hunt, Robert. A Manual of Photography Published by John Griffin & Co. Glasgow 1853

https://www.flickr.com/groups/1384661@N22/pool/

http://fourtoes.co.uk/iblog/strines-journal-calotype/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anna_Atkins

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Herschel

James, Christopher. The Book of Alternative Photographic Processes. Cengage Learning, 2016.

Atkins, Anna (1985). Sun Gardens: Victorian Photograms. With text by Larry J. Schaaf. New York: Aperture. ISBN 0-89381-203-X.

http://www.mikeware.co.uk/mikeware/New_Cyanotype_Process.html

https://www.photrio.com/forum/threads/hippolyte-bayard-direct-positive-process.46274/

History Lesson: Daguerreotypes and the Popularization of Photography (pt.II)

Written by Gregg McNeill

In this series, we explore the history of photography in terms of image-making methods and various technologies available to photographers at different periods of time. In part one, we explored the origins of the very first photograph.

In our previous entry we looked at Nicéphore Niépce and his Heliograph, View from the Window at Le Gras. This entry focuses on his business partner Louis Daguerre.

Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre was born on 18 November 1787 in Cormeilles-en-Parisis, Val-d’Oise, France. He was trained as an Architect, but was known for his skill at theatrical illusion and diorama painting. His fascination began when he used a camera obscura to aid in the painting of his large Diorama Paintings for his theater. When he partnered with Nicéphore Niépce, his mind was always on the money-making potential of the medium of photography.

 

Portrait of Louis_Daguerre, 1844 by Jean-Baptiste Sabatier-Blot .jpgPortrait of Louis Daguerre, 1844 by Jean-Baptiste Sabatier-Blot, George Eastman House

In 1833 Nicéphore Niépce suddenly died, leaving all of his notes to Louis Daguerre. Daguerre would all but abandon the bitumen-based photographic process they had been working on in favour of a silver-based process that he had been experimenting with, separately from Niépce.

Daguerre’s process was as follows:

A silver-plated copper sheet was polished to as perfect a mirror finish as possible. This first step was essential to making a good-looking photograph. Getting a perfect finish by hand, could take up to an hour. First, rottenstone, a fine polishing abrasive, is applied with a hide-covered buff, then jeweller’s rouge. Lampblack is then applied, usually with a velvet-covered buff. Applying nitric acid, to remove any remaining matter, finished the polishing process.

The polished plate is then sensitized in a darkroom using a fuming box:

Stephen_day_fuming_box.jpgStephen Day Fuming Box

Here is an in-depth look at a modern fuming box. The plate was placed into the fuming box carriage, and then slid over a dish containing iodine crystals. The plate is fumed until a yellow tinge appears. This produces a coating of silver iodide.

The exposure time was several minutes. This made the first portraits quite an ordeal, with the sitter clamped into all manner of metal braces to prevent movement. It was later found that an additional fuming over bromine fumes, followed by a second shorter exposure to iodine fumes greatly increased sensitivity, reducing exposure times to as little as 30 seconds in full sun.

Once exposed, the still invisible latent image was developed in the darkroom, over fumes of heated mercury. Even though the toxic nature of mercury exposure was well known, precautions were rarely taken. Modern practitioners of this process use fume hoods and other laboratory-grade safety equipment.

The much safer Becquerel process of Daguerreotype development involves sensitizing the plate only to iodine fumes. Then, after exposure the plate is developed in sunlight using a red filter to cover the plate. This red-filtered “sun bath” intensifies the latent image to visibility, as if the image were exposed for several hours.

Back in the darkroom, the fixing of the image was originally done with a hot saturated salt solution, but this was almost immediately replaced with a bath of sodium thiosulfate, the common fixer we still use in film development today.

After drying, the image on the plate was basically a coating of fine dust and very, very delicate. A gold chloride solution was pooled onto the surface of the plate, which was heated from underneath then drained, rinsed and dried. This gilding gave the image a warmer, more pleasing tone and made the coating a little more resilient. Still, the image was subject to tarnishing from exposure to the air, so great care had to be exercised to maintain the image’s integrity.

The finished Daguerreotype plate had to be encased in an airtight container. A matt was placed over the plate and covered with a pane of glass, bound together and sealed with strips of paper coated with Gum Arabic. This was then fixed into a protective case.

Daguerreotypes were a one-off process, meaning that the plate that was produced was a one-of-a-kind with no negative. They could only be copied by re-photographing them. This was a service that many studios offered but it was costly.

With the help of French physicist (and director of the Paris Observatory), Dominique François Arago, Daguerre would present an overview of his process to the French Academy of Sciences on January 7, 1839. The details were kept secret, with viewings of his plates only at his studio and under strict supervision.  The French government agreed to buy the rights to his process in exchange for a lifetime pension for himself and Niépce’s son, Isidore, as per a previous agreement between Daguerre and Niépce.

On August 19, 1839 the French government presented the Daguerreotype process to the world for free, as a gift. (Despite this a patent agent, acting on Daguerre’s behalf, applied for a patent in England and Scotland just five days previous, entitled “A New and Improved Method of Obtaining the Spontaneous Reproduction of all the Images Received in the Focus of the Camera Obscura”. Photographers in England and Scotland would now have to pay a license fee to use the Daguerreotype process. For this reason the process wasn’t widely adopted in the UK.) Louis Daguerre would also retain the patents on the camera and other equipment used to make Daguerreotype images.

Daguerreotype studios quickly opened in every major city across the globe.

For the next 15-20 years Daguerreotypes would be the most popular and ubiquitous method for image capture. Nearly 5 million plates were created in this time.

Daguerre himself created what is believed to be the first photograph of a person. In his image, Boulevard du Temple, in the lower left corner you can see a man getting his shoes shined. The exposure time is thought to be somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes, long enough for the camera to capture the unknown men and render the moving traffic in the street invisible.

Boulevard_du_Temple, 1838 by Louis Daguerre.jpgBoulevard du Temple, 1838 by Louis Daguerre

This image is thought to be the oldest daguerreotype portrait, taken by John William Draper, of his sister Dorothy Catherine Draper.

Portrait of Dorothy Catherine Draper, 1839 by John William Draper.jpgPortrait of Dorothy Catherine Draper, 1839 by John William Draper

The first self-portrait was taken by Philadelphia photographer Robert Cornelius in October or November of 1839. He wrote on the back “The first light picture ever taken”.

Self Portrait, 1839 by Robert Cornelius.jpgSelf Portrait, 1839 by Robert Cornelius

It’s difficult for us to understand the impact that Daguerre’s photographs had on the public. For the first time in history, people could see places they could never visit and images of someone long dead. The best way to experience a Daguerreotype is to hold it. Alison Nordström, a photographic curator, called Daguerreotypes “Mirrors With a Memory”. This is very apt. The image is both a negative and a positive at the same time, depending on the angle at which it is viewed. The image appears to lift off the plate, with the viewer often reflected in it.  

A properly exposed and focused Daguerreotype has nearly infinite detail, exceeding even modern digital methods. One can get lost in the image examining every tiny detail and staring into the eyes of someone from the past.

Daguerre had introduced photography to the populace and photographs were being made all over the world, for those that could afford them. The process was complicated, cumbersome and somewhat dangerous but photography was gaining popularity.

Next: The Calotype and other paper processes make the photograph repeatable and easier.

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daguerreotype

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Daguerre

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_photography

James, Christopher. The Book of Alternative Photographic Processes. Cengage Learning, 2016.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d932Q6jYRg8

http://www.alternativephotography.com/becquerel-daguerreotype/

https://goo.gl/cfqRiV

http://www.cdags.org/wp-content/uploads/HowImadeDaguerreotypes1972.pdf

https://agno3solution.wordpress.com/2015/03/20/daguerreotype-fuming-box-ver-3-3-march-2015/

http://www.daguerreotypes.co.uk/Equipment.htm

http://www.alistairscott.com/daguerre/

http://www.edinphoto.org.uk/1_early/1_early_photography_-_processes_-_daguerreotype.htm

http://cdags.org/

https://goo.gl/Cnjudu

http://www.photohistory-sussex.co.uk/dagprocess.htm

https://www.filmsnotdead.com/joyeux-anniversaire-daguerreotype/

 

Design in Mind: Meet Industrial Designer Vincent Bihler

In this interview, we meet Vincent Bihler, another creative with many talents to join the PONF team. Vincent is an award winning industrial designer who’s brought many products to life, all the way from concept to execution and looks forward to applying the many principles on form and function he’s learned along the way to the PONF Camera. He is currently building the first proof of concept for the first analog back of the PONF system.

He brings to the project plenty to experience with cameras as he’s been an avid film photographer since he was introduced to the medium at age 16, just before leaving home to study Industrial Design. Since then, he’s honed these two crafts equally, developing especially an impressive eye for photographic scale and space. When asked to name his favorite film and format, he quickly named several classic, photophile’s dream setups, so we are confident he will deliver nothing but excellence in the creation of the PONF Camera, a new classic standard in analog and digital photography! 

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Where are you from, where did you grow up? Where are you living now?

I am from France and grew up in Elsass, very close to the German and Swiss borders. I then moved to the region of Bordeaux, where the famous wine is produced. I also lived in north of France, in Sweden, then back in Paris, and now Lyon… So many places have built the person I am.

What is your earliest memory with photography?

I was offered my first camera at age 16, it all started from there. A little bit later, I found a beautiful Canon AE1 in a flea market, early in the morning. I could not stop shooting with these nice cameras!

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Describe your first encounter with digital photography.

Digital came later. I tried Fuji cameras at first to keep the film look, then I used Nikons for paid studio work. I think their versatility is king there.

What is your favorite film and camera or image making equipment/process?

Easy… Portra 400 and Rolleiflex 2.8F… Or Ilford Delta 100 and Leica M4 + Summicron 35 iv King of Bokeh… Or Trix and 21 Skopar f4 ? … Or Pentax 6×7 with whatever?!

What has your career been like? What are some of your favorite or most formative past projects or roles?

I’ve been mostly working as a product and industrial designer. For 4 years I worked at a French tech company called Parrot. I developed some of their latest products to date from scratch: first drawings, ergonomical and usage considerations, shape intentions to the industrialisation with many trips to Hong-Kong Shenzhen for quality controls on the production line. I now have joined a product and industrial design firm (entreautre.com) where I am leading the development of several innovative projects.

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How did you decide to become an industrial designer? Can you say a little bit about what it’s like to follow all the steps in the process of creating a thing from idea to execution?

As long as I can remember, I’ve always been thinking of stuff I could build to fulfill my needs. I built a whole guitar at age 15, because I needed something versatile enough to play different kinds of music with a single instrument. That story actually is quite similar to PONF, right? During my studies (mechanical engineering) I had the opportunity to take several design courses which led me to a specialization in that field for my last year. I went to Sweden where I tried to catch this legendary Scandinavian influence… I was then hired at my first job as an industrial designer after the 2013 James Dyson Awards. I participated with a good friend and won the National 1st prize.

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How did you get involved with PONF?

I contacted Raffaello after having seen that they were looking for people that would like to get involved in the development of the PONF Camera. It was great timing! 😊

Tell us about your role with the project, recent successes, in progress developments, etc.

I’m in charge of industrial and mechanical design. We’re currently building a first proof of concept, which is a very simple mechanism that allows us to prove how practical the product will be.

Are you working on analog or digital components or both?

Right now, I am working on analog “mechanical” components. But these will be useful for the digital back also.

Have you always wanted to design a camera or have you ever designed a camera before? Can you talk a bit about what you’re taking into consideration?

5I’ve been thinking about something similar for a long time, but so far, the tech wasn’t ready. My considerations about this project: I don’t think we can fit everyone’s needs with a single object. This is a simple ergonomic rule. Designing a whole ecosystem that leads to strong products clearly different from one to another and that will fit a precise application is the key. I will make no compromise in that direction. We don’t want to see another Frankencamera that is too cumbersome for street photography, nor a Coolpix lacking flexibility for studio shooting…

What are you interested in besides photography?

Design! I love that. I have been playing guitar for a while now… Oh, and film photography rocks.

Let’s end with your advice to another photographer but with a twist: Ten words or less or a Haiku.

Less is more 😉

Thanks Vincent! To see more of Vincent’s work, visit his website or follow him on Instagram.

So It Begins: Industrial Design Partner Selected!

As promised we have something to tell you today. The excitement behind the scenes is mounting at PONF as we move closer and closer to our camera coming to life. The wait just got a little bit shorter and we begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We are thrilled to announce that we’ve selected an industrial design partner!

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After some meetings and careful consideration, the decision has been made. A great project like PONF needs a great partner for the industrial design, the team which will help to optimize the UX (user experience) and UI (user interface), to create a camera which is truly universally functional. We were searching for a team that shared our passion for this project, and, according to Raffaello Palandri, the founder of PONF, “We nailed it!”

We sincerely hope that our partner will grow with us,  transforming our big ideas for the integration of analog and digital photography into amazing, iconic products.

As the business end of things is still being finalized, we will wait until their proper instruction is prepared before we announce the name and impressive portfolio of the firm, but trust us when we say that in the fluid nature of this project which moves evermore quickly to completion, we are in good hands of these designers! 😉

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Here are a few more hints to keep you excited:

  • They have about ten years of experience creating products in all categories, from home appliances, to personal electronics, to wearables, fitness gear, and more
  • They won several design prizes, including a 2018 German Design Award
  • They are an amazingly creative and innovative team
  • They have worked for companies of all sizes, all around the world.

The other reasons that we chose this particular firm were a bit closer to the heart of the project. We share the same values, the same vision. We want to create a visual narrative that will be bold and modular. We are thinking not only about making a product, but both ourselves and the designers want to create something that will last, like true friendship.

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Stay tuned, as we will shortly reveal the first official renderings of the PONF Camera. Make sure you’re following along on Instagram and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletter.