Why were the pictures from these old cameras black and white?

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by alex_fowler, Apr 3, 2006.

  1. Why were the pictures taken with old cameras black and white, and
    how was color film dicovered?
  2. The first color film was developed in the 1890's having only two dye layers, red and green. Very cutting edge for the time but it left something to be desired. As the technology matured color film became increasingly popular in the 40's and 50's. And by the 1970's a majority of all photography was done with color film.
  3. color film was originally discovered in the late 1840s but the secret was suppressed for a hundred years by corporate interests to preserve the high prices of daguerrotype plates.

  4. SCL


    Color film wasn't discovered, it was developed with lots of hard work and newer technology...major difference.
  5. Pictures taken with old cameras were B&W because that's the film they had to work with. Many of those old cameras will do just fine with color film- some had a greenish tint to the lenses, I understand, though, and didn't work as well with color. If you've ever seen the original Wizard of Oz movie, it was one of the early color films.

    The first popular color films were primarily slide films, so for years, if you wanted color you used slide film, then bored your guests with slides of your vacation. I guess I first got a camera when I was 11, in 1971, and all the pictures I took were B&W- it was still common even though they had color print film then.
  6. I'll side with Richard's response. Just as I'm sure that all the digital development today is a conspirancey....conspoonsy...conspirosy..evil plot to keep the true film artist down.
  7. Life was all black and white then. Nature didn't come in color until the last century, and then it was a slow process. Traffic lights didn't work so police had to direct traffic by hand. Rainbows were rather bland. Crayolas came only in shades of gray. Kodak Yellow didn't exist. That also explains why the early Fords were only in black!
  8. And the winner is....Alex!
  9. horay alex.. I almost believed you, but i was born in 1935 and when we ate under the tree the table was bright blue.

    as was said there were early and none too stable color films.
    early films used dyes starch grains and werre very slow, and i supose none to stable. One i read about was called DFUFAYCOLOR.

    the 2 musicians who invented kodachome on a nyc hotel room originally told gerorge eastman to hold up!
    they had a better 3 color process.

    I recall the story of george eastman having " kodacolor" movie film at a garden party in 1928

    the first real amd stable color fim was kodachrome in 1934-36?
    an early pop photo told a story about peter gowland ? who shot 4 sheets of 4 x 5 kodachrome just before he went away to war in ww2.
    and his wife sold them all.

    according to what I read, kodak was busy and glad to sell stuff to the us govenment during ww2 , but was pretty busy " doing business" to devote all their time to the war effort.

    agfa-ansco, had been siezed by the us government in 1938 for making microfilm copies of us documents and sendin the extra copy to nazi berlin in diplomatic pouches. the us govt. essentially owned ansco
    during ww2. they had the beginnings of anscochrome ..based on agfa
    color slide technology? it was deveeloped to become " high speed color reversal film" for aerial photography. the speed may have been as high as asa 64. kodachrome was asa 10.

    remember high speed B&W was asa 100 ( super xx)
    the intro of ektachrome came at the end or after ww2.
    ektachome. agfachrome( originally called agfacolor) and anscochrome were all similar and were processed similarly. but not in the same solutions.

    I believe roll film sized of kodacolor ( color negative) film started at the beinning of the 1940's I used it in 120 in the late 1940-s and 1950-s
    my first 35mm cameras were in 1960 and i shot slide film.

    I do not believe 35mm color neg was available until a bit later.
    the quality was not there and the photos. especial;ly those shot on roll film in th early '50's turned very yellow. even the edges.

    people then shot scenics ( 35mm kodachrome)
    for people pictures that shot roll film , often with flashbulbs.

    quality of film has improves a lot, and old cameras are able to take even better photos than they could them.

    unless you develop your own B&W 120 ( the last surviving size)
    and are able by mail or a real camera store, to get roll film
    these old cameras are only shelf queens. 127 and 620/120
    can sometimnes be found, but the smaller FAD kodak sizes are just about gone away, the big sizes and the disk totally gone.
    110 and 126( mail order) but only color neg)
  10. I don't think I would have like living in Alex's B&W world of the yesteryears.

    Better now.

    As is with most things, it wasn't "discovered" but developed after a lot of hard work and money (as Stephen said).
  11. Funny. When I think about the 1950s, when I was a kid, most of my memories seem to be in black and white. Of course that may be because the photos I look at to reinforce those memories are black and white, too.
  12. I found this book a a car boot sale - fascinating, beautiful images and very informative!! Have a look in your local library for it.

    Colour Photography: the first hundred years 1840-1940 by Brian Coe

  13. Money was the main issue, the first color film and development were veyr expensive, not so black and white film+development.

    I have a few hunderds of old stereo plates from my grandfather and 99% of those are black and white. There are a counted few incolor, but they look funky.
  14. 1727 Johann Schulze discovered that a mixture of chalk, silver and nitric acid turned deep purple and could form basic images when exposed to light.

    1802 Thomas Wedgwood, the son of Wedgwood pottery's founder, made negative prints by bathing paper in a silver nitrate solution then exposing it to light. He was able to record half tones as well as pure black & white, but the image was not permanent.

    1827 Joseph Nicéphore Niépce produced the first photograph on a highly polished pewter plate coated in bitumen of Judea. After an eight hour exposure in the camera, the plate was washed in a mixture of oil of lavender and white petroleum to produce the first permanent positive image.

    'And now the rest of the story;
  15. Richard,

    I assume you jest. The first permanent color photograph didn't come along until the 1860s by which time the daguerreotype was basically dead. Prior to 1861 color images couldn't be fixed and faded rapidly.
  16. For the same reason that all early TVs were black and white. It was all that was available until colour technology developed. Oddly some people still prefer it to colour. I dont know of anyone who still prefers black and white TVs though. Strange!
  17. Lots of colorful cars in the mid 30's. Two tone model B fords and Rolls Royces. GM and Chrysler had some beautiful greens, blues and reds. Kodachrome came along in the late 30's.
  18. Ernst Leitz was an eager experimenter with early Kodachrome film perhaps even a "beta site" user for Kodak.

    Some histories of Leitz and the Leica describe Ernst Leitz rushing exposed rolls of Kodachrome back to Kodak via Zepplin for processing. Early FEDEX.
  19. "the 2 musicians who invented kodachome on a nyc hotel room originally told gerorge eastman to hold up! they had a better 3 color process."

    The two musicians had great trouble to produce a three colour film, and their product nearly made it to the market in a two colour form.
    At the end of their three year contract, they hadn't progressed at all. They were given a one year extension, and then came up with a two colour home movie film... Kodak decided to put that on the market, and really at the very last moment, before the two colour thing started shipping, Mannes and Godowski came up with the three colour version.

    I wouldn't be surprised at all if the name "Kodachrome" was chosen as the one for the Mannes and Godowski product as a result of their near-failure to deliver: the one and only original "Kodachrome", after all, was a two colour (!) proces invented much earlier (invented before WW1, introduced in the market in 1915) by John Capstaff (one of the people who Mees brought over to Kodak from Wratten and Wainwright in 1912).
  20. Ridiculous...the world has been proven to have color since around 7,000 BC. It's been the lens' ability to transmit the color to the film plane that provides the limitation. Not until lenses like the "Color-Apotar," "Color-Ultron," etc came along was the average photographer able to take color photos. Of course modern lenses no longer have the "Color" designation because they are all made to transmit the full visible spectrum. Try putting color film in one of these old cameras and you'll see you pics come out in B&W. See the a sample below. The top photo was taken with an Autographic 3A (circa 1915) using Velvia (RVP50). The bottom photo was taken using T-Max using a Pentax H3 w/ 50mm Color Ultron. See how the Ultron is able to get perfect color even on B&W film?
  21. "...It's been the lens' ability to transmit the color to the film plane that provides the limitation..." [Chris]

    I tend to think you are right on this one, Chris.

    For example, in the movie Wizard of Oz, shot in 1939, it's obvious that they started filming with an old kinda sepia-ish black and white lens, then partway into the production someone suggested they try one of the new "color-coated" lenses.

    If anyone out there doubts that explanation, just rent the movie and see for yourself ;-)
  22. more proof:
  23. Calculations by by Bishop Ussher in the seventeenth century clearly indicate that colour arrived in 4721 B.C.. This has been independently confirmed by paleontologists who have proved that, before that date, human retinas were composed entirely of rods and so could not perceive colour - there being none to see.
  24. Actually the history of color photography is a bit more complicated. First approaches to color photography (on plates) were made in the 19th century but almost all of those methods were very difficult and hard to handle, and were never used widely. The problem was that early photographic emulsions were almost insensitive to red, and even with a three-plate process with filters it was very difficult to get acceptable results.

    A great leap forward was made when orthochromatic and panchromatic emulsions were available (i.e. emulsions sensitive to blue and green or to blue, green and red respectively), this made it much easier to expose three plates with different color filters. Some early approaches replaced the full-frame (or lens covering) filters by tiny particles of color filters (actually colored starch particles) in the emulsion, and even the first color films used that method.

    Modern color photography begins shortly before WWII when both Kodak and Agfa of Germany released color slide films with color separating layers.
  25. during the 1950's, they still made camerras that exposed 3 pieceds of film at the same time. each was exposed thru a different filter.
    the camera was cumbersome and , i think, used a prism to separate the 3 images.

    each image was later printed using a different dye to form a full color photo. not what you used to snap photos of the family.
    mostly for product still life photos.
    the original tecnicolor was 3 bw films that were combined in a compicated process to form a full color image.
    I think the cameras used the 3 film and filters method .

    later movies were shot in "eastman color"

    in the 1980's there was a popular thing about " prints and negs and slides" from thje same film/.
    this was ends and surplus movie ( color negative) film.
    the yellow masking on the film was different from kodacolor and the film had a black backing that had to be mechanically removed.
    it recieved mixed reviews.

    One of the early serious problems was making prints from slides.
    kodachrome system resisted a direct printing. but kodak first made kodachrome prints on plastic and later made an internagative from each slide to make prints. quite costly.

    it is so much easier today. even tho there is only one wet print from slide process left.

    early lens had the logo "color corected" on them as all colors did not focus at quite the same plane because of the different wavelenghts of light sometimes I think that either they don't care anymore or somehow that problem has been overcome.
    but i am suspicious that disposable cameras have a lens no better than the average 1920's or 1930's camera lens.
  26. Several years ago I rigged an old Rapid Rectilinear lens and a piece of mailing tube into a "telephoto" to fit my Visoflex and managed to get some respectable color images. True, they weren't perfect, but in reality, the current color films aren't either, even with modern lenses. <p> In the late forties when Ansco Color "Printon" paper was introduced, the reds were brown and the blues and green were muddy. With a couple of colleagues from the physics dept of my university, managed to get pretty good prints on Printon by making separate masks from the AnscoColor positive and printing through filters onto the printon. It was long and involved but the prints were definitely an improvement over the normal Printons. We also made color negatives from the AnscoColor by not reversing the image befor color development. I don't recall whether we used the positives or negatives to produce our three color masks. It was fun and got us a grade, but was too complicated for any commercial exploitation, and then in the sixties Kodak came out with a practical home printing process.
  27. That 1827 photo is in the collection of the Harry Ransom Center archives here in Austin at the University of Texas. They have it on display about 20 feet from a Gutenberg bible.

    Oh that reminds me, they have a great exhibit going on right now..."The Image Wrought: Historical Photographic Approaches in the Digital Age". Check it out... http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/exhibitions/current/
  28. James Clerk Maxwell, the Scottish physicist, demonstrated a three colour photo in 1855 as part of his ground breaking investigation into colour perception and colour blindness. The three identical plates are in primary colours, red, green and blue, and when combined show a tartan scarf (very appropriate). Maxwell went on to derive the Maxwell equations linking electricity and magnetism so was clearly a very clever chap indeed.
  29. I beleive that ALL of The Wizard of Oz was shot in Black and White film. For the color portion they shot with a camera that exposed three reels of black&white at the same time... each reel had a color filter that separated the image into Red Blue and Green. This was one of the earliest color processes and for a long time surpassed the results of true color film. The method is still used today for making archival copies of movies and other high-tech stuff. Black and White film lasts virtually forever whereas color films ALL fade with age. :(
  30. I took my first colour pictures on a 620 roll of outdated Dufaycolor in 1956. It was first made in the 1930's and quite successful in its day. But it was an additive colour process which meant the transparencies it produced were very dense and not very good for projection. But it could produce reasonable prints and I have seen some interesting ones in a book of colour photos taken in the UK during WWII by American service personnel stationed here. Although most of the prints reproduced were from Kodachromes there were a few from Dufaycolor transparencies.
  31. Hi Alex,

    There are many opinions floating around here. Investigation of color theory probably started with Sir Isaac Newton (around 1700), lots of other people and research took place from Newton's time on and mentioned my some of these comments here. Agfa created a color mosaic system that sort of worked (Dr. Ed Land made his instant color film based on the Agfa mosaic system). The first true color film/plate was from the French Lumiere brothers in about 1906 or 1907. The first color photograph published by a major magazine was National Geo in 1907.

    Real color systems could not take place until Agfa scientists created Panchromatic emulsions (Miethe) in 1903.

    Fine quality color illustrations using "one shot" still photos and Technicolor motion picture films using 3 b/w films with red, green, and blue filters. These were reproduced by Technocolor, Wash Off Relief (Dye Transfer), and 3 color Carbro.

    The first true color "Integral Tripack" film using RGB sensitivity and CMY dyes was Kodachrome in 1935 (motion picture) and 1936 still 35mm and a bit later sheet films from 4x5, to 5x7, and 8x10.

    The second Integral Tripack was Agfa Neufilm (in the USA known as, Ansco Color Film) which some of us felt was a better product than Kodachrome.

    Many came after that. Original Kodacolor was pretty awful (so toxic that it wasn't made available to any except Kodak labs) until 1957. A chemical development by duPont assigned to Kodak made Type C printing the high quality product that it was and is.

  32. My dad was an avid photographer. In 1937 he started taking Kodachrome photos and shortly thereafter, having bad luck with color with his Argus C2. He moved to a Leica II (black) with a Hektor f2.5 5cm lens. (I still have camera and it works well). He took a lot of pictures of family, flowers and shrubs and travel pictures in US. All the kodachrome slides still have great color but my Ektachrome slides from the late 50's early 60's are badly faded. I still have my dad's pictures of the 1939 worlds fair. One picture shows the trylon and perisphere on Halloween night with the perisphere lit up like a Jack o lantern.
    During the war Kodachrome became virtually unobtainable as all was going to the war for intel and aerial photo's. Strangely, my dad was drafted in 1943 at age 42. Too old to be sent overseas, and being a photographer he was assigned to Headquarters 1st Service Command in Boston and commuted to war via trolley car from his mother's home in the Dorchester section of Boston. He had 3 main duties: ID photos, public relations photos and shipping all the 35mm Kodachrome to the European theatre. The Kodachrome was packed in round Quaker Oats boxes. He would go to the mess hall in the morning and take the empty Quaker Oats boxes and some full ones and send the film off to London packed in oats. Dad being dad, none of the Army film went home to his leica.
    By good fortune HQ 1st Service was in a building just across the bridge (now the BU Bridge) from my mothers parents home in Cambridge and was able to court my mom as soon as he went off duty.
    Sorry to ramble but thought to add some second hand memories of early days of color
  33. That was a nice post, Lynn, very informative. I think the history of color photography is much like that of digital imaging, taking many, many years to get it right.

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