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How does a 19th century camera work?

I’ve just always wanted to know how they work. The ones made of wood where the photographer had to stand underneath a piece of cloth when taking the photograph. If anyone could give me any sources that I could read, that would be good too.

Sophie (:

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3 Responses to “How does a 19th century camera work?”

  1. I8AShroom said :
  2. John P said :

    They ‘work’ in the same way as modern cameras, in that there is a lens, a dark chamber, a receptor (Plate, Film, now a digital sensor), a means of controlling the light (Lens cap or shutter, iris diaphragm). In those days enlarging was almost impossible, so your plate had to be the same size as your desired print. You put your head under the black cloth to line up and focus your scene, then you replaced the focussing screen with the plate in a lightproof holder. The image you saw on the focussing screen was upside down. Similar cameras are still in use in some studios for ‘still life’ photos where film is still used as opposed to digital; maybe there is a photographer local to you who could show you. If you are near Gloucester I could show you on a hundred year old camera.

  3. snapper said :

    They worked in exactly the same way as cameras do now basically.

    There was a lens which focused the image onto the film or plate.
    There was a shutter – in the first cameras this was just a case of covering/uncovering the lens.
    In early cameras there was no aperture adjustment but the aperture is just the hole through which the light passes through.

    All cameras still work on that basic principle.


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