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With Daguerreotypes and Calotypes gaining mass popularity in the 1840s the advancement of the photography industry was inevitable. However, progress in England was slow since both – Daguerre and Talbot – had patent issues.
The biggest disadvantage of Daguerre’s method was the fact that the photographs could not be duplicated and it was extremely expensive. The problem with Calotypes was that the photography was on paper and invariably the imperfections of paper showed up in the photographs as well. This was resolved to a certain extent by Abel Niépce de Saint-Victor who invented the albumen process.
He coated a glass plate with egg white sensitized with potassium iodide and washed with the acidic silver nitrate. This resulted in much finer quality but the process was extremely slow and hence useful only for landscapes and inanimate objects.
The Collodion Process
Frederick Archer invented the Collodion process in 1851, which heralded a new era in the history of photography. Collodion was a viscous liquid that formed a thin clear film when it dried out. The Collodion process had several advantages over the Daguerreotype and Calotype processes.
Firstly, the exposure time required by the Collodion process was significantly lower than that of the Calotype process. This meant that photographers were no longer restricted to still photography and could shoot portraits as well. Also, the glass base being used meant that the previous problems associated with using paper as a base were no longer valid. Since Archer never laid claim to the process with a patent, it could be freely used and spread faster than the patented Calotype process. And last but certainly not the least – photographs printed with this process were less than 10th the cost of those printed using Daguerreotype.
This is not to say that the Collodion process was without disadvantages. For one thing, Collodion was highly inflammable and resulted in many accidents including some fatal ones. Also, it was extremely tiresome to conduct on location photography using Collodion cameras unless like Fenton one was willing to carry entire caravans. Also, for large photographs one had to use really large cameras since there was no way to enlarge photos.
Eventually, photographers preferred the Calotype process for travel photography and the Collodion process for photographs taken closer to home.
George Eastman & Kodak
The Collodion process meant carting along huge amounts of equipment and gave birth to other alternatives like Tintypes and Ambrotypes. However, it was George Eastman in 1888 who realized the potential and requirement for a more user friendly film. He introduced a new film with a flexible and unbreakable base that could even be rolled – the now world famous Kodak! The box camera became a reality and photographers found a freedom they had not even imagined before.
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