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The Film Camera

In the first of a new series that looks at tech that fell by the way side in the 21stcentury, were member the good old film camera..

We all remember the process. You take your camera–maybe a Kodak, maybe a Fuji, maybe another–and load it up carefully with a roll of 35mm film. You head out for the day’s activities, rationing your shots carefully because as soon as you hit 12, 24,36 (however many exposures your roll offered), that was it. You might have more rolls stored away in your pack, but “finite” was the keyword.

A couple of days later it’s off to the photo lab to get the roll developed. You visit your local Kodak store, drop off the film, and come back an hour or two later (or the next day, if they’re busy) and see how your snaps turned out. A few are blurrier than you’d hoped, a couple a little overexposed, but the area few absolute gems in there too. Grab those photo albums from the cupboard–time to add a few more memories to your cherished collection.

Perhaps it was the chilling performance by the great Robin Williams in One Hour Photo–in which he played Sy Parrish, a disturbed photo technician who becomes obsessed with a family that frequented his store–that hastened the demise of companies like Kodak. More likely, it was the arrival of the digital camera; okay, it was definitely the arrival of the digital camera. Either way, for the average joe, the days of developing film have all but vanished.

As we headed into the 21st century, photography became more accessible than ever. First came digital cameras, which allowed you a seemingly unlimited number of shots. Go ahead, snap 1,000 photos–the law of average means that one is about to be a winner! You could even view them on a screen as soon as you shot them (bye bye blurriness; adios overexposure!) and then load them up on your computer as soon as you got home. Instant gratification.

Next came smartphones, those crazy new contraptions that acted as phones, internet browsers, calculators, alarm clocks, gaming devices and, of course, cameras–all rolled into one. Nowadays we don’t even need to get home before we share our photos; we can simply pluck them from our digital albums and share them with friends and loved ones via email, text or Facebook, perhaps while sitting on the train.

So what’s next? Photography continues to evolve; stronger sensors, smaller cameras and new formats arrive yearly. Soon, we’ll be exploring scenes with virtual reality, bringing to life both the 3D sights and sounds of an image. One day, we may well be taking photos with our eyes.

But all is not lost for the film camera–in fact, it has enjoyed something of are surgence in recent years, particularly among hardcore photography enthusiasts. High-end fashion houses and publications like National Geographic still use film, though they’re working with some serious high-end gear. If you’ve been to a wedding lately, you might have even noticed a polaroid camera at your table, a recent trend that allows guests to snap selfies for a fun guestbook.

The film camera is down, but definitely not out. Sy Parrish would be relieved.