Pre Digital

Chris_L Avatar
Chris_L 9 5.5k United Kingdom
24 Jan 2019 1:28PM
I've used, but never owned, a film camera and my first SLR was digital (Canon 300D) around the time a lot of film diehards were succumbing to the memory card.

I wonder what things, which we now take for granted, were used when film was still the most popular photographic medium.

Would very many people scan negatives, load the images into Photoshop to sort out problems, enhance desirable elements then print them out on home printers or somehow make new negatives from those fixed scans?

Were image stabilized lenses available to use with film bodies or did they require the processing power that came with DSLRs?

Could film cameras and lighting be hooked up to computers and then controlled by them?

Tianshi_angie Avatar
24 Jan 2019 3:22PM
I have only my own experience to speak of - and as I was only ever a hobbyist film camera user I cannot say what a professional user of film would do. I never had the facilities to develop my own film but I have had film cameras since I was very young. My first SLR was a birthday present from my eldest daughter when I was around 36. Computers at that time were very basic - black and white and without very much ability of the Jill in the street to interact with it unless you were a whizz with programming, and as far as I was aware no film software. Working in schools at that time I cannot remember anyone mentioning computers and film in the same discussion. I can remember playing with my eldest grandsons around this time on an Amstrad but very basic 'game-boy' type games, and I think a memory of around 50k? (Scanners? Don't remember the concept of scanners until some 15/20 years later). The first time I was aware of photographic software was after I had my first digital camera which was a very basic compact camera from Fuji some 20 years later. uLead PhotoImpact came bundled with a computer I bought and I discovered the joy of playing around with digital images. A year or so later I acquired Adobe Photo deLuxe (also bundled with something else) which I didn't enjoy as much as PhotoImpact - the move onward and upward continued over the last 20 years. So I don't think film and computers were much thought of as a unit.
altitude50 Avatar
altitude50 19 23.9k United Kingdom
24 Jan 2019 3:38PM
Basically I used film camera as an amateur 120, 127, 35mm size from about 1955 until about 2013, had my own darkroom for a time, b/w only. Colour processing I tried but couldn't get the results, so sent off to labs for larger prints.
Bought a small Pentax digital (3.2mp) digital camera in about 2004. (Still have it,,.)
Wasn't really in to photography as a hobby again until 2014 when I bought a Nikon DSLR. Now into Sony mirrorless.Grin
I still use a lab for prints because I cannot get on with home digital printing.
I have scanned many old film images and keep them for record & sentimental purposes, I don't change them much except to crop or bring out contrast, or to rid them of spots (a lot).
I still occasionally put a film through one of my SLR's.
Dave_Canon Avatar
Dave_Canon 17 2.2k United Kingdom
24 Jan 2019 6:43PM
Chris, there was indeed a period in which it was common to scan film and edit in a computer. I started using a darkroom in 1973 and moved to colour in 1979 mainly printing from negatives as the quality was much higher than slides. I started looking at scanning and image processing in 1995/6. At that time I had an Acorn RiscPC which was the fastest Desktop in the world in the late 90's. The software I used was also British and called PhotoDesk which was favourably reviewed against the more obvious rival of Photoshop 2 in the late 90's. The problem with photoshop was that non-Acorn computers were too slow. I also used a Nikon film scanner. I did eventually move on from the Acorn to a conventional PC then used Paintshop Pro before moving on to Photoshop. I did not buy a DSLR until 2005 as they were just not good enough for me. Even so, I had to wait another 6 years before I had a DSLR that I was reasonably content with. During that early digital scanning period and up to about 2001/2 my inkjet printer was not that good but they improved significantly after this. Oddly I was however successful in competitions because the advantage of being able to edit the image outweighed the lower print quality. As I was a club member, I was aware of others in a similar position. I did have slides created from some of my digitally edited negative scans as there were no projected images then. I also know someone on another forum who still takes medium/large format film which he scans, edits with PS and prints on his modern Epson Photoprinter.

KevinEllison Avatar
24 Jan 2019 7:52PM

Quote:I wonder what things, which we now take for granted, were used when film was still the most popular photographic medium.

What we take for granted..? the ability to save photos on a chip, and get prints from Tesco...(other supermarkets are probably available...Wink ) in minutes...

I admit to using this facility for simple, family copy shots of grandchildren etc..Blush

I started with film, and had enlarging, processing facilities at least I could/did produce physical prints...nowadays, I confess most of my digital outpourings are only on hard drives..and nobody really gets to handle/look at actual prints..!

We have a new grandchild on the way, and Iím determined to continue with a photo album/ scrapbook...using physical prints, and not generate yet another folder on a hard-drive..

But my basic point, is that we now take for granted, the ability to very quickly produce prints, by electronic means....if we want to...

Chris_L Avatar
Chris_L 9 5.5k United Kingdom
24 Jan 2019 8:39PM
I think you misunderstood my question Kevin,

I wasn't asking what do we take for granted now that we couldn't do in the film era.

I was asking which of those things (such as OIS, loading images into editing software, controlling cameras and lights from a computer) did people use with film cameras.
KevinEllison Avatar
24 Jan 2019 9:15PM

Quote:I think you misunderstood my question Kevin,

Rito...sorry Chris...I never did anything clever/advanced in my film processing days..! I was just fascinated enough to produce a big print from my humble colour

A step up from contact, B & W prints from 127 Brownie negatives..!
randomrubble Avatar
randomrubble 19 3.1k 12 United Kingdom
24 Jan 2019 9:21PM
I used to scan and print before I had a DSLR, from about Ď98.

Canonís IS is entirely lens based, so it was available on film cameras too, though not for me. I started out with an SLR in about Ď88 but didnít like AF So largely avoided it until the DSLR era.

My distaste for AF was a godsend when I got a 1st gen Sony A7r Smile
KevinEllison Avatar
24 Jan 2019 9:43PM

Quote:loading images into editing software, controlling cameras and lights from a computer

Ang on...... did we have computers in them there days, (Sinclair Spectrums and Commodore 64ís even 286 PCís) capable of doing wot you ask...?!

I probably led a sheltered life...! Blush

Dave_Canon Avatar
Dave_Canon 17 2.2k United Kingdom
24 Jan 2019 10:31PM

Ang on...... did we have computers in them there days, (Sinclair Spectrums and Commodore 64ís even 286 PCís) capable of doing wot you ask...?!

If you read my post above I explained that we did have a fast desktop computer in the Acorn RiscPC. It was commonly used in Education and media services in the UK. I could use most of its editing features with virtually immediate response. Whereas using the best IBM PC required patience as you waited for the display to catch up with your last action. In the late 90's there was a competition to find the fastest Desktop PC in the world and this was held in California. The Risc Processor architecture was designed by Arm UK but at this time the Digital Equipment Corporation had the fastest chip implementation. DEC combined their fast chip design with ARM's superior architecture and produced a very fast processor (StrongArm). However, for the competition the entries had to be a commercially available Desktop so DEC entered the Acorn and amazed everyone. I believe they could process 16 digital TV channels simultaneously. I still have my old Acorn but it is in my loft. I ought to dump it but I am sure we all hang on to some favourite kit.

Chris_L Avatar
Chris_L 9 5.5k United Kingdom
24 Jan 2019 11:19PM
Just been Googling and Photoshop was created in 1988 and version one went on sale in 1990. It was almost a decade later before the first DSLR went on sale. There were flatbed scanners in the mid-90s but I couldn't figure out exactly what was invented by who and when.

EllisGray Avatar
EllisGray 4 1
25 Jan 2019 4:49AM
@ Chris_L:

For the general public perhaps DSLRs were not available until 1990-2000, but I photographed a political convention with a Kodak made commercially available one in 1992. It was a modified Nikon. My 600mm f/4 immediately became effectively an 1800mm in terms of angle of view.
sausage Avatar
sausage 19 704 United Kingdom
25 Jan 2019 8:38AM
From my school days in the 60s I used film cameras - nothing else was available. As I got older I bought a darkroom setup and processed B&W and colour film for many years. There wasn't anything like computers to edit pictures or scanning negatives until the 'digital age', whenever that was. As soon as digital cameras became available I bought a Kodak DC240 digital camera - 1.3 megapixels I think!! Cost me around £500. A lot cheaper than a digital SLR.

Photoshop was very expensive then although I can't remember what software I used then.

I did start scanning my negatives maybe before or at least around that time - probably in the eighties or early nineties.
keithh Avatar
keithh 19 25.8k 33 Wallis And Futuna
25 Jan 2019 9:31AM
We were scanning negs (and prints) on drum scanners (still the best results if you can get one that still works. They look expensive but they were a lot more expensive before flatbeds caught up with IQ) back in the early eighties (1982) when the newspapers started going 'digital'. I remember it was nothing short of witchcraft.

The man who got the job was the only one who put his hand up when it was asked if anyone had ever used a computer.
Philh04 Avatar
Philh04 18 2.3k United Kingdom
26 Jan 2019 11:26AM
A bit later than Keith, following a fiasco when producing a set of facsimiles we started scanning all of our own 5" x 4" transparencies using Flextight scanners, very costly and the next best thing to a Drum scanner, the next revelation was obtaining a scanning back for our De Vere copy camera, (the biggest thing was having a monitor on the wall so one no longer had to climb a step ladder to focus). The De Vere is still in use but with a much more recent and reliable digital back.

We started going digital on the science side when Nikon produced the D1 in 1999, eventually moving to Canon for the more specialised lenses, plus we found them easier to control via the computer (I seem to remember with Nikon we had to purchase additional software)

We were the first major unit to go 90% digital however we still needed to keep facilities for transparency duplication as some exhibits still used Carousel projectors.... We had a party when our E6 dip and dunk line was decommissioned.


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