How Times (and Cameras) Have Changed

February 4th, 2009 by Benj Edwards

Press Photographers crowd around Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1951Press photographers wait for Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1951
Photo: Gordon Parks / LIFE

A crowd scrambles to photograph President Obama, 2009Crowd members photograph Barack Obama, 2009
Photo: Pete Souza / White House

Digital technology has transmogrified today’s consumer cameras into tiny, futuristic-looking gadgets. Notice how nobody holds them to their face anymore — they just stare at LCD screens.

Not only have the cameras changed, but the photographers have changed as well: it seems that everyone has an imaging device in their pocket these days. With the help of a blog, flickr account, or YouTube, ordinary people on the street often beat professional photojournalists to the punch when it comes to breaking news.

Of course, press photographers still exist in 2009, and their cameras are much bigger and more professional-looking than those seen here. I was just struck by the contrast between the flashbulb-slingers of old and the average citizen photographer of today.

4 Responses to “How Times (and Cameras) Have Changed”

  1. Rockin' Kat Says:

    Lately I’ve found I only use my digital camera for pictures I just want to upload online in a hurry. Most everything else I’ve been taking with film cameras…. but then I’m not normal…

    Generally I hate my main digital camera, a Sony DSC-H5. I hate how it doesn’t always take a picture when I press the button all the way. It will focus, then it will go “@#$ you” and not take the damn picture. I hate how long it takes to focus when I use it and how long it takes to go from button pressed to picture shot. If a camera makes the shutter sound before it takes the picture, then people start to move away before it actually happens, because they think it has. I hate how when I put the wide angle lense adaptor on, it blocks the flash from filling in the bottom of the scene. Though it can take great pictures, I generally have to shoot everything multiple times before I really get something I like.

    My other digital cameras are all Sony Mavicas which I’ve picked up from thrift stores… I’ve got an FD-71 which I found for $10 a week after Nikon told me I was out of luck because my coolpix 3400 died a week out of 1 year warranty(what brand of camera am I NEVER going to buy again?)… the first Mavica Sony sold. 0.3MP (VGA) pictures, saves to floppy via double speed drive… Mavicas are defined by the fact that they all use either Floppies or CD’s for storage(which makes them rather large). Two FD-88’s.. 4x speed floppy drive, 1.3MP with short video clips w/ audio at VGA only. And one FD91, huge 14x lense… 0.8MP, with video clip recording w/audio… I like using these… I took the FD-71 with me on a trip to vancouver BC and then took the floppies to a digital photo lab and printed them two pictures to a 4×6 sheet which at that size doesn’t look so bad. Mostly I use these when I’m taking pictures that I intend to mess with on my Apple IIgs or possibly other old computers…. or when I’m pissed off at my DSC-H5…

    Other than that, I own a couple Minolta Pocket AutoPak 460Tx cameras, which use 110 film. As long as I always make sure to adjust the focus distance, which has to be determined entierly on estimating the distance from my subject, and only use Kodak out-lab processing I get pretty good pictures with it(do not use 1 hour and do not use FujiFilm outlab processing, as they both suck dick at 110)

    I also have some Polaroid Cameras which I’ve been taking a lot of pictures with lately as when I heard they were discontinuing film production at Polaroid I rushed the stores and stocked up on as much as I could afford to get and filled one of the drawers in my refridgerator with it…which is good, because now it costs more to get the remaining stock on ebay, and I’m not going that route. It had honestly been a few years since I’d used a Polaroid camera, but I’ve been having a lot of fun with them lately.

    I’ve got a Polaroid one step 600 with portrait focus, a Spectra System camera, and most recently I picked up a very cool SX-70 Sonar onestep with an electronic flash and some film pack filters to make it work with 600 film since it’s been years since sx-70 film has been produced, and there is no way I’m going to pay $100+ for a three-year expired pack of 10 pictures that very likely will be totally dead… the first day I had it I took it out and did something I’d never tried to do before with any camera.. I took some cool extended-time exposures of highway traffic… the SX-70 can expose for up to a minute depending on exposure settings and how much light it’s electronic eye takes in.

    I am presently awaiting to see what happens with I really hope it turns out.

  2. Fessic Says:

    I can only imagine what the next one will look like. Probably just a crowd of happy people standing there looking. There are no physical cameras due to the optical implants recording HD video feeds (that are, of course, streaming live to their personal blogs).

    That’s a great LIFE photo by the way.

  3. Battra92 Says:

    I will agree with Kat above. I was a photographer in my previous life and I’d rather play around with a good 120 roll film folding camera from the 50s than any of the point and shoot digitals of today. While people now have everything in focus and take millions of angle shots to post on their myspace, the art of the good press photo is dead.

  4. Rockin' Kat Says:

    oog!!! ok…. so for some odd reason the comment system cut out a link from my comment. Bad comment system, bad!

    The very last line “I am presently awaiting to see what happens with I really hope it turns out.” should read as follows:

    “I am presently awaiting to see what happens with I really hope it turns out.”

    probably because I put carrat symboles around it as though I were writing an email.

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