The camera box and lens in the hands of the competent photographer are what the brush and colors may be in the hands of the portrait painter. They are the means whereby he produces his portrait and stamps his individuality upon his work. Therefore, when we look back and consider the rude implements the pioneers in our art had to work with, we are often surprised that the work they produced was so really respectable in point of finish and excellence as it was.
Starling from a cigar box and a burning glass, not 50 years ago, the progress made, as represented by the instruments in use at this day, would seem to be fully equal to the advance from Fox Talbot's paper negative to that made on the Gelatine Dry plate.
As late as 25 years ago the box in general use con sisted of two sections of square wooden tube, one sliding inside the other, in telescopic style; to the front of the smaller section was attached the lens, and the focusing glass fitted into a groove in the rear of the larger section. The lens afforded the means of adjusting the focus in its rack and pinion movement, and the ground glass had to be removed from its groove before the plate holder could be put in place.
This rude apparatus was considered in its time to be a very ingenious construction, but if the shades of Morse and Draper could contemplate the objects of art that have supplanted the rude constructions they were so familiar with and knew so well how to use, they might well wish themselves back among the living for the pleasure of working with one of the latest camera boxes.
The cameras of the present time seem constructed to meet every requirement of the most exacting intelligence. They are light, yet firm and durable, they are rigid as wood and metal can make them, and yet they are fitted to focus sharply all positions of the human form. They are complicated, yet extraordinarily convenient, and they are made in forms and sizes adapted to every possible use or demand.
There are four principal varieties of camera boxes in general use, viz:
The camera for positives, which includes the multiplier. The camera for negatives, wet or dry, for portraiture. The camera for copying, and the camera for viewing and out-door work; descriptive accounts of the several varieties will be given under their appropriate heads.