1970s and 1980s
A Revolution in Cameras
With the final removal of import controls in 1962, a very wide range of cameras became available in the UK, a development from which serious amateur photographers benefitted greatly. In particular, Japanese cameras became enormously successful, at the expense of both the British camera industry, which practically disappeared, and the much more technically advanced West German industry.
A good example of the new breed of 35 mm single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras, aimed at both professionals and amateurs, was the Asahi Pentax Spotmatic, with its built-in through-the-lens exposure meter and wide range of lenses. SLRs from Nikon, Canon, Minolta and Olympus were equally successful, competing on both quality and price. While many newspaper photographers were still using large format and plate cameras as late as 1960, by the 1970s the great majority had moved to 35 mm film, with the Nikon F series the market leader.
Even for advanced amateurs, familiar with such technicalities as shutter speed, aperture, hyperfocal distance and so on, these cameras offered greater ease of use for a wide variety of subjects. The Canon AE-1 of 1976 was a very popular SLR offering fully automatic exposure and in 1985 the Minolta 7000 AF offered both autofocus and motorised film advance.
During this period manufacturers were offering the general public 35 mm compact cameras which could be used very successfully with little or no photographic knowledge. The Olympus Trip was introduced in 1967 and discontinued in 1984 — a remarkable production run. Advertisements featuring David Bailey certainly helped its popularity. The hope in camera clubs would have been that this wider adoption of photography would have brought an influx of new members, eager to learn about their new hobby.
Kodak Strikes Again
Throughout this period Kodak dominated the market for film and was able to set the standards for manufacturers of both film and cameras to follow. While 35 mm and 120 roll film remained the favoured formats for most professionals and keen amateurs, Kodak introduced some new formats to appeal to the casual snap-shooter, beginning with easy-loading 126 film for the Instamatic cameras in 1963. This was followed in 1972 by 110 film, an even smaller format, and then by the tiny Disc format in 1982. While improvements in films made these smaller formats feasible, the advances were just as obvious in the 35 mm versions, which remained the dominant format for enthusiasts. The aim was to make it easier for anyone not interested in the technicalities, through easier film loading, automatic exposure and film advance, auto-focus and pop-up flash.
But in 1975, no attention was being paid to a ground-breaking invention by Steven Sasson, a Kodak engineer. The first self-contained digital camera at Kodak.
1990s and 2000s
From the mid-1980s to the end of the 1990s, the membership of the club hovered around 25, never getting near the high of 54 reached back in 1963. By the end of the 1990s, the average attendance at meetings was as low as a dozen. The financial consequences limited the club’s activities.
The Digital Revolution
Around 1992 (the AGM minutes are silent on this point) the club’s competition rules were amended to exclude images which had been processed with a computer. This was rather far-sighted; as yet there were no members of the club who had access to suitable, exceedingly expensive, equipment. That situation was about to change, not least through a wider ownership of desktop computers and the availability in 1997 of reasonably priced inkjet printers. With a 35 mm scanner or a Photo CD disk, it was now possible to produce excellent colour prints at home. For some members of the club this was still worrying, as they felt that the computer gave an unfair advantage. “It does all the work,” they thought. Nevertheless, the 1997 AGM agreed to allow digitally processed images in the club’s colour print competitions as a one year trial. In a 1998 appendix to Isabel Smith’s history of the club, and intending to reassure members, Andrew Spackman wrote: “Like other photographic societies and clubs, we can expect Banbury to support and encourage both traditional and new photographic techniques over the coming years.” This remains true today.
The Move to Chenderit School
In 2000 and for financial reasons, the club moved from Banbury School to the Globe Room at Ye Olde Reindeer Inn in Parsons Street. While admirable for Oliver Cromwell’s meetings during the Civil War, and situated conveniently for the bar, it did not lend itself to practical activities. By 2002 the club was looking for alternative accommodation and was extremely fortunate to be invited by John Childs, the Head of Art, to move to his department at Chenderit School. This gave the club access to a computer suite of Macs and PCs (see photo above), a darkroom with six enlargers (right), and space for meetings and practical work. From 2004, the club was able to hold an annual exhibition in the new Michael Heseltine Gallery, thereby raising hundreds of pounds each year for Katharine House Hospice. From 2010 a new lecture theatre also became available. There can be few camera clubs with such a superb range of facilities.
In line with the developments set out in the timeline, by 2003 the first digital cameras were appearing at club events (right). In 2016 the 90 members of the club use the full range of equipment from large format and 35 mm film to DSLRs and smartphones.
If you want to know more about Banbury Camera Club in the past these pages may be of interest.
Brief History of Banbury Camera Club by Isabel Smith
with a Postscript by Andrew Spackman.
The Background Story of the Club Cups by Isabel Smith
Isabel Smith – Member 1948-2006
Harold Robinson – Member 1999-2008
Fine Lady Video by Rosie Burke