Camera Technology: The Dark Side of the Lens by Norman Goldberg

I’ve had a strange experience this last year. I started a new graduate degree at the University of Arizona in Optical Sciences. I have an Electrical Engineering background, so while nothing was completely foreign to me, it was very difficult. On the other hand, for the first time in all of my collegiate experience I had two things happen to me.

One, I was given money to spend how I wanted to for my education and two I actually found I wanted to read the recommended books on the syllabuses for my classes. These two stars have never aligned for me before. Either I wasn’t interested or I didn’t have the money to buy extra books that I didn’t actually need.

This is one of those books.

Norman Goldberg is writing from experience rather than education – though the argument could be made that experience is education. He spent many years taking apart and repairing every kind of camera and became an expert on their technology.

He wrote the book before digital sensors became popular but much of the technology in modern cameras is surprisingly unchanged from what was being done twenty and thirty and even a hundred years ago. The shutters still move with springs, the auto-focus is still confused by low light, the mirrors and levers and lenses and buttons and glass and techniques and maths are all the same.

If you’re curious about cameras at all you should read this book. Goldberg takes the reader through every part of the camera, with diagrams, explaining how everything works and different design decisions of different manufacturers. He explains lenses, shutters, autofocus and exposure, film and apertures, viewfinders and even designs for film canisters.

Goldberg has an efficient prose style that makes it read more like listening to a knowledgeable guy in the camera shop rather than a textbook.

Which is more or less exactly what it is.


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