Magazine Article


Happy 70th Anniversary PTN!

PTN cover
PTN cover
PTN cover
PTN cover
PTN cover
PTN cover
PTN cover
PTN cover
PTN cover

In 1963, Rudolf Maschke was working as publisher of U.S. Camera when he was approached by Krivit to buy PTN. "I sort of stole it," says Maschke when asked about the purchase price. "In 1963, the magazine was dead from the neck down, but it was all I could afford." He said he could clearly see it had potential. At that time, according to Maschke, PTN was being hammered by a rival weekly photo publication. He then enticed fellow publisher Ed Wagner, who at the time was working for Popular Photography to partner with him. "We starved to death for about nine months, and then it turned around," says Wagner. That would be the only publication they would purchase, preferring to launch new magazines. The Maschke/Wagner partnership would launch more than a dozen publications, including Photographic Processing, Studio Photography, Technical Photography, and Functional Photography, as well as the PMA and photokina dailies. It was during this time that the magazine found success again as a bimonthly publication.


In the 1970s major department stores such as Bambergers and J.C. Penney began offering photo products at discount. In addition, catalog houses such as Consumer Distributors also offered photo gear at lower discount prices. Once again PTN talked to many specialty dealers who feared they'd soon be run out of business, but many kept their noses to the grindstone by providing personal service and grew even stronger.

The year 1972 will always be remembered as the one in which Kodak first marketed 110 cameras and film. Consumers loved the concept of drop-in loading.

1974 was the year the widely popular Canon AE-1 was introduced. For the first time SLR photography became accessible to the masses, not just the photo geek. This time could be called "the golden age of the specialty camera store."

That same year, Chuck Wolf left the Ritz Camera family business and opened his first nine stores under the Wolf Camera name. By 2001 Wolf Camera had grown to about 700 stores. But Wolf's furious growth strategy ran aground after he purchased the Fox Photo chain of film labs from Kodak in 1998. Overexpansion brought the business to bankruptcy.

David Ritz, chief executive of Ritz Camera Centers, bought 400 of the stores from bankrupt rival Wolf Camera for $85 million, cementing his company's place as the nation's largest chain of retail camera and photo processing shops.

In 1978, Leonard Tall installed the first nonintegral minilab, which used a converted 5S printer tied into a Noritsu paper processor. A year later, Noritsu installed the first daylight operation minilab in the U.S. The minilab business was born!


In 1980, after 40 years of manufacturing and selling its mostly proprietary product lines, Calumet became a full-line supplier of pro photographic products.

Consumers fell in love with the SLR in 1981—sales went through the roof, and some manufacturers were hard-pressed to make lenses fast enough to keep up with demand.

According to PMA statistics, minilab locations doubled from 800 to 1,600 from 1980 to 1981 in order to take advantage of this market craze. Franchised camera stores and minilab chains ran rampant. Industry analysts said that film was dead and video would replace it altogether.

The decade also saw major announcements with Kodak marketing their disc camera system, Sony demonstrating the Mavica "still video" camera, and Apple showing their Macintosh personal computer. In 1985, Minolta marketed the world's first AF SLR system—the Maxxum. PTN's July 7, 1986, cover featured Canon's new still video system. The technology for these early digital systems would be used to design digital cameras a decade later.

This was also the decade that launched the one-time-use camera, which became the fastest-growing camera category. In 1987, Fujifilm announced the QuickSnap, the world's first one-time-use camera.

In 1989, Kodak made a big announcement with the development of the RA-4 process. This new process did more to increase production and improve quality than any other that had predated it.


In the 1990s, industry analysts started saying film was dead and that digital photography would replace it altogether. Camera specialty dealers were getting heavy competition. Megastores such as Wal-Mart and Target offered photo gear at deep, deep discount prices. Consumer electronics stores such as Best Buy and Circuit City also got into the photo arena.