“The Autochrome process was the first fully practical single-plate colour process to reach the photographic public. It was easy to use. The plate was loaded into a conventional holder, glass to the front. The exposure was made through a yellow filter which corrected for the excessive blue sensitivity of the emulsion. A normal exposure for a landscape in summer, by midday sun, was one to two seconds at f/8, while a typical portrait exposure in a well lit studio would be ten to thirty seconds at f/5. The exposed plate was developed to a negative, and after a rinse the silver formed was bleached in an acid potassium permanganate solution. After another rinse the plate was redeveloped in the light to produce a positive. Fixing and washing completed the operation, although the dried plate was usually varnished for protection.
The Autochrome plate could record both saturated and subtle colours with fidelity, and since the screen and the image were combined, there were no registration problems. Nonetheless, it had drawbacks. The exposure times were long, and the processed plates were very dense, transmitting only 7½% of the light reaching them. Although the starch grain filters were microscopically small – about four million to the square inch (620,000 to the square cm) – their random distribution meant that inevitably there would be clumping – groups of grains of the same colour. Probability theory predicted that in a square inch (6.5 square cm) there would be thirty-three clumps of twelve grains or more. In practice about fifty of such clumps were present in each square inch, and were visible to the naked eye. A further drawback was the cost.
The Autochrome plates remained on the market until the 1930s.”
(Coe, Brian (1978): Colour Photography. The First Hundred Years 1840-1940. London: Ash & Grant, pp. 52-53.)
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