The daguerreotype had shortcomings, notably the fragility of the mirror-like image surface and the particular viewing conditions required to see the image properly. Each was a unique opaque positive that could only be duplicated by copying it with a camera. Inventors set about working out improved processes that would be more practical. By the end of the 1850s the daguerreotype had been replaced by the less expensive and more easily viewed ambrotype and tintype, which made use of the recently introduced collodion process. Glass plate collodion negatives used to make prints on albumen paper soon became the preferred photographic method and held that position for many years, even after the introduction of the more convenient gelatin process in 1871. Refinements of the gelatin process have remained the primary black-and-white photographic process to this day, differing primarily in the sensitivity of the emulsion and the support material used, which was originally glass, then a variety of flexible plastic films, along with various types of paper for the final prints.

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