In the hand-operated camera the limit to progress is set when the number of operations is reduced to a minimum. In cameras using the larger sizes of plates a reduction in the number of operations almost inevitably results in inflicting considerable muscular labor upon the operator. Furthermore, distance operation becomes difficult to arrange for, because the common reliance—the Bowden wire—is unfitted for heavy loads. Consequently, for setting the shutter and changing the plates we must resort to some other source of power than the observer's arm. Air-driven turbines or propellers have been used on aerial cameras, as well as clockwork, and also electric power, the latter derived either from a generator or from storage batteries. The relative merits of these sources of power form the subject of a separate chapter. Mention only is here made of the form of drive actually employed in connection with the various cameras.

The term semi-automatic camera is best used to designate that type in which the observer (or pilot) has merely to release the shutter, after which the mechanism performs all the operations necessary to prepare for the next exposure. There has been some difference of opinion as to whether it is ever advisable to go further than this with plate cameras. The English Service holds that completely automatic exposing, in addition to plate changing, is apt to encourage the making of many more pictures than necessary, involving carrying an excessive weight of plates. The French Service has rather generally favored entirely automatic cameras in with a suitable source of power can be used whenever desired for changing the plates and setting the shutter. As in the C and E types, all unexposed plates are carried in a magazine above the camera, while the exposed plates are shifted in a horizontal direction to one side and fall thence to a receiving magazine.

Fig. 50 shows the American model, which is a copy, with modifications, of the original English design. Its weight theory, although during the war practically all the work of the French army was done by the hand-operated cameras already described.