My first Ansco Cadet II camera used a screw-on flash unit that needed flashbulbs. The camera was crude, film was slow and without a flash, you could not take indoor photos at all. Flashbulbs were one-time use, all or nothing light sources. If you were too close to the subject things got washed out or if too far away things looked dark and shadowy, And of course, you didn't find this out for a couple of weeks till the film was developed.
My first 35mm rangefinder was a bit better - but not great. I had a cheap Metz flash that connected to it via cable. The flash was not controllable, but the camera had some rudimentary exposure control. And I didn't buy flashbulbs anymore. Still got a lot of deer in the headlight poses though.
The Nikon FE I got in the 80s was still pretty much a manual camera but the flash - a Sunpac - had improved dramatically with an automatic sensor on the flash to estimate how much light was needed. I got the occasional clunker with this setup but some fairly good pictures as well.
My Nikon F80 in the early 2000s featured a new technology called TTL (through the lens) and I had a Nikon flash to go with it. This was absolutely great - almost foolproof. The camera worked with the flash to balance the ambient light with the flash. It worked great as long as you had a film camera. TTL really sucked with digital because light falling on an electronic sensor doesn't work the same way as it does on film.
It took Nikon years, but at last they have come up with a new digital technology called iTTL - which gives great results once again. Of course, I am now on my 4th electronic flash. Fortunately, there are good iTTL generic models which cost $70 instead of a $250 Nikon unit.
I guess I could just use a smartphone but I doubt I could get a photo like this without proper flash.
Things have really changed. I use the newest rechargeables in a camera flash and they hold their power for years - even come from Amazon pre-charged. Some things do get better.
The Amazon Basics high capacity batteries are really good and about 1/3 the cost of the brand name Eneloop ones.
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