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The History of Cameras

  • 1550

    The Pinhole Camera

    The Pinhole Camera
    Technically this wouldn’t be considered a camera since it does not capture a picture, but it was the predecessor of the camera. The camera obscura acted more like a projector. The image that it would project would be mirrored. Although the earliest example of the camera obscura was traced back to 1550, the oldest recorded principle of the camera obscura is a description by the Han Chinese philosopher Mozi.
  • The Photographic Camera

    The Photographic Camera
    The first commercially advertised photographic camera was a daguerreotype camera built by Alphonse Giroux in 1839. The Giroux camera allowed people to take pictures (in black and white).
  • Kodak

    Photographic film was introduced by George Eastman, who also created a camera called the “Kodak” which was offered for sale in 1888. The Kodak camera was a simple box camera with a fixed-focus lens and single shutter speed. The camera was at a pretty low price, appealing to the average customer. In 1900, George Eastman created the Brownie, a simple and low-cost box camera that introduced the idea of the snapshot. The Brownie was very popular and was on sale until the 1960s.
  • The Compact Camera and 35mm Film

    The Compact Camera and 35mm Film
    35mm film was being used for still photography between 1905 and 1913.
    The first 35mm cameras available to the public were the Tourist Multiple in 1913 and the Simplex in 1914.
    Oskar Barnack, who worked at Leitz, started building a compact camera which used 35mm film while still capable of high quality enlargement.
    The Leica I was put into production in 1925 and quickly became popular. A number of competitors and made the 35mm the format of high-quality cameras.
  • The Compact Camera and 35mm Film (continued)

    The Compact Camera and 35mm Film (continued)
    Kodak created the Retina I in 1934, which introduced the 135 cartridge. Although the Retina I was relatively low-cost, 35mm cameras were out of reach for most people.
  • TLRs and SLRs

    TLRs and SLRs
    The first practical reflex camera was the Franke & Heidecke Rolleiflex medium format TLR. Single- and twin-lens reflex cameras had been around for decades, but had been too bulky to gain much popularity. The Rolleiflex was compact enough to gain widespread popularity and the medium format TLR design became popular enough for high-end and low-end cameras. The introduction of the Ihagee Exakta, a compact SLR which used 127 roll film in 1933 also made SLRs popular.
  • TLRs and SLRs (continued)

    TLRs and SLRs (continued)
    The 35mm SLR design achieved popularity, and several models and new features came out after World War II. The eye-level viewfinder was one of the features. Prior to this, all SLRs had waist-level focusing screens. Japanese companies also entered the SLR market in the 1950s, including Canon and Nikon. The Nikon F had interchangeable parts and accessories.
  • The Instant Camera

    The Instant Camera
    The Polaroid Model 95 (known as a Land Camera after its inventor Edwin Land) entered the market in 1948.
    The Model 95 used a patented chemical process to create finished positive prints from the exposed negatives in under a minute. The Land Camera became popular despite the high price.
    Polaroid created dozens of models by the 1960s. Another Polaroid camera, the Model 20 Swinger of 1965, became popular at the market and was a success and remained one of the top-selling cameras of all time.
  • The Digital Camera

    The Digital Camera
    The Sony Mavica, an analog electronic cameras recorded video to a 2 x 2 inch video floppy disk. The image quality was considered equal to that of then-current televisions.
    Analog electronic cameras seem not to appear on the market until 1986, with the Canon RC-701. The analog camera did not gain popularity because of the expensive price, poor image quality, and lack of quality affordable printers.
  • The Digital Camera

    The Digital Camera
    The first commercially available portable digital camera in the United States was the Dycam Model 1. It was first a commercial failure since it was black-and-white, had low resolution, and cost almost $1,000. It had success when it was re-sold as the Logitech Fotoman in 1992. It used a CCD image sensor, stored pictures digitally, and connected directly to a computer for download.
  • Digital SLRs

    Digital SLRs
    In 1991, Kodak marketed the Kodak DCS (Kodak Digital Camera System). It used a 1.3 megapixel sensor, a bulky external digital storage system and was at least $13,000. The shift to digital formats was helped by the formation of the first JPEG and MPEG standards in 1988, which let image and video files to be compressed for storage.
    Digital cameras continued to grow popular, mainly because of technology advances.
  • Camera Phone

    Camera Phone
    The Samsung SCH-V200 was one of the first phones with a built-in camera. It had a TFT liquid-crystal display and stored up to 20 digital photos in 350,000-pixel resolution. However, it could not send the images over the telephone function and instead required a computer connection to access photos.
    Smartphones now include high resolution digital cameras.