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What You Should Know About the History of the Camera

Author: Libby - Printique by Adorama

If you think of a camera as a tool that uses light to make an image, then cameras have been around for a long, long time. In fact, the camera obscura, considered to be the first camera even though it did not record images, was invented over 1,000 years ago! The camera obscura used light to project an inverse image through a pinhole and into a dark room/area. Believe it or not, they’re still used today. It’s basically the same thing as the box projector that many amateurs use to observe solar eclipses.
Obviously the camera has come a long way since the camera obscura. The next step in the development of the camera involved finding a way to save the image. In the 1800s, photographers began using metal plates and various chemicals to create surfaces that could capture images created by light exposure. As time went on, the plates became smaller, less expensive, easier to store, and required less exposure time. Eventually, the plates were no longer metal, and mechanical shutters were invented.
Related: To see how metal prints are made today, click here.
Thanks to George Eastman, cameras became more main stream. Eastman invented roll film and established the Kodak company. His cameras housed the film inside, and used a single fixed focus lens. These cameras were small enough, and cheap enough for the average consumer to buy one. Once the customer took a roll’s worth of pictures, they sent the camera back to Kodak for the film to be developed into prints. Although this was a much quicker and easier way to make family portraits, it was still bulky, and still took a considerable amount of time between taking the picture and seeing it.
As cameras continued to evolve, many changes happened virtually simultaneously. With the advent of 35mm film in the 1930s, cameras became smaller and more portable. Meanwhile, viewfinders changed from being a separate lens to being connected with the film lens so that photographers could get a better idea of how the finished photo would look. This was done through the use of a prism and a mirror, a structure known as single lens reflex (SLR).
In an effort to minimize the film to print wait time, Polaroid cameras were invented in the late 1940s, though it was the later models that became so popular. Polaroid created an in camera film developing system that allowed customers to receive a finished print within a minute, and without having to take the film for processing. A few years later, Nikon made a hit on the professional photography market with their interchangeable lenses.
Next up on the list of photography innovation was the point and shoot camera. These cameras, available beginning in the late 1970s, adjusted shutter speed and focus automatically. This, along with the rising popularity of disposable cameras, made photography a common household pursuit.
A decade later saw the birth of the digital camera, capable of electronically storing compressed images on memory cards. As SLRs remained the choice of professional photographers, the DSLR (digital single lens reflex) was invented. This brings us to today, when you can purchase just about any type of camera from basic SLRs to the most advanced digital cameras to meet your specific needs.
For more details about the history of the camera, click here.
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