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Invention Story of Camera

Written By: 

Samidha Verma


Are you one of those who are obsessed with getting clicked? Or one of those who like to capture every moment so that you can cherish it forever?  No matter which clan you belong to – one thing that all of you would appreciate is the device that aids us to freeze time in pictures i.e. the camera. Camera is undoubtedly one of the most prized possessions for a lot of us and also one of the cherished creations. Our facebook  and other social networking profiles would feel neglected without pictures of us, our families, friends, and all other things around us. Social networking feels lifeless and incomplete without pictures. Camera has endowed us with an ability to put a face to a name in the internet world.

Just as Rome was not built in a day – modern day cameras have long history that goes back far in time. Cameras have witnessed many phases of evolution – camera obscura, daguerreotypes, dry plates, calotypes, film to SLRs and DSLRs.

 Image Of Camera Obscura Rome

Fig. 1: Image Of Camera Obscura Rome 

It all started back in time of camera obscura - a device that used lens or pinhole to project images upside down on viewing surfaces by ancient Greeks and Chinese. In year 1544, this camera was used by Reiners Gemma Frisius, a mathematician for observing a solar eclipse followed by Giovanni Batista della Porta who recommended this as a drawing aid fourteen years later in 1558.

You will be amazed to know that there was a time where we did not have a method to preserve the images produced by the cameras. All one could do to preserve these picture s was tracing them with hand. The transition from room sized camera to a portable camera was envisaged in 1685 by Johann Zahn.

The first camera was invented by Alexander Wolcott. His camera design was patented on 8 may, 1840. With the invention of Alexander Wolcott it was possible to click candid pictures that did not fade away with time.
However, the earliest photographs were not taken with Alexander Wolcott's invention. It was Joseph Nicéphore Niépce who used a sliding wooden box to take photographs.

Nicéphore Niépce created a small camera using silver chloride coating on the paper that darkened on exposure to light and hence this was not permanent method of preserving photographs. To further improve the mechanism, he used wooden box camera created by Charles and Vincent Chevalier in 1826.

 Image Of Mirrorless Android-Powered Camera from Samsung

Fig. 2: Image Of Mirrorless Android-Powered Camera from Samsung

And this did not end Nicéphore’s keenness to endow a better device to the world of photography. Ten years later in 1836 along with Louis Daguerre, he created practical photographic mechanism known as daguerreotype. Louis coated silver on a cooper plate which was further treated with iodine vapour so that it could be sensitive to the light. The image could now be developed using solution of salt used with mercury vapour. Henry Fox Talbot – another name in the history of camera made an attempt to improve the process called calotype in the year 1840.

In 1855, collodian dry plates were available courtesy Désiré van Monckhoven. Soon with introduction of gelatin dry plate, Richard Leach Maddox gave a tough competition to quality and speed of the wet plates. This healthy competition to create better device gave birth to cameras small enough to be accommodated in hands. Now there were designs to choose from. Also the lower exposure times made candid photography possible.

The transformational introduction of the photographic films made a remarkable improvement in photography. George Eastman introduced the paper film in the year 1885 and soon in 1889 switched to celluloid. Kodak as many of you would remember was a gift from this gentleman. The camera came into the market in 1888. This was not a flashy camera – fixed focus, same shutter speed but the low price went a long way in appealing to the average consumers. This model came with ability have 100 shots with preloaded film which could be reloaded.

In 1990, Eastman took photography a step further with introduction of an inexpensive and simple box camera known as Brownie. This was a popular camera that captured the market till 1960s. Even with low cost photography options by Eastman, plate camera could offer quality prints and hence was popular even in 20th century. Oskar Barnack experimented by using 35 mm cine film in order to offer a camera capable of quality enlargements in 1913. This design was marketed by Leitz calling it Leica and was produced in 1925.

Kodak once again launched into the market in 1934 with Retina I introducing 135 cartridge. Even while this was introduced comparatively inexpensive, roll film was still a popular choice of the masses. Surprisingly the choice of masses transitioned to Argus A then Argus C3 in 1936 and 1939 respectively.  Also in 1936, Japanese too started to capture the market with introduction of Canon 35 m.

Franke & Heidecke Rolleiflex TLR is known to be one of the initial reflex cameras that came to the fore in 1928. The bulky reflex cameras were replaced by this decently compact camera. Such a revolution was also brought in the SLR designs during 1933 with birth of Ihagee Exakta followed by first ever western SLR that used 35mm film called Kine Exakta.

1952 saw first ever Japanese SLR with 35mm film – Asahiflex introduced by Asahi Optical Company. Soon the market was flooded with many other Japanese camera companies – Nikon, Yashica, Canon. With Nikon F line entry into the market, the company secured its position as professional-quality equipment company.

Among so much of improvement in the world of cameras, the masses witnessed a new type of camera entering the markets – polaroid model 95 in the year 1948. This was also known as the instant picture camera. This wonder camera was invented by Edwin Land who used chemical process for producing the prints from exposed negative within 60 seconds.

The world of cameras kept taking baby steps to enhance the photography experience. In 1960, German Mec 16 SB marked another technological advancement by placing light meter behind lens to better metering.  Digital cameras were introduced too - these could save pictures on the memory cards than using films.

And by late 1980s, there was a need to introduce commercially successful digital cameras and we saw cameras like Fuji DS-1P, Fuji DS-X, Dycam, Kodak DCS-100. With passing years, various formats like JPEG, MPEG became popular. Video recording was also made a part of the cameras to match up with growing demand.  And now one can find these cameras in phones with options of inbuilt GPS system and realtime geotagging options.

 From pinhole cameras to DSLRs – we surely have come a long way in the world of photography.