From Shutters to DSLR: Camera History since 1900
March 20, 2014
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The end of the 19th century was an important time in camera history. Shutters were incorporated into cameras, the size of the devices decreased and Kodak film was developed by George Eastman. These moments set the stage for a new, ever-changing century of innovation, including the following game changing photography improvements.
Starting off the 20th century strong, the Eastman Kodak Co. released the Brownie camera in 1900. The Brownie was the first camera that was truly cheap — $1, or just under $30 when adjusted to the modern dollar. The Brownie introduced the concept of the snapshot, as it was suddenly reasonable to have a personal camera for casual use. Film was commonly used, but the photographs from film were still inferior to those made from plates, and professionals mostly avoided film.
The first commercially available single-lens reflex (SLR) camera, the Ihagee Exakta, was produced in 1933. An SLR camera allows the photographer to use a mirror and prism system to look through the photographic lens to see exactly what will be captured. Prior to digital cameras, non-SLR cameras used a viewfinder that showed a rough approximation of the photograph to be taken, from a slightly different angle. In 1936, the Exakta was followed by the first SLR for 35 mm film. Over the next half-century, SLR cameras were widely researched and developed, with innovations such as eye-level (rather than waist-level) viewfinders, instant-return mirrors to automatically reopen the viewfinder, and system cameras with interchangeable lenses.
Polaroid Instant Cameras
In 1948, the first Polaroid camera was released. It was named the Land Camera after inventor Edwin Land. These popular yet expensive cameras could produce a photograph in under one minute. They really took off with the addition of a cheaper consumer model in 1965, which changed camera history forever with the newfound ability to produce photographs instantly.
The Digital Revolution
Digital camera technology was born out of the spy satellite program designed to reduce the difficulties of collecting photographic data from cameras in orbit. From these early designs, digital cameras increased in resolution and decreased in size and cost until they gradually became practical for widespread consumer use during the '90s. The digital camera has now split in many directions, producing high-quality cellphone cameras, tiny compact cameras, consumer-friendly bridge and mirrorless cameras, and the increasingly accessible digital SLR cameras.
Following a century of steady development, the past few years have seen incredible innovations in the camera industry. From the tiny high-definition video cameras made by companies such as GoPro to the Lytro light-field camera, inventors are taking cameras in many new, exciting directions. We can only imagine what kind of camera technology we will be capable of at the turn of the next century.
Photo credit: Flickr