There are many strands in a photography timeline – the chemistry of film and processing, the physics of optics, the mechanical engineering of shutters and bodies, the electronics of metering and digital photography, and the iconic camera designs that bring everything together. At each end of the photography timeline, the science is bewilderingly complex – from the arcane chemical processes of early photography to the algorithms of computational photography, which enables cameras to go beyond capturing photons to compute pictures.
It’s not a linear journey; digital photography has been accompanied by a resurgence of interest in all things analogue, characterised by toy cameras, digital filters and apps that produce or replicate the look of film. The slow media movement, which advocates a more intentional experience, has also gathered momentum. This may be contributing to the renewed interest in film cameras, as exemplified by the recent re-invention of the 10 X 8 large format camera.
I’ve reviewed, and borrowed from, many timelines and dozens of articles and books on the history of film, film processes, cameras, lenses, digital technology, phone camera development and computational photography to compile this photography timeline and in an attempt to combine these strands. The sections of the timeline are of my own devising.
There are of course many other events in photography beyond the scientific and the technical such as the photographic firsts, photographic movements and the most influential photographs themselves. These will be covered in a future post.
I’ve tried to be diligent with my research and check the facts. The sources for the majority of entries are included as URLs. I have also referred to several excellent books: A History of Photography in 50 Cameras by Michael Pritchard; the Taschen books 20th Century Photography and A History of Photography; Photography A Concise History by Ian Jeffrey and Photography, the Definitive Visual History by Tom Ang, all of which I can recommend.
Photography Timeline 1826-2020
1826-1850 The Genesis of Photography
c. 1826 Joseph Nicéphore Niépce uses bitumen of Judea for photographs on metal and makes the first successful camera photograph on a pewter plate.
View From My Window at Gras is a direct positive he calls a heliograph with an exposure of approximately eight hours. In the same year he also uses heliography to create a reproduction of an engraved portrait. Two prints are subsequently etched and this becomes the first photomechanical reproduction process.
1827 Niépce addresses a memorandum on his invention to the Royal Society in London, but does not disclose details
1829 Niépce enters into a partnership with Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre
Niépce is unable to reduce the very long exposure times of his experiments. The two men plan to perfect the process and commercially exploit it.
Charles Chevalier creates a compound achromatic lens to cut down on chromatic aberration, a failure of a lens to focus all colours to the same plane, for Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre’s photographic experiments
1832 Robert Hunt’s Researches on Light records the first known description employing platinum to make a photographic print.
Although Hunt tries several different combinations of chemicals with platinum, none of them succeeded in producing any permanency in the image.
1835 William Henry Fox Talbot makes his first successful camera photograph or “photogenic drawing” using paper sensitised with silver chloride,
1839 The public birthday of photography, from three inventors – Dagurerre, Fox Talbot and Bayard
Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre’s daguerreotype becomes the first photographic process to be adopted.The process creates an image on a silvered metal plate exposed to iodine fumes, which is then developed by exposing the plate to fumes of heated mercury. Fixing is via a salt solution. It produces an image of remarkable sharpness, but each one is unique.
Hearing of Daguerre’s invention, Fox Talbot formally announces a paper process to achieve images by action of light and presents his photogenic drawings at the Royal Society in London
Sir John Herschel suggests fixing images in sodium thiosulphate. He also coins the terms photography, negative and positive.
Hippolyte Bayard produces direct-positive images on sensitized paper. Like Daguerre’s technique, Bayard’s is a direct-positive process; like Talbot’s, it produced photographs on paper. It involves exposing silver chloride paper to light, which turns the paper completely black. It is then soaked in potassium iodide before being exposed in a camera. After the exposure, it requires washing in a bath of hyposulfite of soda and drying.
The first camera to be manufactured in any quantity is the Giroux Daguerreotype.
Stereoscopic depth sensing is first explained by Charles Wheatstone as he invents the stereoscope
1840 The Petzval Portrait becomes the first wide-aperture portrait lens.
It is also the first photographic lens where the design was computed mathematically before construction. It uses an air space between elements that allows for the correction of aberrations better than the two cemented elements in Chevalier’s achromatic doublet could previously. It has an aperture of f/3.6, which allows for shorter shutter speeds that makes daguerreotype portraiture more practical.
The cyanotype or blue-print is invented by Sir John Herschel. It uses a mixture of ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide to produce a light sensitive paper.
Fox Talbot discovers what will be revealed as the Calotype process the following year
1841 Fox Talbot patents the Calotype process, or photogenic drawings that produce photographic images on salted paper.
Salted paper prints are made by sensitising a sheet of paper in a solution of sodium chloride and then coating it on one side with silver nitrate. It is the first negative-positive process and makes multiple copies possible.
1843 Joseph Puchberger patents the first hand crank driven swing lens panoramic camera.
1844 Fox Talbot publishes The Pencil of Nature, a publication discussing the range and possibilities of photography
1845 The Bourquin of Paris camera is the first camera with the lens in a metal tube using a rack and pinion mechanism for focusing.
1847 Louis Désiré Blanquard-Evard improves Talbot’s Calotype process and presents his research to the French Academy of Sciences
1848 Edmond Becquerel makes the first, temporary, full-colour photographs
An exposure lasting hours or days is required and the colours are so light-sensitive that they sometimes fade right before the viewer’s eyes while being examined.
Claude Felix Abel Niépce de Saint-Victor uses albumen on glass plates for negatives
1850 The albumen print is announced by Louis-Désiré Blanquard-Évrard, delivering greater density, contrast and sharpness than had been possible with a salted paper print.
1851-1870 Collodion Wet Plate and Stereoscopic Photography
The process, also known as the collodion wet plate process, requires the photographic material to be coated, sensitized, exposed and developed within the span of about fifteen minutes, and required a darkroom to be close at hand. It becomes the standard photographic negative process for both amateurs and professionals from the mid-1850s until the early 1880s.
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert become interested in examples of stereoscopic images at The Great Exhibition This results in a craze for the images which did not wane until the 1870s. Consisting of two photographs of the same scene taken from slightly different angles, stereoscopic photographs are usually mounted alongside one another on a single support of stiff card of a standardised size. When seen through a stereoscope viewer, the illusion of a three-dimensional image is created.
1853 The Tintype process is first described by Adolphe-Alexandre Martin.
Tintype portraits start in a formal photographic studio but would become adopted by street photographers. Compared to the daguerreotype, tintypes were inexpensive and relatively easy and quick to make. A photographer could take a tintype photograph and have it ready for the customer in a few minutes. Early versions are packaged in glass-topped cases like daguerreotypes and ambrotypes. The cost of photography would fall in the 1860s, making the the case the more expensive item leading to paper sleeve or loose packaging. Because they were so cheap and durable, tintypes were a popular mode of street photography well into the twentieth century.
Ambrotypes were an improvement on the daguerreotype, which had a tendency to tarnish, due to its silver coating and copper plating. Ambrotypes addressed this by printing the photograph on a sheet of glass. Early ambrotypes have the photograph on the back of a piece of glass, with another piece of glass behind the photo. Later versions of the ambrotype would have the photo printed on the front of the glass, with a black paper coating on the back to make the negative image appear positive.
Parisian portrait photographer André-Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri patents the Carte-de-visite. Disdéri used a four-lensed camera, which made eight 3.5 × 2.5-inch (8.89 × 6.35-cm) negatives on one full-sized plate. The large albumen print made from that plate was cut up into small portraits, which were separately mounted on cards measuring about 4 × 3 inches (10 × 7.6 cm). It is the first type of photography to use a negative which allows people to buy copies of the photos to share with family and friends. The Carte de Visite will remain popular until the late 1880s.
1855 The carbon process is patented by A. L. Poitevin.
Because the process does not employ silver salts, the resulting image is resistant to fading and becomes widely used in book illustration in the 1870s and 1880s.
Belgian photographic scientist, writer, and industrialist Désiré van Monckhoven publishes the first edition of Traite de photographie sur collodion (Treatise on collodium photography)
1859 Thomas Sutton introduces the Panoramic Camera, which uses a spherical water-filled lens to create a panoramic photograph.
French scientist Dr. J.M. Taupenot develops the first practical collodion dry plates which use the dry collodion-albumen process. Adoption of dry plate photography would come later with the gelatine dry plate process
It is of a multicolored ribbon, the first demonstration of colour photography by the three-color method he had suggested in 1855.
The first photographic single-lens reflex camera (SLR) is invented by Thomas Sutton. Only a few of his SLR’s were made.
1862 The first successful wide-angle lens is the Harrison & Schnitzer Globe
1863 The cabinet card is first introduced by Windsor & Bridge in London
It becomes widely used for photographic portraiture by the late 1860s. It an improvement on the carte de visite being larger, though it is made in the same way. The cabinet card’s name relates to its suitability for display in parlours, especially in cabinet. It remains a popular medium for family portrait until the introduction of the Kodak Box Brownie camera in 1900 when the public increasingly begin taking their own photographs.
It is a double meniscus system in which two achromatized meniscus lenses are arranged symmetrically on either side of the aperture stop, reducing or eliminating distortion, coma and lateral colour.
The Woodburytype process is patented. The process produces very high quality continuous tone monochrome prints. It becomes common for illustrating fine books with photographic portraits, but will ultimately be displaced by cheaper halftone processes.
1871-1900 Dry Plate Photography and Good Glass
This process meant the complex and arduous chemistry work photographers had previously to undertake could be done in a factory. The glass plates are factory coated with a photographic emulsion and boxed after the emulsion had dried. They can be stored and loaded into cameras as needed and developed at any time after exposure. The process was far more convenient than the wet collodion process.
1873 The platinotype process, which produces platinum prints, is patented by William Willis.
1877 Adolf Miethe and Johannes Gaedicke produce Blitzlicht – the first ever widely used flash powder.
1878 Heat ripening of gelatin emulsions is discovered, making possible very short exposures.
1879 George Eastman invents an emulsion-coating machine which enables him to mass-produce photographic dry plates.
Ilford Ltd is founded by Alfred Hugh Harman as the Britannia Works Company
1883 William Schmid patents the first “detective camera” for dry plates.
Prior to its introduction, cameras required the use of a tripod or similar support. The term refers to cameras that are inconspicuous compared to normal field cameras of the time and usually hand-held, and so can be used to take photographs discreetly. Many detective cameras are box-form falling-plate magazine cameras. Schmid’s patent describes a waist-level reflex viewfinder, which allows the photographer to view the subject whilst holding the camera.
1885 The first flexible photographic roll film was sold by George Eastman, though this original “film” was actually a coating on a paper base
1886 Frederick E. Ives develops the halftone engraving process, making it possible to reproduce photographic images in the same operation as printing text
The first single use camera, the Ready Fotografer, is introduced, using a dry plate. To take a picture the camera is unfolded to allow light through the aperture to form an image on the dry plate inside. Development requires cutting through the paper to extract the plate, which makes the camera single use. It appears to have enjoyed very limited success.
1887 The Rev. Hannibal Goodwin files a patent application for camera film on celluloid rolls.
The patent will be not granted until 1898, by which time George Eastman has started production of roll-film using his own process. The patent will later be sold to Ansco who go on to successfully sue Eastman Kodak for infringement.
1888 The Kodak n°1 box camera, the first easy-to-use camera is introduced with the slogan “You press the button, we do the rest.”
1889 The first transparent plastic roll film is introduced. It is made from highly flammable cellulose nitrate film.
“Here come the rabble.” Charles Dodson’s (AKA Lewis Carrol) would remark when first told about the new invention.
The Loman Reflex, the first commercially produced camera with a focal-plane shutter, is introduced.
Hurter and Driffield introduce the characteristic curve which is central to sensitometry, the science of light-sensitive materials. The characteristic curve plots the amount of exposure against the density achieved by that exposure. It has an “S” shape reflecting the fact that film does not reproduce extremely dark and/or extremely light areas in the same way as midtones.
The Ilford Manual of Photography is first published in 1890. Technical information regarding optics, chemistry and printing are described in far greater depth than in other photographic books, and so it quickly becomes the staple technical book for the professional or serious amateur photographer
It is the first lens system that eliminates most of the optical distortion or aberration at the outer edge of lenses. Over 80 patents will subsequently be issued for variations and modifications of the Cooke Triplet, more than for any other type of lens. Later developments based on the Cooke triplet will include the Voigtlander Heliar and Dynar (later copied as the Kodak Ektars), as well as the Ernostar and Sonnar type lenses marketed by Zeiss. These Zeiss lenses in turn, would give rise to the original Leica lenses, the Elmars. The Cooke triplet is also an ancestor of the zoom lens, as by moving the central element of a triplet, a basic zoom lens is created.
1895 The Pocket Kodak Camera is announced, incorporating a small window through which positioning numbers for exposures can be read
1896 The Zeiss Planar lens, designed by Dr Paul Rudolph, is introduced.
Dr Rudolf uses a double-gauss design in which the central elements are cemented pairs for the Planar, an arrangement which allows for further correction of aberrations. Over 300 variations will eventually be produced, including the Leica Summicron, Schneider Xenotar, Rodenstock Heligon, and many others.
1898 Kodak markets the Folding Pocket Kodak Camera which produces a 2 1/4″ x 3 1/4″ negative, which will remain the standard size for decades.
1900-1947 The Rise of Popular Photography
1900 Kodak bring the Brownie, the most successful camera range of all time, to market
It is an inexpensive user-reloadable point-and-shoot box camera. Around 125 models will carry this name from 1900 and 1980 and it will introduce photography to many millions of people.
1901 The popular medium format film 120 film is launched by Eastman Kodak for its Brownie No. 2.
It is intended for the box cameras and folding cameras of amateurs, but will became increasingly associated with professional cameras once amateur photographers move to 126 cartridge cameras or 35mm point and shoot cameras. Among rollfilm sizes, 120 has survived the longest, and currently defines medium format as it it known today.
1902 Carl Zeiss introduces the Tessar lens, an inexpensive design that becomes extremely popular.
Based on the original Anastigmat/Protar lens design (not the 1893 Cooke triplet) the Tessar lens had much better resolution than the Protar. It will be produced, either under license or with small modifications to work around patent restrictions, by dozens of other manufacturers. Tessar type lenses include the Leitz Elmar, Kodak Ektar, Pentax Takumar, and Voiglander Skopar.
1904 Harold Dennis Taylor of Cooke Company develops a chemical method for producing lens coatings.
Taylor observes that tarnished lenses reflected less and transmitted more light than shiny new lenses and realises the tarnish is reducing reflection. He patents a process using acids and other chemicals to tarnish coat lens elements for this purpose.
The Midg No. 0, a quarterplate magazine camera that takes twelve glass plates in metal holder is introduced.A later model, the Midg No.1, will be used in 1917 by Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths for the famous Cottingley fairies hoax
1905 The Soho Reflex large-format single-lens reflex camera is introduced and becomes the definitive SLR model until after WWII
The first telephoto lens optically corrected and fixed as a system is introduced – the f/8 Busch Bis-Telar
1906 Panchromatic plates are marketed by Wratten and Wainright in England
1907 The Autochrome plate is introduced, the first commercially successful colour photography product.
1908 Kodak produces the world’s first commercially practical safety film using cellulose acetate base instead of the highly flammable cellulose nitrate base.
c. 1910 Adoption of the bromoil process begins
A modification of the oil process, it creates soft images reminiscent of paint or pastels and is popular with the Pictorialists
1911 In Italy, The Bragaglia brothers begin experiments in photodynamism
1912 Kodak introduces the Vest Pocket Kodak, or ‘VPK’.
It will become one of the most popular and successful cameras of its day with 2 million sold before discontinuation in 1926. When closed, it measures just 1 by 2½ by 4¾ inches. It would later be advertised as ‘The Soldier’s Kodak’ and becomes a popular choice of camera for soldiers during WWI.
The Graflex Speed Graphic press camera is introduced. Production of later versions continued until 1973. It’s most famous user would be the New York City press photographer Arthur “Weegee” Fellig, who covered the city in the 1930s and 1940s.
1913 Oskar Barnack, creates the Ur-Leica, the prototype of a small-format 35mm camera.
Barnack is a master technician at Ernst Leitz Optische Werke in Wetzlar/Germany. His groundbreaking idea is to double the width of then common 18x24mm cinema film and run it horizontally, rather than vertically as in cinema cameras of the time.
1916 The first camera with a coupled rangefinder is marketed – the 3A Kodak Autographic Special.
1924 The first common wide aperture lens becomes available with the f/2 Ernemann Ernostar.
1925 Leica introduces the Leica I, making the 35mm format truly viable
It was not the first 35mm camera by any means, but it was a watershed design and would go on to become ‘the photographer’s camera.’ Henri Cartier-Bresson, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Robert Capa, Robert Doisneau and Bert Hardy would all use the first series Leica cameras.
1929 The Rolleiflex offers photographers superb build quality, superior optics and bright viewfinders.
The Rolleiflex would be used by some of the finest photographers of the twentieth century including Robert Capa, Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, Gordon Parks, Bill Brandt and Robert Doisneau.
The Vacublitz, the first true flashbulb made from aluminum foil sealed in oxygen, is produced in Germany by the Hauser Company.
1930 The Leica I Leica Thread Mount (LTM) offers a camera with interchangeable lenses.
LOMO (Leningrad Optical Mechanical Association) produce the first Russian-manufactured camera
c. 1931 Dr Harold Eugene “Doc” Edgerton, invents of the ‘strobe’ flash, transforming the stroboscope from an obscure laboratory instrument into a common device.
Rodenstock introduces the Imagon, which will become one one of the classic professional soft-focus portrait lenses. The effect is created by under-corrected spherical aberrations and uses diffusion discs (aka sink strainers) to enhance the effect. The soft focus effect is used in glamour photography and is a look strongly associated with images of Old Hollywood.
1932 The Leica II is launched, the first Leica camera with a rangefinder, which becomes a signature of the company.
The first photo-electric light meter is introduced, the Weston Model 617.
1933 The Leica III is introduced
It is produced in parallel with the Leica II and remains in production in various iterations until 1960. The Leica’s small size and quiet shutter endear it to a whole generation of candid photographers.
The first Rolleicord, a simplified version of the Standard Rolleiflex, for amateur users is introduced. The Rollecord comes with a cheaper 75mm Zeiss Triotar lens and a simplified film advance mechanism.
1934 Kodak releases the first preloaded 35mm film, the 135 film cartridge.
Prior to its invention, photographers had to load their own film into reusable cassettes in a dark room.
1935 Eastman Kodak markets Kodachrome film.
Zeiss Ikon introduce the Super Ikonta B, a premium quality, folding medium format rangefinder camera notable both for its build and image quality.
Canon introduces the Hansa, the first Asian 35MM camera. The successful introduction of the Hansa Canon was the basis for the company which would grow into Canon, Inc.
Leica introduces the Thambar, a 90mm f2.2 soft focus portrait lens. The lens design uses a considerable amount of spherical aberration to achieve the soft focus effect.
1936 the first widely-distributed 35mm SLR camera, the Kine Exakta, is introduced.
Its name comes from ‘cine’, as it uses 35mm film The design will influence many subsequent SLRs.
Zeus Ikon launch the Contax II, the first camera with a rangefinder and a viewfinder combined in a single window.
1937 The Rolleiflex Automat introduces automatic film loading and transport.
The Minox subminiature camera is introduced. It would attract the attention of the intelligence services in the US, Britain and Germany at the outbreak of WWII due to its suitability to covert use.
1938 Kodak Introduces the Super Six-20, the world’s first camera with built-in photoelectric exposure control
The first hot shoe appears on the Univex Mercury, though hot shoes did not become common until the 1960s.
1939 The Argus C3 is introduced and becomes the world’s best-selling 35mm camera
This is due to its combination of reasonable price and decent quality. The camera will stay in production until 1966 with only minor changes. Fondly known as “the Brick,” it offers 35mm rangefinder photography at a price amateurs who could not dream of owning a Leica or Contax could pay.
Adams describes the Zone System as ” a codification of the principles of sensitometry“. It is based on the late 19th century sensitometry studies of Hurter and Driffield and provides photographers with a systematic method of precisely defining the relationship between the way they visualise the photographic subject and the final results.
1942 Eastman Kodak introduces Kodacolor – the first negative film for making paper prints.
1948-1984: The Refinement of Film Photography and the Birth of Digital
1948 Instant photography is introduced with the first instant-film camera, the Land Camera 95 or Polaroid camera.
The iconic Hasselblad 1600F camera is introduced and goes on to develop a reputation as the ultimate professional camera. It will receive great exposure as the camera of NASA space missions. Nikon Model 1
Nikon introduces the Nikon 1 rangefinder, the first Nikon-branded camera ever produced. The design is based on the Contax rangefinder but with a simpler shutter similar to that used by Leica.
1954 The Leica M is introduced.
It introduces the new Leica M mount and combines the rangefinder and viewfinder into one large, bright viewfinder with a brighter double image in the centre. This system also introduces a system of parallax compensation and a new rubberized, reliable, focal-plane shutter. The M will become used by legends such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank and W Eugene Smith.
Eastman Kodak introduces high-speed Tri-X film.
1955 The Kilfitt Makro-Kilar f/3.5 is the first macro lens to provide continuous close focusing
1957 The Asahi Pentax SLR is introduced, placing controls in locations that would become standard on 35 mm SLRs
1959 The Nikon F is introduced, Nikon’s first SLR and one of the most advanced cameras of its day.
It combined concepts that had already been introduced elsewhere to create a revolutionary camera. The all-mechanical F is well built to the point of near-indestructability and will be used during by several Vietnam war photographers. Famously, Don McCullin’s Nikon F stopped a Khmer Rouge AK47 bullet at Prey Veng, Cambodia in1970.
The first zoom lens for still cameras is introduced – the Voigtländer-Zoomar 36-82mm f/2.8 for Voigtländer Bessamatic 35mm SLRs.
Kodak High Speed Ektrachrome film becomes the fastest colour film on the market.
1961 Eastman Kodak introduces faster Kodachrome II color film
1963 Kodak introduces the Instamatic range of cameras, with the phrase ‘load it you’ll love it’
The Instamatic has an easy-to-use film cartridge. The asymmetric cartridge simply drops into the camera and cannot be loaded incorrectly. More than 50 million Instamatic Cameras would be produced by 1970
1964 The Pentax Spotmatic SLR is introduced with revolutionary stop-down light metering
1965 The word pixel is first published by Frederic C. Billingsley of JPL
1966: Zeiss produce the Planar 50mm f/0.7, the world’s fastest lens, used by NASA to photograph the dark side of the moon
1967 Nikon F Photomic SLR is the first camera with a centre-weighted exposure metering system
Mamiya introduces the C330, a professional TLR with interchangeable lens pairs. It would gain popularity in the 1970s as a simpler and less expensive alternative to the Hasselblad 500.
1971 Nikon introduce the F2 to succeed the legendary F.
The F2 is unique in the way that it is sold by Nikon, which is in named configurations of body and finder, such as the Nikon F2 Photomic, an F2 body and DP-1 metered prism or the the later Nikon F2AS Photomic, a body plus the DP-12 metered prism.
1972 Polaroid introduces the SX-70.
The camera offers automatic exposure and focusing and pictures eject automatically and develop quickly without chemical residue. It was subsequently adopted by pop artist Andy Warhol.
Kodak Kodak reduces the popular Instamtic Camera to pocket size with the introduction of the Pocket Istamatic Cameras. It uses the new easy-load 110 Film Cartridge. The line was so popular that more than 25 million cameras were produced in slightly under three years, and it becomes the first introduction to photography for many people.
Olympus launches the OM-1, an ultra-compact 35mm SLR that initiates the compact SLR revolution of the ‘70s and ‘80s.
It weighs 3.6kg and shoots a mere 0.01 Megapixel image.
Bryce Bayer of Kodak develops the Bayer filter mosaic pattern for CCD color image sensors. A Bayer filter is an integral part of most digital camera’s image sensor. It is an array, or mosaic, of red, green and blue filters above the millions of light-sensitive photosites on the surface of a sensor chip. All current digital camera sensors except Sigma’s use Bayer technology.
Olympus launch the XA series, one of the smallest rangefinder cameras ever made, alongside the Contax T. It features a fast 35mm f2.8 F. Zuiko lens, and aperture priority metering.
1976 Canon introduces the AE-1
One of the most well known and widely circulated 35mm SLR cameras ever made, the AE-1 is a 35mm an Automatic Exposure SLR camera with shutter speed-priority TTL metering marketed as a “Continuous Shooting SLR”. The camera helped bridge the gap between hardcore photo professionals and hobbyists.
Leica experiments with the first autofocus camera system but abandons it. Leica uses its Leicaflex SL2 for the autofocus prototype and equips a 50 mm lens with a servo motor. Two LEDs on top of the viewfinder assist in detecting the highest contrast of a subject and the motor turns the focusing ring. Leica is committed to manual focus lenses decides to sell the technology to Minolta, which would later launch the first successful autofocus SLR with the Minolta Maxxum 7000.
1977 Fuji introduces the first zoom lens to be sold as the primary lens for an interchangeable lens camera
The Fuji Fujinon-Z 43-75mm f/3.5-4.5 is the first zoom lens sold as the primary lens for an interchangeable lens camera – the Fujica AZ-1 35mm SLR
1978 Konica introduces the C35 AF, the first point-and-shoot autofocus camera.
1979 The highly portable medium format Plaubel Makina 67 is released
It is a collapsible 6x7cm format mechanical rangefinder camera with a built-in manual meter that takes 120 film. Along with the Mamiya 6/7 the pair would develop a reputation as the best portable medium format cameras ever made.
1980 The Ricoh AF Rikenon 50mm f/2, the first interchangeable autofocus SLR lens, is introduced
The lens is designed for the Pentax K mount 35mm SLR. Using what the manufacturer called solid-state triangulation, it works much like a traditional rangefinder, but with a sensor taking the place of the human eye.
Nikon introduces the F3, with manual and semi-automatic exposure control. It has the most extensive collection of system accessories built around a body, which would make the F3 one of the most desirable system cameras in the market for professional photographers. It would also become the model with most variations of any Nikon F variant.
1981 Sony introduces the Mavica, a TV camera that records TV-quality still images on magnetic floppy discs.
The Sigma 21-35mm f/3.5-4 becomes the first super-wide angle zoom lens for still cameras.
The Holga, a low-tech plastic camera for 120 film, is introduced. It will attain cult status with the advent of Lomography and is cited as a major source of inspiration for Instagram by co-founder Kevin Systrom.
1982 Nikon introduces the FM2
The camera has a metal-bladed, bearing-mounted, vertical-travel focal plane shutter. It has the then unheard-of speed range of 1 to 1/4000th second and a fast flash X-sync speed of 1/250th second, without the requirement for battery power.
1984 LOMO begin mass-producing the LC-A
The fixed lens, 35 mm film compact film camera achieves popularity within the USSR and will kickstart Lomography.
Leica introduces the M6, which resembles the Leica M3 but adds a modern, off-the-shutter light meter with no moving parts and LED arrows in the viewfinder.
1985-2006: Autofocus to Camera Phones
1985 Minolta introduces the world’s first fully integrated autofocus SLR with the autofocus (AF) system built into the body – the Maxxum 7000.
Other manufacturers had achieved autofocus earlier by using complex mechanisms in the camera lens. The Minolta’s in-body AF allows it to take smaller, simpler lenses. It uses an entirely new mount, a decision Canon will follow with the EOS 600-series a few years later and unlike Pentax and Nikon who maintain compatibility with their manual focus mounts.
The QuickSnap uses 35 mm film, and helps to define consumer photography in the late ’80s and ’90s
The Canon T90 marks the pinnacle of manual-focus 35mm SLRs, but will be superseded the following year by the EOS autofocus range with a completely different lens mount.
Canon launch the RC-701 ‘Realtime camera’ the first commercially available Still Video Camera
1987 Canon launches the EOS (Electro-Optical System), an entirely new system designed specifically to support autofocus lenses.
The EOS system features the new EF lens mount, which uses electrical signals to communicate between the camera and the lens. Both focusing and aperture control are performed by electric motors mounted in the lens body.
1988 The Fuji DS-1P, the first digital handheld camera, is introduced, though it does not sell
The JPEG and MPEG standards are set.
Kodak introduce the DC 210, the first “Megapixel resolution” digital camera selling for under $1000 ($899). It had a CCD sensor a 2X, 29-58mm equivalent wide-angle zoom lens, a 1.8-inch LCD panel and used Compact Flash cards.
1989 Canon introduces the 50mm f/1.0L, the fastest AF EF mount lens, and one of the fastest lenses in the world.
1990 Adobe Photoshop 1.0 image manipulation program is introduced for Apple Macintosh computer.
Eastman Kodak announces the development of its Photo CD system
The gum oil process, a painstaking and highly expressive photographic method, is invented by Karl P. Koenig.
The titanium bodied Contax T2 is the second of the Contax T series of high-end compact film cameras targeted at the professional and luxury consumer markets. It develops a reputation as one of the most readily user-controllable cameras of its era and later develops a cult following.
1991 The world’s first digital SLR is introduced, The Kodak Professional Digital Camera System (DCS) based on the Nikon F3
1992 The Lomographic Society International (LSI) is founded
Leaf Systems Inc. release the first digital camera for medium format cameras with a 4x4cm, 4-MP CCD.
1993 The Konica Hexar is introduced
It is an f2 35 mm autofocus model styled like a rangefinder. It becomes known for the quality of its lens and being one of the quietest of 35mm cameras.
The instantly recognisable Nikon 35Ti compact camera is released. It has a sharp 35mm f/2.8 Nikkor lens, controlled by an infrared autofocus system in a titanium body and a distinctive analog display on top.
The Canon EF 1200mm f/5.6L USM is introduced, which Canon claims as the longest focal length lens available for any interchangeable-lens autofocus SLR. It weighs 16.5kg, has an angle of view of just 2.05° and a minimum focusing distance of 14m. Only 20 of the lenses were made.
1994 The Apple Quicktake 100 is the first camera to use USB to connect to a computer.
Nikon introduces the first optical-stabilized lens. The Vibration Reduction system detects and counteracts handheld camera/lens unsteadiness, allowing sharp photographs of static subjects at shutter speeds much slower than normally possible without a tripod.
1995 The Casio QV-10 is the first camera to incorporate an LCD screen on the back for image preview and playback.
1996 Eastman Kodak, FujiFilm, AgfaPhoto, and Konica introduce the Advanced Photo System (APS).
This enables the camera to record information other than the image, such as the print aspect ratio, the date and time that the photograph was taken, a caption, and exposure data such as shutter speed and aperture setting.
1999 The first commercial camera phone, the Kyocera Visual Phone VP-210, is launched in Japan.
The Nikon D1 is the first fully integrated digital SLR designed from the ground up, rather than a digital modification to a film SLR. It features a 2.7MP sensor and 4.5fps shooting.
2000 Sharp and J-Phone introduce the first mass market camera-phone in Japan, The J-SH04
2001 Nikon produce the manual focus FM3a, the last manual focus 35mm SLR released by a major maker.
The FM3a features one of the most advanced SLR shutters every built, a compact hybrid shutter that allows both electronically-controlled auto-exposure shooting and full manual control without the need for batteries.
Kodak lose $60 for every digital camera according to a Harvard case study
All previous digital SLRs had a smaller sensor, giving a cropped view. The imaging sensor was produced by Philips.
Europe gets its first camera phone with the arrival of the Nokia 6750.
Canon’s first full-frame DSLR, the Canon EOS-1Ds, features a 11.1MP CMOS sensor, a glass pentaprism viewfinder, a 2-inch 120k-dot LCD, an electronically controlled focal-plane shutter with speeds to 1/8000 sec, a 45-point AF system, and a 21-zone autoexposure (AE) system.
Foveon X3 sensor technology is introduced in the Sigma SD9 DSLR camera. Foveon sensors have three layers of pixels which allows each pixel to record complete light information, since the light will penetrate all three layers of colour in each image captured. Despite claims of technical superiority to the Bayer filter the technology remains restricted to a single manufacturer.
2003 The film market peaks with 960 million rolls of film sold
The Minolta Dimage A1 is the first model to stabilise images by shifting the sensor instead of using a lens-based system.
2004 The Epson R-D1 is the first digital rangefinder camera
The Nikon F6 is launched. It is the sixth and last high end professional film camera since the Nikon F of 1959.
2005 The Canon EOS 5D is the first consumer DSLR to feature a full frame sensor.
AgfaPhoto files for bankruptcy and the production of Agfa brand consumer films ends
2006 DALSA Semiconductor announces the worlds first sensor with a total resolution of over 100 million pixels
ISO 518:2006 specifies the standard dimensions of camera accessory shoes. The standard species dimensions for camera accessory shoes with and without electrical contacts, for photoflash lamps and electronic photoflash units
2007-Present: Smart Photography and Analogue Nostalgia
2007 Apple reinvents the phone with the iPhone
By replacing the keypad with a touchscreen and adding computer-like capabilities, Apple sets a new standard for the device. “Apple is going to reinvent the phone,” said Steve Jobs at the time. The iPhone offers a 2MP camera but does not yet have third-party apps or offer video recording.
The Samsung B710 offers a dual lens phone.
2008 Panasonic release the mirrorless DMC-G1
It the first product of the new M4/3 standard developed by Panasonic and Olympus.
The Nikon D90 is the first DSLR with HD video recording capabilities.
2009 FujiFilm launches world’s first digital 3D system
The FinePix Real 3D System includes includes the FinePix Real 3D W1 digital camera, FinePix Real 3D V1 picture viewer and 3D print capability.
The Leica M9 is the first full-frame digital Leica M.
2010 Instagram, the photo and video-sharing social networking service is launched on iOS.
Apple launches the iPhone 4S and pitches it as a point-and-shoot camera killer: With 8 megapixels and all-new optics, this just might be the best camera ever on a mobile phone. It just might be the only camera you’ll ever need. And if you think that’s amazing, wait until you see your photos.
The new sensor in the iPhone 4S allows for photos with higher resolution and also captures 1080p video for the first time. It incorporates a new Apple-designed image signal processor (ISP) and a dual-core graphics processing unit (GPU) which is seven times faster its predecessor. With its new f/2.4 aperture camera and 8 MP sensor, the iPhone 4S is superior to previous models in terms of both depth of field and low-light performance. It will subsequently be described in a Digital Photography Review article as: the final nail in the compact camera’s coffin.
Worldwide demand for photographic film falls to less than a tenth of what it had been ten years before
2009 Sony introduces the first consumer back-side illuminated (BSI) sensor, the “Exmor R“, which improves low-light performance.
c.2010 Photographers start to use social media filters and apps such as Hipstamatic
These simulate the colours, ageing and imperfections inherent in analogue photography as part of a wave of analogue nostalgia.
The Fujifilm FinePix X100 is introduced. It is the first model in the Fujifilm X-series, a range that makes the case for the benefits of APS-C over full-frame cameras.
Instagram adds hashtags to help users discover both photographs and each other. Version 2.0 of Instagram goes live in the App Store (iOS) and includes new and live filters, instant tilt–shift, and high resolution photographs.
2012 Sony launches the world’s first full frame compact camera – the RX1, with a fixed 35mm F2 lens.
The Nikon D800 is introduced with the world’s highest resolution DSLR sensor.
2013 Sony announces the ⍺7 which starts the full frame mirrorless revolution.
A review in The Verge predicts: It might be a few years before we realize it, but when the DSLR is relegated to a niche status among specialty photographers and full-frame mirrorless cameras dominate the market, we’ll have the a7s to thank as the cameras that started it all.
Nokia launches the Lumia 1020 phone with a 1.5 inch 41 megapixel rear sensor. The high pixel count enables the camera to offer the digital equivalent of zoom and links pixels via a process known as oversampling to create 5MP images which can be easily shared.
Sales of digital cameras in the United States of America start to fall in terms of revenue and in unit shipments, as more consumers turn to smartphones and social media.
2014 The HTC One M8 popularises dual lens cameras.
Leica introduces the Leica T (Typ 701) with Leica’s first fully-electronic, designed-for-mirrorless lens mount. The camera was also notable for being manufactured from a single block of milled aluminium, its oversized touchscreen and app-like operating system
2015 Google Photos delivers AI-based organisation of images
Sony announces the first camera to employ a back-side illuminated full frame sensor, the α7R II.
Leica announces the full frame, fixed-lens compact Leica Q (Typ 116) – the first full-frame Leica to incorporate an autofocus system. The Q has a 24MP full-frame sensor and a 28mm F1.7 Summilux stabilized lens and is successful enough not to be updated for another four years. It is well received by travel and street photographers in particular.
2016 Apple introduces Portrait Mode.
This uses the dual backside cameras to create a depth map to isolate a foreground subject – usually a person, and then blur the background based on depth.
Apple introduces the iPhone 7 Plus. The iPhone offers a dual camera setup with different focal lengths, 23mm and 56mm, entering the realms of telephoto on a phone.
2017 Intrepid Camera launches its Kickstarter project for a light-weight, low cost, compact 10X8 film camera.
The UK-based manufacturer will go on to become the largest manufacturer of 10×8 cameras in what the British Journal of Photography describes as ‘the large format revolution’.
2018 The Huawei P20 Pro provides a new triple camera system
Canon officially discontinues the EOS-1V, the company’s last remaining film camera
Canon introduces the mirrorless EOS R
Google Night Sight achieves similar results to a camera on a tripod with a handheld Pixel camera phone. It does this by segmenting the exposure into a burst of consecutive frames, which are then reassembled into a single image via an algorithm to minimise the effects of motion. It also uses AI to rebalance colour to make the shot more realistic.
Production of Ektachrome film resumes
Leica introduce the Leica M10-D, a digital camera without an LCD screen designed to combine the excitement of film with digital technology.
Researchers at Dartmouth College announce a new image sensing technology, the Quanta Image Sensor (QIS). QIS chips replace pixels with “jots.” Each jot can detect a single particle of light (photon).
2019 Xiaomi introduce the CC9 Pro, with five rear cameras including one with 108-megapixels.
The five rear cameras are a 108-megapixel wide angle lens, a 5-megapixel telephoto with 5x optical zoom (and 10x hybrid zoom), a 12-megapixel telephoto camera designed for portrait mode shots, a 20-megapixel ultra-wide with a 117-degree field of view, and a 2-megapixel macro lens for close-up shots. There’s also a sixth 32-megapixel camera on the front of the phone, which is housed in a teardrop-style notch.
The Fujifilm GFX 100 is the world’s first medium format camera to offer in-body image stabilization. The dual-grip mirrorless camera offers a 102MP BSI-CMOS sensor, on-sensor phase detection and 5-axis image stabilisation.
Nikon officially releases the 58mm f/0.95 S Noct, its fastest lens. It is a standard prime, manual-focus lens for the Nikon Z mount system.
Fujifilm announces the Fujinon XF50mm f1.0 WR lens as a concept lens
4.5 million digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras manufactured by CIPA companies (Olympus, Casio, Canon, Kodak, Sanyo Electric, Sigma, Seiko Epson, Sony, Tomy and Nikon) are shipped, down from 16.2 million in 2012. Overall digital camera sales volume drops from 98.1m to 15.2m over the same period.
2020 Samsung Introduces the Galaxy S20 Ultra with five cameras to capture 108MP photos, 100 x zoom and 40MP selfies
Fujifilm launches the compact prime lens X100V. The fifth X100-series camera, it is described in Digital Photography Review as the most capable prime-lens compact camera, ever.