Camera Timeline – Major Milestones

Nikon FM3a camera milestones
The Nikon FM3a, the last manual film camera shipped by a major manufacturer

This is a shorter version of the history of photography timeline from chemistry to computation. It does not include developments in lenses, film processes or camera phones, listing only major camera milestones.

  • 1839 The first camera to be manufactured in any quantity is the Giroux Daguerreotype.
  • 1888 The Kodak n°1 box camera, the first ready-loaded, easy-to-use camera is introduced
  • 1895 The Pocket Kodak appears, the first mass-produced snapshot camera
  • 1905 The Soho Reflex single-lens reflex camera is introduced and becomes the definitive SLR model until after WWII
  • 1913 Oskar Barnack, creates the Ur-Leica, the prototype of a small-format 35mm camera
  • 1925  Leica introduces the Leica I, a watershed design that makes the 35mm format truly viable
  • 1929 The hugely influential Rolleiflex twin lens reflex camera (TLR) is introduced
  • 1930 The Leica I Leica Thread Mount (LTM) offers a camera with interchangeable lenses
  • 1932 The Leica II is launched, the first Leica camera with a rangefinder, which becomes a signature of the company
  • Zeiss Ikon produce the Contax I to compete with the  Leica II
  • 1933 The Leica III is introduced and will remain in production in various iterations until 1960
  • The first Rolleicord is introduced, a simplified version of the Standard Rolleiflex
  • 1936 the first widely-distributed 35mm SLR camera, the Kine Exakta, is introduced, with a design that will influence many subsequent SLRs
  • Canon introduces the Hansa, the first Asian 35mm camera
  • 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
  • 1938 Kodak Introduces the Super Six-20, the world’s first camera with built-in photoelectric exposure control
  • 1939 The Argus C3 is introduced and becomes the world’s best-selling 35mm camera, offering affordable 35mm rangefinder photography to amateurs
  • 1941 The Kodak Ektra 35mm RF is introduced with the first complete anti-reflection coated lens line for a consumer camera
  • 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.
  • 1949 Contax S camera is introduced, the first 35 mm SLR camera with a pentaprism eye-level viewfinder
  • 1954 The Leica M is introduced with the new Leica M mount and popularises the combined rangefinder and viewfinder
  • 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, marking the transition from rangefinders to SLRs for professional photographers
  • 1960 Konica introduces the Konica F, featuring the Hi-Synchro, the first SLR shutter with a speed of 1/2000s
  • 1962 AGFA introduces the first fully automatic camera, the Optima, with an automatic programmed exposure, using a selenium-meter-driven mechanical system
  • The Nikkorex F is the first production single-lens reflex camera with the metal Copal square shutter
  • 1963 Kodak introduces the Instamatic range of cameras, with an easy-to-use film cartridge and the phrase ‘load it you’ll love it’
  • 1964 The Pentax Spotmatic SLR is introduced with revolutionary stop-down light metering
  • 1966 The VEB Pentacon Prakica is the first SLR with an electronically controlled shutter
  • 1967 Nikon F Photomic SLR is the first camera with a centre-weighted exposure metering system
  • 1972 Kodak reduces the popular Instamatic Camera to pocket size with the introduction of the Pocket Istamatic Camera.
  • Olympus launches the OM-1, an ultra-compact 35mm SLR that initiates the compact SLR revolution of the ‘70s and ‘80s
  • 1975 Olympus launch the XA series, one of the smallest rangefinder cameras ever made
  • 1976 Canon introduces the AE-1, One of the most well known and widely circulated 35mm SLR cameras ever made
  • 1978 Konica introduces the C35 AF, the first point-and-shoot autofocus camera
  • 1981 The low-tech plastic Holga camera is introduced, which will later attain cult status with the advent of Lomography and become a major source of inspiration for Instagram
  • 1982 Nikon introduces the FM2, which uses an improved Copal Square Shutter to achieve an unheard-of speed range of 1 to 1/4000th second
  • 1983 The Olympus OM-4 is the first camera with a multi-spot exposure meter
  • 1984 LOMO begin mass-producing the LC-A, achieving popularity within the USSR and kickstarting Lomography
  • 1985 Minolta introduces the world’s first fully integrated autofocus SLR with the autofocus (AF) system built into the body – the Maxxum 7000.
  • 1986 The disposable camera is popularised by Fujifilm with the 35mm QuickSnap
  • The Canon T90 marks the pinnacle of manual-focus 35mm SLRs
  • 1987 Canon launches the EOS (Electro-Optical System), an entirely new system designed specifically to support autofocus lenses.
  • 1988 The Fuji DS-1P, the first digital handheld camera, is introduced, though it does not sell
  • 1991 The world’s first digital SLR is introduced, The Kodak Professional Digital Camera System (DCS) based on the Nikon F3
  • 1994 The Apple Quicktake 100 is the first camera to use USB to connect to a computer.
  • 1995 The Casio QV-10 is the first camera to incorporate an LCD screen on the back for image preview and playback
  • The Nikon D1 is the first fully integrated digital SLR designed from the ground up, rather than a digital modification to a film SLR
  • 2001 Nikon introduce the FM3a, the last manual focus film camera to be launched
  • 2002 Contax launch the N Digital the first full frame digital SLR digital camera
  • 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, Nikon’s last high end professional film camera
  • 2005 The Canon EOS 5D is the first consumer DSLR to feature a full frame sensor
  • 2008 Panasonic releases the Lumix G1, the world’s first mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera
  • The Nikon D90 is the first DSLR with HD video recording capabilities
  • 2012  Sony launches the world’s first full frame compact camera – the RX1, with a fixed 35mm F2 lens
  • Olympus introduces the OM-D E-M5 with a 5-axis sensor-shifting image stabilisation system – the first of its kind in a consumer camera
  • 2013 Sony announces the ⍺7 which starts the full frame mirrorless revolution.
  • 2015 Sony announces the first camera to employ a back-side illuminated full frame sensor, the α7R II
  • 2020 The Nikon F6 film SLR is discontinued
  • 2021 Sony introduces the ⍺1, a 50.1MP, 8.6K camera capable of shooting bursts at up to 30fps

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