This article started as research into classic film cameras in movies. This led me to movies featuring photographers, of which my two favourites are Apocalypse Now, featuring Dennis Hopper as a manic photojournalist, and Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. The search for the origin of Dennis Hopper’s crazed character then took me on a voyage of discovery that proved to be nearly as winding as the Mekong River…
The Photographer of Apocalypse Now
Dennis Hopper plays an unnamed disciple of the deranged Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando), who leads a renegade army of American and Montagnard troops from a remote abandoned Cambodian temple.
Hopper’s photojournalist appears at the end of Captain Willard’s (Martin Sheen) journey up the fictional Nung River to terminate Kurt’s command due to his ‘unsound methods’.
Hooper greets Willard as the ne plus ultra of combat photography; bearded and unkempt, wearing full camouflage with a red headband and sunglasses and covered in Nikon photography gear, some of it visibly battered.
The Literary Inspiration for The Photojournalist
The Photojournalist appears in only three scenes, but despite these brief appearances, Hopper’s role is central to the sprawling story.
The Photojournalist is based on The Harlequin in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, a Russian sailor who was Kurtz’s only European companion for several months before the steamboat arrives, and who acted as his listener and advocate.
The Harlequin and The Photojournalist are insiders obsessed with Kurtz’s genius who attempt to convert outsiders to his way of thinking. Here is the Photojournalist’s unsuccessful attempt to justify the severed heads on poles outside Kurtz’s headquarters:
“The heads. You’re looking at the heads. Sometimes he goes too far. But… he’s the first one to admit it.“
Both cut absurd figures: The Harlequin with his colourful patches and cheerful demeanour in such a hellish environment; the Photojournalist a parody of the crazed hippy combat photojournalist in a headband. Both have a tendency to babble.
This the Way the World Ends
Although the Photojournalist speaks many of the The Harlequin’s lines they do not play identical roles. The Photojournalist is also illustrative of the heavy price war photographers can pay, particularly the blurred lines between observer and participant and the internal conflicts set off by the accompanying moral ambiguity. The unimaginable trauma of Kurtz’s bloody compound and all that came before it must also weigh very heavily:
“This is the way the fucking world ends! Look at this fucking shit we’re in, man!“
An Ounce of Cocaine
Coppola builds the photojournalist’s crazed dialogue around lines from the Heart of Darkness and poems by Rudyard Kipling and T. S. Eliot. These are combined with Hopper’s hippy jive talk, which may have been delivered ad lib, fuelled by Hopper’s prodigious drug intake on set.
Hopper was reputed to difficult to work with on set because he was almost always high. George Hickenlooper’s documentary about the production Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse supports this: “Dennis recounted the story to me that Francis came to him and said, ‘What can I do to help you play this role?’ Dennis said, ‘About an ounce of cocaine.’
A Pair of Ragged Claws
This is in stark contrast to Coppola’s extensive use of poetry in the Photojournalists dialogue, which comes from Kurtz reading poetry to the The Harlequin in Heart of Darkness. The exceptionally strange last line of the speech below is from T.S. Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
Captain Willard : Could we, uh… talk to Colonel Kurtz?
Photojournalist : Hey, man, you don’t talk to the Colonel. You listen to him. The man’s enlarged my mind. He’s a poet warrior in the classic sense. I mean sometimes he’ll… uh… well, you’ll say “hello” to him, right? And he’ll just walk right by you. He won’t even notice you. And suddenly he’ll grab you, and he’ll throw you in a corner, and he’ll say, “Do you know that ‘if’ is the middle word in life? If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you, if you can trust yourself when all men doubt you”… I mean I’m… no, I can’t… I’m a little man, I’m a little man, he’s… he’s a great man! I should have been a pair of ragged claws scuttling across floors of silent seas…
The photojournalist’s evident admiration of Colonel Kurtz is because he had enlarged his mind, which is also what The Harlequin admired so greatly about Kurtz in Heart of Darkness.
We Were All Crazy
The role was suggested to Coppola by the set stills photographer Chas Gerretsen who advised Coppola that “we were all crazy” – and so the role was born. Chas had served in Vietnam and routinely carried Nikon F’s, some of which he sold to the production company for use in the film.
All that was left to do was to replace the role of Captain Colby, Willard’s predecessor, in which Hopper had originally been cast. Colby appears only very briefly and does not speak, surrounded by Montagnard natives and stroking a rifle. His appearance is set up in Willard’s briefing:
“There has been a new development regarding your mission which we must now communicate to you. Months ago a man was ordered on a mission which was identical to yours. We have reason to believe that he is now operating with Kurtz. Saigon was carrying him MIA for his family’s sake. They assumed he was dead. Then they intercepted a letter he tried to send his wife :
SELL THE HOUSE SELL THE CAR SELL THE KIDS FIND SOMEONE ELSE FORGET IT I’M NEVER COMING BACK FORGET IT
Captain Richard Colby – he was with Kurtz.“
Bad, Dope-Smoking Cats
The Cultural References section of Sean Flynn’s entry in Wikipedia references him as the basis for the Photojournalist in Apocalypse Now. Though it is not substantiated it is entirely possible. Flynn, along with Englishman Tim Page, are portrayed as the lunatic journalists and “bad, dope-smoking cats” of Michael Herr’s classic book on the Vietnam War Dispatches.
Herr went “chopper-hopping round the war zone” with Page and Flynn, taking huge risks according to one reviewer of Dispatches. He later collaborated on the narrative of Apocalypse Now.
In Dispatches Herr described Page as the most extravagant of the “wigged-out crazies running around Vietnam”, largely due to his drug intake. Page’s Wikipedia page also describes him as part of the inspiration for the character of the Photojournalist, who specialised in wigged-out craziness:
“One through nine, no maybes, no supposes, no fractions. You can’t travel in space, you can’t go out into space, you know, without, like, you know, uh, with fractions – what are you going to land on – one-quarter, three-eighths? What are you going to do when you go from here to Venus or something? That’s dialectic physics.“
I thought dialectic physics was pure invention and part of the madness. It is not, and is helpfully described as “a living method of cognising nature and of searching for new truths in modern science, and in physics in particular” in M. E. Omelyanovsky’s Dialectics In Modern Physics.
In Like (Sean) Flynn
Whether he acted as an inspiration for the role or not SeanFlynn, the only child of hell-raising screen legend Errol, has one of the most fascinating, but also one of the saddest stories of the war.
Initially following in his fathers footsteps as an actor (his first film was Son of Captain Blood, sequel to his father’s classic Captain Blood), he abandoned the craft to start a new life in Vietnam as a combat photographer.
He exploits are truly intrepid. He shot his way out of an ambush with the Green Berets with an M16; incurred injuries from a grenade fragment in battle; made a parachute jump with an Airborne Division, and identified a mine whilst photographing troops, saving an Australian unit from potential destruction. Flynn used a Leica M2 in Vietnam, and it came to light, complete with a strap that fashioned from a parachute cord and a hand grenade pin, just a few years ago.
The Disappearance of Sean Flynn and Dana Stone
In 1970 Flynn was captured by Viet Cong guerrillas at a checkpoint along with fellow photojournalist Dana Stone. The pair had elected to travel by motorbike rather than the limos the majority of photojournalists were travelling in. Neither he or Stone were seen again. Despite the efforts of his mother to find him, Flynn was declared dead in absentia in 1984 and the fate of two remains unknown, notwithstanding the continued efforts of friends and the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), the organisation responsible for recovering the remains of fallen soldiers.
Sean Finn’s story is told in a film inspired by his life entitled The Road to Freedom which was filmed on location in Cambodia in 2011. It also the subject of an eponymous track on the album Combat Rockby The Clash.
A CIA Kurtz?
Whilst the role of Colonel Kurtz and his ‘unsound methods’ was clearly inspired by ‘Heart of Darkness’, there is another potential influence which is less well known. This is revealed in the UK documentary ‘The Search for Kurtz’ which describes how CIA Paramilitary Operations Officer Tony Poe and his leadership of Operation Momentum, which was launched in 1962 to turn the Laotian Hmong people into anti-communist guerrillas.
The Wrath of Klaus Kinski
Another significant influence for the Vietnam river epic is Aguirre, Wrath of God by Werner Herzog, starring a barely sane Klaus Kinski in the role of his life. The story follows the self styled ‘Wrath of God, Prince of Freedom, King of Tierra Firme’ Lope de Aguirre, who leads a group of conquistadores down the Amazon River in search of El Dorado, city of Gold.
It is an astonishing and spectacular film, described by Robert Egbert as is “one of the great haunting visions of the cinema”. Curiously, I did not make the connection with Apocalypse Now until researching this article. Like Apocalypse Now, which was troubled by a heart attack, an overweight star, a mental breakdown and storms that destroyed the sets, the filming of Aguirre is the stuff of legend. Herzog allegedly pulled a gun on Kinski to force him to continue to act in the remote fever-ridden jungle district where the film was shot.
Has a character in a movie, especially an unnamed one, ever had such a rich set of sources?
The Photojournalist’s Cameras
The Photojournalist’s cameras are Nikon Fs with a variety of lenses; possibly a fast 50mm, a 105mm and a 200mm. This isn’t a a surprising photographer’s rig as the Nikon F, along with the Leica M2, was the leading film camera of the Vietnam war and carrying multiple cameras was common. Richard Crowe a former Combat Cameraman who served between 1966–1972 described the practice on the Q&A website Quora:
“If we are talking about photojournalists, they usually carried two to three 35mm cameras each with a different focal length lens. Nikon and Leica cameras were the favorites and the photojournalists usually owned their own equipment. The guys that I worked with often carried both a Leica with a UWA lens and two Nikons with normal and short telephoto lenses. The Canon SLR cameras of the day would often not stand up to the rough usage and dirt and grime in Vietnam. The photojournalists began to paint the silver portions of the camera bodies black so the camera would not be a point of aim for a sniper. Later on, camera companies began to supply cameras with black bodies and called them “Photojournalist Models”. BTW: no photojournalist that I knew or met ever carried a zoom lens on his camera. The early zoom lenses for SLR cameras were pretty crappy in image quality.”
The Nikon F was not the first SLR, that distinction belongs to the Exakta, which is the subject of another blog about photographers – Rear Window. Prior to its introduction, however, no SLR could challenge the mighty German rangefinder in the 35mm camera market; SLRs were often compared unfavourably to rangefinders as heavy, slow and less than reliable, with dim viewfinders.
The F swept away that dominance and many professional photographers abandoned Leica for Nikon. Leica lost its market dominance and never recovered it, though it has prospered in its niche of late.
The Nikon F brought many advancements to market simultaneously:
A system camera with interchangeable viewfinders and focusing screens
An automatic diaphragm and an instant-return mirror, which made it the quickest SLR by far.
An impressive lens line up
A large reflex mirror that kept the viewfinder bright, and reduced vignetting
A 100% viewfinder, an SLR first
A focal plane shutter with titanium-foil blinds—also a first
These advancements made the technical advantages of the SLR over the rangefinder compelling. The need to match lenses to frame lines and for external viewfinders to use wide angle lenses disappeared. Gone too were the framing and parallax compensation issues and the limitation on zoom and lenses longer than 135mm.
Over time the F became legendary for indestructible levels of reliability and durability. It still casts a long shadow.
The Legacy of Apocalypse Now
Apocalypse Now is an iconic movie, savage and darkly comic, and an expedition through insanity from start to finish. It is widely considered one of the greatest films ever made. I have watched it many times and it has retained its power for me.
Robert Egbert said of it: “Apocalypse Now is the best Vietnam film, one of the greatest of all films, because it pushes beyond the others, into the dark places of the soul. It is not about war so much as about how war reveals truths we would be happy never to discover.“
As a Nikon user and collector, I’ve noticed quite a few Nikon film cameras appearances in the movies and on TV shows. This short article outlines those appearances. I’ve also written in more detail about the Nikon F’s appearance in one of the all time great movies – Apocalypse Now and there is an equivalent article on Leica M cameras in the movies.
“The Nikon F reinforced its reputation and established itself as modern design icon through its starring roles in films such as Blow-Up, with David Hemmings as a fashion photographer in London; Apocalypse Now with Dennis Hopper as a Photojournalist; and, later, with Clint Eastwood as National Geographic photographer in The Bridges of Madison County.”
Nikon SLRs in Movies
Beyond those described above, the Nikon F series Single Lens Reflex (SLR) cameras appeared in several movies, including more greats like Full Metal Jacket and Taxi Driver. I found additional appearances from a little internet research, which revealed quite a few more. The Nikon F, F2, F3, F4 and F5 have all made appearances, but despite searching, I can’t find a movie with Nikon’s final pro SLR, the mighty Nikon F6 in it. Whilst I haven’t included TV, I am sure that my favourite TV detective, Columbo, used a Nikon F or F2 in one episode but I can find no reference to it. I suppose I will just have to watch every episode again… I am also yet to see another favourite, the Nikon FM3a on the screen, though the FM and FM2 have made appearances. With retro cameras becoming more popular its by no means impossible it’ll appear one day.
Lolita (1962, Nikon F1)
Blow-Up (1966 Nikon F)
The French Connection (1971, Nikon F Photomic)
Diamonds are Forever (1971, Nikon F)
The Killing Fields (1984, Nikon F)
Jaws (1975, Nikon F2)
Taxi Driver (1976, Nikon F2)
The Eyes of Laura Mars (1978, Nikon FM with MD motor-drive)
Apocalypse Now (1979, Nikon F)
Cannonball Run (1981, Nikon F)
The Year of Living Dangerously (1982, Nikon F)
Under Fire (1983, Nikon F2)
Ghostbusters (1984, Nikon FE2)
Full Metal Jacket (1987, Nikon F) Private Joker and Rafterman!
Gorillas in the Mist (1988, Nikon F)
Groundhog Day (1993, Nikon F Photomic)
The Bridges of Madison County (1995, Nikon F with S36 motor drive)
Heat (1995, Nikon F4)
The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997, Nikon F5)
Ronin (1998, Nikon FE2)
Ford v Ferrari (2019, Nikon F Photomic)
City of God (2002, Nikon F)
Walk the Line (2005, Nikon F Photomic)
The Bang Bang Club (2010, Nikon FM2)
Batman v Superman (2016, Nikon S3 Y2K)
Ford v Ferrari (2019, Nikon F Photomic)
Wonder Woman 1984 (2020, Nikon F3 HP)
The First SLR?
Today many people think of the Nikon F as the first Single Lens Reflex camera, but it was actually the much less well known Ihagee (who made the Exakta VX Ihagee Dresden famously used in Rear Window) that manufactured the first 35mm SLR outside of prototypes. The F brought the innovations and features of earlier models into a single body so well that earlier models seem to have faded from consumer memory. Its effect on the camera market is similarly profound as it ended the dominance of German rangefinders from Zeiss and Leica. If you are interested in the history of photography there are a couple of comprehensive timelines on the site. From Chemistry to Computation is the timeline of the photographic process, whilst the Camera Timeline Year by Year describes camera introductions and innovations every year from 1900 to the present day.
My Nikon Film Cameras
Beyond Nikon Film cameras in the movies, I have a small collection of Nikons I enjoy shooting with. Some of which are reviewed on this site (The F6 and FM3a).
I have a late Nikon F from 1971 and it shoots very well. It has the original standard non-metered eye level finder, like the ones Dennis Hopper was carrying in Apocalypse Now. As much as I like an integrated light meter, the Photomic heads spoil the lines of the F too much so I use a hand held lightmeter. The Photomic heads are a little easier on the eye on the F2 and I have added a DP-12 Photomic head to my 1975 F2. I have a rather battered 1980 F3, which I bought in Sweden, and a 2004 F6, which I use a great deal. I also have an FM3a and FM2n, both of which are very lightweight and great to shoot with.
Other Classic Film Cameras in Movies
A huge number of film camera manufacturers have come and gone and their products have appeared in hundreds, if not thousands of movies, but below are a few of the more notable ones. Of the models listed below, I have only shot with the Olympus OM-1, another game changing camera which began a shift towards more compact, lighter 35 mm SLRs, away from the increasing weight of the Nikon pro SLRs and back towards the smaller form factor that Leica had always delivered with rangefinders.
Though I don’t have any of the Rolleiflex models listed below (2.8F and T), I have a Rolleiflex 3.5F from 1961 which I absolutely love, and is considered by many to be one of the finest film cameras ever made. The Rolleiflex uses 120 medium format film which produces huge and very detailed 6x6cm negatives. Shooting a Twin Lens Reflex (TLR) camera is an entirely different experience to shooting either an SLR or rangefinder, and though manual focus can be challenging, gazing at the world through that illuminated ground glass screen that sees the world back to front is absolutely entrancing.
1900 Kodak introduces the first of the Brownie series which brings the snapshot to the masses. It is a cardboard box camera with a simple meniscus lens that takes 2 1/4-inch square pictures on 117 roll film
1901 The Kodak No.2 Brownie is the first camera to use 120 roll film
1902 The Royal Ruby is introduced by Thornton-Pickard, an early pioneer in the development of the camera industry, as its top of the range field camera
1903 The Century Camera Co. introduces the Grand Century Senior. It is constructed of mahogany and features a revolving back and triple extension bed in addition to front standard adjustment
1904 Century introduces the No. 2 Field Camera offering front and rear focus via rack and pinion; double swing; reversing by removable back and a three-piece lens board for 5 x 7, 6.5 x 8.5 and 8 x 10 inch plate film
The No. 4 Screen Focus Kodak combines the use of roll film with a ground glass with an unusual construction that allows the roll film back to be swung out of the way to make place for the ground glass
1905 The Soho Reflex single-lens reflex camera is introduced and becomes the definitive SLR model until after WWII
Houghtons Limited introduces the Ticka Watch Pocket Camera. It is about 2½ inches in diameter with the lens mounted in the barrel and the film in a cassette
1906 Kodak markets the No. 4A Folding Kodak, a large camera for amateur photographers, producing negatives of 4 1/4 x 6 1/2 inch on roll film or glass plates
1907 The Revolving Back Auto Graflex camera is first patented by the Folmer and Schwing division of the Eastman Kodak company. The camera’s main feature is a revolving back for taking horizontal or vertical pictures without having to rotate the camera
The Butcher Royal Mail Stamp Camera is the simplest type of multiplying camera, featuring a polished mahogany box with fifteen lenses, an internal septum to separate the images, and spring mounted metal plate shutter to produce fifteen images on small 3-1/4″ x 4-1/4″ dry plates or film
1908 Kodak markets the No. 4A Speed Kodak, a specialist camera for the professional or serious amateur photographer offering shutter speeds from 1/5 to 1/1000 of a second
1909 The 1A Graflex SLR is introduced. It shoots 2¼ x 4¼ inch Kodak 1A roll film and is notable for its pantograph viewing hood
Houghtons Ltd. introduces the Ensignette Camera, an all metal bellows camera which folded into a vest pocket size camera like the Kodak VPK. It is a milestone in popular photography, providing for the first time a practical, truly compact camera at an affordable price to the average person
1911 Newman & Guardia Ltd introduces the Model 11A Postcard Sibyl for 5 ½” x 3 ½” plates featuring a folding reflecting view-finder with spirit levels
c. 1911 The original Makina model is launched by Plaubel. It is a strut folding press-type camera, taking 6 x 4.5cm film plates
1912 The first Speed Graphic press cameras are produced. Production continues until 1973
The Vest Pocket Kodak camera, or ‘VPK’ as it was usually known, is launched and becomes one of the most popular and successful cameras of its day. Over 2 million would be sold before the model was discontinued in 1926.
1913 The Homeos stereo camera is the first 35mm camera to go into production
The first commercially successful 35mm camera is the American Tourist Multiple produced by Herbert & Huesgen, New Ideas Mfg. Co
1914Oskar Barnack, creates the Ur-Leica, the prototype of a small-format 35mm camera
Kodak introduces the No. 0 Brownie, the smallest in the range. It takes pictures the same size as the popular Vest Pocket Kodak of 1912
1915 The Minnigraph, made by Benno Levy-Roth of Berlin, may be the first still camera to use cine film. It makes what will later be considered half-frame (18 x 24 mm) pictures, on film held in special cassettes
1918The Adam, a cardboard box camera, is the first Japanese camera to sell for ¥1
1919 The Cocarette is one of the first new products of German camera maker Contessa-Nettel after the merger that led to the foundation of that company in 1919.
1920 The Venus is a folding camera made by Ihagee in Dresden optimized for exposures in horizontal format
1921 Newman & Guardia Ltd launches the N&G Folding Reflex with a collapsible focusing screen and mirror
The Paff-Reflex is introduced by Ihagee. It is the first SLR made by the company which will later introduce the first 35mm SLR
1922 The Ensign Cupid is the first camera to use a ‘double window’ arrangement for doubling the number of exposures on a roll
1923 J.H. Dallmeyer Ltd introduces the Dallmeyer Speed with a a fast focal plane shutter capable of providing speeds up to 1/1000th of a second accompanied by a fast Pentac F2.0 lens.
1924 The first common wide aperture lens becomes available with the f/2 Ernemann Ermanox, manufactured by Heinrich Ernemann A.G. of Dresden
1925 Leica introduces the Leica I (A), a watershed design that makes the 35mm format truly viable
c. 1926 The Agfa Standard medium format roll film and plate cameras become available with an optional coupled coincident rangefinder at extra cost. Ingenious and advanced for their time, they would serve as the inspiration for later Zeiss Super Ikontas and Voigtlander Bessas
1927 The first monorail camera, the Stegemann Studien-Kamera-C, a 9 ×12 model is designed by the Pictorialist photographer Heinrich Kuhn
1928 The hugely influential Rolleiflex twin lens reflex camera (TLR) is introduced, with an ingenious focusing mechanism using a the carriage that held both the viewfinder and the imaging lens, achieving the same function as bellows but with metal
1929 Zeiss-Ikon introduces its top product line of folding medium format cameras, the Ikonta
Minolta, originally named the Nichi-Doku (which means “Japan-German”) Photographic Company, introduces its the first camera, the Nicalette, which is equipped with a German shutter and lens.
1930 The Leica I (C) offers a camera with interchangeable lenses using the Leica Thread Mount (LTM)
1931 The first 35mm prototype SLR is the Filmanka developed by A. Min in the Soviet Union
1932 The Leica II is launched, the first Leica camera with a rangefinder, which becomes a signature of the company
This Rolleiflex Standard K2 Twin Lens Reflex upgrades the original camera with several significant features, including support for 120 format roll film, a film rewind crank, sports finder, removable back and exposure counter
The first Voigtländer Brillant is released, resembling a TLR but functionally closer to a box camera, since it cannot be focused in the viewfinder using zone-focusing.
1933 The Leica III is introduced – a response to the introduction of the Zeiss-Ikon Contax and Oskar Barnack’s last design. It will remain in production in various iterations until 1960
1935 The Leica IIIa is released with a top speed of 1/1000th of a second
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 Franke & Heidecke unveil the Rolleiflex Automat which features an ingenious automatic first frame positioning and frame counting system which monitors the length of the film as it passes between rollers and sets the camera accordingly, eliminating the need for a red window
Russian manufacturer GOMZ introduces the Sport. Designed between 1934 and 1935 It is the earliest known production 35mm SLR camera ever to be built, but fewer than 320 examples were made and is overshadowed by the Kine Exacta.
Swiss watch maker Jaeger LeCoultre & Company manufacture the ultra compact Compass for the Compass Cameras Ltd. of London, one of the most complicated miniature camera ever made. Measuring a mere 6.5×2.5×5.5cm, it packs a multitude of features into its trim body
The Purma Special (named after the founders Tom Purvis and Alfred Mayo) is a British 127 roll film viewfinder camera with an innovative gravity controlled shutter
1938 Kodak Introduces the Super Six-20, the world’s first camera with built-in photoelectric exposure control
Leica introduces the first commercially successful 35 mm motordrive, the mechanical MOOLY
The Leica IIIb is released with a redesigned viewfinder optic, which brings the RF and VF eye pieces close together
British camera manufacturer Gandolfi launches the Precision, a development of the Imperial model introduced in 1899, which will remain on sale into the 1970s
Voigtländer introduces the Focusing Brillant adding a small opaque spot in the brilliant finder
1939 The Praktiflex 35mm SLR is launched by the Kamera-Werkstätten AG. The design is simple but will constitute the pattern along which virtually every subsequent 35mm SLR camera will be built, regardless of place of origin
The Argus C3 is introduced and becomes the world’s best-selling 35mm camera, offering affordable 35mm rangefinder photography to amateurs
1940 The Leica IIIc is introduced in 1940 with a total redesign of the body and shutter crate. It will remain the mainstay of Leica’s line-up through out the 1940’s
The Mamiya Six is introduced, offering a unique 6 x 6cm coupled rangefinder with film-plane focusing
1941 The Kodak Ektra offers a rangefinder that could accurately focus a 153mm telephoto and the first complete anti-reflection coated lens line for a consumer camera
1943 the FS-3 FotoSniper prototype is developed by GOI for the Soviet Baltic Fleet Navy as a long-range reconnaissance camera. It has a FED body and a 60cm lens with an f4.5 aperture
1944 The Alpa-Reflex 35mm SLR is presented to the public at the Swiss Trade Fair in Basel
1945Houghton-Butcher introduces the Ensign Commando, a folding coupled-rangefinder 6 x 6cm camera for the British Military. It is released so late in the war it does not see much active service
1946 Houghton-Butcher introduces a dual format civilian version of the Ensign Commando offering the smaller 6 x 4.5cm format in addition to 6 x 6cm
The Universal Camera Corporation offers the Mercury II which adds support for normal 35mm film rather than the proprietary Univex film used in the original. Both Mercury cameras use a unique rotary focal plane shutter that enable a maximum shutter speed of 1/1000 second whilst keeping costs low
1947Konishiroku introduces the Konica (later known as the Konica I), a knob-wound camera with a single eyepiece for a coupled rangefinder and viewfinder, based on an earlier camera called Rubikon, developed c.1938
The Bolsey B is introduced, a 35mm rangefinder camera with a finely cast aluminium body
1948 Instant photography is introduced with the first instant-film camera, the Land Camera 95 or Polaroid camera
The Gamma Duflex is the first SLR camera with an instant return mirror. Production is limited and few models find their way beyond the domestic Hungarian market and so the later Asahiflex IIb is often credited with this innovation
Hasselblad launches the1600F, a 6 × 6cm format focal-plane shutter SLR camera with a revolutionary modular design that allows lenses, viewfinders and film magazines to be exchanged
The Nikon 1 is released, the first Nikon-branded camera, featuring a smaller than standard picture format which produces up to 40 negatives from a single roll of 36 exposure film.
The Canon II B is launched with a three-mode optical viewfinder offering magnifications from 0.67x to 1.5x to match the focal length of the lens fitted.
The Ilford Advocate is introduced, the first British 35mm camera introduced after WWII. It is made of white-enamelled die-cast aluminium alloy
Nikon releases the second iteration of the Nikon rangefinder, the Nikon M, with a slight increase in picture size from 24mm x 32mm, to 24mm x 34mm
1950 The Leica IIIf is launched, offering built-in flash synchronization
Voigtländer introduces the Bessa II, the ultimate iteration of the model first available in 1929 and offering a combined viewfinder and rangefinder and 6 x 9 images
Voigtländer launches the The Perkeo 6 x 6 folding camera. Measuring just 125 x 85 x 40mm when closed, and 95mm deep when the lens is extended it is one of the smallest medium format camera.
The Agiflex II is a 6×6 SLR, made by Agilux and derived from the British WWII military aerial camera ARL that was in turn derived from the German Reflex Korelle
1951 The Nikon S becomes available, retaining the unusual 24mm x 34mm format
The Ilford Witness, an advanced 35mm coupled-rangefinder camera, is introduced with either a 2-inch f/1.9 Dallmeyer Super Six, or a 5 cm f/2.9 Daron. Production difficulties led to less than 350 cameras being made
The WrayFlex I is a British SLR which uses two mirrors instead of a pentaprism, so the image is reversed and not very bright. It has a full complement of speeds from ½sec to 1/1000th sec in the focal plane shutter.
1952 Kodak introduces the Brownie 127, a plastic box camera with no aperture or focus controls, and a single-speed shutter that produces eight 4 x 6 cm pictures on 127 film. It rapidly becomes an extremely popular snapshot camera in Britain with over a million made.
The Asahiflex, built by the Asahi Optical Corporation (later to become Pentax), is the first SLR camera built in Japan
The Canon Camera Company markets the Canon IVSb 35mm rangefinder, the first 35mm camera to support flash sync for both flash bulbs and electronic X-sync through Canon’s proprietary rail mounted flash shoe
1953 The Coronet 6×6 Flashmaster is introduced with a rigid Bakelite body, a fixed lens and a simple shutter with no aperture or speed setting
The Graflex KE-4 Combat Camera, a 70mm model, is manufactured for the military. Since the design resembles a giant Contax camera it is given the nickname “Gulliver’s Contax”
The Periflex 35mm camera is launched by K. G. Corfield Ltd. It resembles the Leica Standard, Model E but provides through the lens visual focusing using an inverted periscope lowered into the light path between the lens and the film
Nikon introduces the S2 rangefinder that takes conventional 35mm film and a 1.0X finder. It offers the option to attach the world’s first battery powered motor drive
The Asahiflex IIb is the first volume 35mm SLR with an instant return mirror. Early SLRs left the mirror in its up position until the camera was wound for the next shot, blacking out the viewfinder. The introduction of instant-return mirror mechanisms and the subsequent elimination of mirror blackout is an important step in the acceptance of SLRs
1955 The Miranda T 35mm SLR camera is launched by the newly established Japanese Orion Camera Co. It is the first Japanese 35mm SLR camera with an eyelevel Pentaprism finder.
1956 The Rolleiflex 2.8E is the company’s first model with a built in, uncoupled light meter as an option
The VT is Canon’s first camera to have a camera back which swings open for film loading. The film advances with a fast-winding trigger at the camera bottom instead of a knob on top.
1957 The Asahi Pentax SLR is introduced, placing controls in locations that would become standard on 35 mm SLRs
Tokyo Kogaku KK launch their first 35mm SLR camera, the Topcon R, ahead of Nikon and Canon
Leitz releases the Leica IIIg as the final model in the series with a newly designed top cover with a larger and improved viewfinder
The Nikon SP is the worlds first rangefinder to include built-in frame lines for 6 different focal lengths
Hasselblad introduces the medium format 500 C, which will go on too become one of most influential and successful cameras of all time
1958 The Minolta SR-2 is the first SLR camera with an automatic diaphragm which maintains maximum aperture for brightest viewing and stops down only when the picture is taken
Nikon releases a new rangefinder, the S3, a stripped down version of the Nikon SP at a lower price
Konishiroku introduces the Konica IIIA with three finder windows and offering 1.0× finder magnification
1959 The Nikon F is introduced, marking the transition from rangefinders to SLRs for professional photographers
Canon introduces the Canonflex, its first SLR
The Olympus Pen is the first half-frame camera produced in Japan. It is one of the smallest cameras to use 35mm film in regular 135 cassettes.
The Zenza Bronica is the first Japanese 6 x 6cm format camera with interchangeable lenses and film backs
1960 Konishiroku introduces the Konica F, featuring the Hi-Synchro, the first SLR shutter with a speed of 1/2000s
Nikon introduces the S3M, a half-frame variant of the Nikon S3 with a modified viewfinder and a frame counter that displays up to 72 exposures
1961 Canon introduces the Canonet, a mid-market 35mm camera with a fast f/1.9 lens. Two and a half years later, a million Canonets had been sold.
1962AGFA 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’
The Topcon RE Super is launched by Tokyo Kogaku KK introducing features that would later become common in 35mm SLRs, most notably through-the-lens exposure metering
Olympus introduces the Pen F, a compact half-frame 35mm SLR that supports interchangeable lenses and a distinctive logo rendered in a gothic font
The world’s first full-fledged underwater camera goes on sale in Japan the Nikonos 1
1965 The Konica Auto-Reflex of 1965 is the first focal-plane-shutter auto exposure 35mm SLR. This is not TTL metering, although it does offer a shutter-preferred, auto-exposure mode
Hasselblad launches a new design, the 500EL, with an electric motor integrated into the camera body
Eastman Kodak replaces the individual flashbulb technology used on early Instamatic cameras with the Flashcube
The Practica mat by VEB Pentacon Dresden is the first 35 mm single-lens reflex camera with TTL exposure metering
1966 The Electro 35 rangefinder camera is introduced by Yashica with a coupled and fixed 1:1.7 45 mm lens. It is the first electronically controlled rangefinder camera offering aperture priority ‘auto’ mode
The Rollei 35 becomes the smallest 135 film camera
The Olympus Pen FT updates the F model with a single-stroke film advance and an uncoupled, integrated light meter
1967Nikon F Photomic SLR is the first camera with a centre-weighted exposure metering system
1968 Leica introduces the Leicaflex SL, the world’s first single-lens reflex camera with a precisely defined microprism zone for TTL spot exposure metering displayed in the viewfinder.
Konishiroku launches the Konica C35, combining light weight and compact size with the simple operation of “auto only” exposure
1969 The Olympus-35 EC, an electronically controlled 35mm compact camera, is introduced. It features a fixed Zuiko 42mm f/2.8 lens and and an automatically controlled Seiko shutter with a range of 4 to 1/800 sec
The Mamiya C220 is released as part of the Mamiya C series of interchangeable lens medium format TLR cameras
1970 The Sinar P 4×5 sets the standard for high-end, large format cameras with asymmetric tilts and swings, as opposed to traditional centre or base tilts.
1971 The Canon F-1 is introduced, a highly durable model built to endure 100K picture-taking cycles, temperatures from -30 C to 60 C, and 90% humidity.
Nikon’s F High Speed Motor Drive camera, developed for the ’71 Chicago Photo Expo offers a blazing 7 frames per second
The Leica M5 is introduced, departing from the traditional silhouette of the Leica rangefinders and the first of those cameras to feature through-the-lens (TTL) metering
Olympus launches the OM-1, an ultra-compact 35mm SLR that initiates the compact SLR revolution of the ‘70s and ‘80s
Polaroid founder Edwin H. Land announces the SX-70, taking out a folded SX-70 from his suit coat pocket whilst on stage and taking five pictures in ten seconds
The Wista 45 wood and brass Field Camera is launched – an evolution of a design available since the 1890s. Later models offer several choices of wood including Japanese cherrywood,rosewood and ebony
1973 Minolta releases a new flagship model camera, the SR-T 303 (102 in the US) which bought open aperture metering to a wide audience
The Leica CL, a compact rangefinder, is designed in Germany by Leitz Wetzlar and built in Japan by Minolta with Leitz lenses
1974 Canon introduces the Datematic, which features date imprinting and a body and exterior made of reinforced plastic.
1975 Olympus launches the XA series, one of the smallest rangefinder cameras ever made
1976 Canon introduces the AE-1, the world’s first 35mm AE SLR camera equipped with the shutter speed-priority TTL metering and a Central Processing Unit (CPU).
The first of the Zenza Bronica ETR series of 4.5 × 6cm SLRs manufactured by Zenza Bronica Industries Inc. of Tokyo is introduced.
1977 The Asahi Pentax K1000 is launched and goes on to becomethe most successful basic student SLR of all time, combining a Pentax Spotmatic F with Pentax K-type bayonet mount to produce a competent and affordable camera
The Minolta XD11 is the world’s first camera with aperture priority and shutter priority, as well as a fully metered manual mode.
1978 Konica introduces the C35 AF, the first point-and-shoot autofocus camera
Canon introduces the A-1, a sophisticated electronic camera with all-digital control featuring the first fully automatic program AE mode, pre-set aperture-priority AE, and speedlite AE mode.
1979 Canon launches the SureShot, the world’s first lens-shutter 35mm autofocus camera, with a triangulation system incorporating a near-infrared emitting diode (IRED)
The Nikon EM is introduced the first model in a revised design concept by Nikon to introduce a series of ultra compact bodies characterized by compactness, light weight and ease of use.
Canon introduces the AE-1 Program camera to succeed the original AE-1 offering shutter speed-priority AE and program AE modes.
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
Kodak launches the disc photography format with a line of compact cameras built around a rotating disc of fifteen 10×8 mm exposures. Labs resisted investing in new development equipment resulting in poor quality photos and the format was short-lived
The Nimslo 3D camera is launched – the first camera offering lenticular printing from 35mm negative film. A lenticular print combines four pictures into a single print that appears 3 dimensional
1983 The Olympus OM-4 is the first camera with a multi-spot exposure meter
Minolta launches the Disc-7, a disc camera with a small convex mirror on the front plate. With the help of a telescoping stick that anticipates the later selfie-stick, this allows the user to take self-portraits.
1984 LOMO begin mass-producing the LC-A, achieving popularity within the USSR and kickstarting Lomography
The Leica M6 heralds the renaissance of the rangefinder system in a market dominated by single-lens reflex cameras
The Canon T90 marks the pinnacle of manual-focus 35mm SLRs
The Canon RC-701 becomes the first still video camera marketed, offering10 fps (frames per second) high-speed shutter-priority and multi-program automatic exposure
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
The first of the Genesis series from Chinon helps to define the category of 35mm bridge cameras
The R6 is the first mechanical, manual-exposure-only SLR produced by Leica since the Leicaflex SL2 was discontinued
1989 Steven Sasson and a colleague, Robert Hills, of Kodak create a prototype camera which is the first modern digital single-lens reflex camera that looks and functions like today’s professional models. It is known as the D-5000 or Ecam (electronic camera) and features a 1.2 megapixel sensor and uses image compression and memory cards.
1990 first digital camera shipped in the United States is the Dycam Model 1, which comes with a neutral density filter to prevent over exposure in bright settings.
1995 The Casio QV-10 is the first camera to incorporate an LCD screen on the back for image preview and playback
The Ricoh RDC-1 is the first digital camera offering a dedicated movie mode. It is capable of recording 5-second 768×480-pixel clips at 30 frames per second, and saving them in the new MPEG format
The Nikon D1 is the first fully integrated digital SLR designed from the ground up, rather than a digital modification to a film SLR
The Minolta RD-175 combines an existing SLR, the Dynax500si Super, with a three way splitter and three separate CCD image sensors which are combined digitally and interpolated to produce a 1.75 megapixel image
1996 the Canon PowerShot 600, Canon’s first consumer digital camera, is released featuring a 0.5 megapixel sensor
The Coolpix 100 is Nikon’s first consumer digital camera. It features a 1/3 megapixel sensor and a PCMCIA interface which enables it slot it into a laptop, where it appears as a removable drive
Canon introduces the first IXUS APS ultra compact as Canon’s contribution to the launch of the Advance Film System (APS). The model will later form the basis of the Digital IXUS range and is considered a milestone of compact camera design.
Minolta introduces the TC-1, a high-end, titanium-bodied compact autofocus 35mm camera with the smallest frontal area of any professional-grade compact autofocus camera
1997 The Pentax 645N is the first autofocus medium format SLR camera
Yashica’s first digital camera, the KC-600, is announced
The Epson PhotoPC 550, the third Epson digital camera and the first Epson to feature an external memory slot for SmartMedia cards, features a microphone to record up to six seconds of sound per photograph
1998 Fuji reveal the FUJIX DS-1P at Photokina as “the world’s first camera to save data to a semiconductor memory card”. It captures images using a 400 kilo-pixel CCD that Fuji had began developing in the 70s.
Kodak launches the DC 210, the first affordable megapixel resolution digital camera
1999The Nikon D1 is the first professional digital SLR to displace Kodak’s previously-undisputed reign over the professional market
Canon introduces the IXUS II in the most successful camera range in the APS market. This success will go on to make IXUS an important trademark in the compact camera market
Canon launches the first camera in the PowerShot S range, the S10 with a fully retractable zoom lens with built-in lens cover, advanced functions including Spot Metering and AE Lock, and compact, high-density packaging
2000 The Fujifilm FinePix S1 Pro is the first interchangeable-lens DSLR to hit the market. It is based on a Nikon N60 with Fuji’s APS-C-format Super CCD Sensor and is capable of creating 6.13 megapixel images
Nikon reissues the 1958 Nikon S3 rangefinder, the Nikon S3 Year 2000 Limited Edition, with an improved chrome finish as and a redesigned 50mm f1.4 lens with modern coatings
There are many strands in a photography timeline – the chemistry of film and processing, the physics of optics, the mechanical engineering of shutters, 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 as well as the renewed growth of film photography. I started to shoot with film again in 2016 and around the time I first wrote this article, during the lockdowns of 2020, I started to expand my small collection of vintage film cameras and went back to film photography. There is an all-film gallery of the boats of Deal, Kent shot with a variety of film cameras including SLRs, TLRs and rangefinders here. It’s gratifying to see the growth of UK film businesses such as Analogue Wonderland, which supplies a vast range of film stock and The Intrepid Camera Company, which has reinvented large format photography for the twenty-first century. I’m as interested in looking forward as back however, and and follow new developments with great interest, including crowd funded ventures such as the AI powered Alice 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.
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. If you spot any factual errors please feel free to share them with me along with the source(s).
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
1832Robert Hunt’sResearches on Light records the first known description employing platinum to make a photographic print, but does not succeed in producing a permanent image
1835William 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, creating a unique image on a silvered metal plate of remarkable sharpness.
Hearing of Daguerre’s invention, Fox Talbot announces a paper process to achieve images by action of light and presents his photogenic drawings at the Royal Society in London
Hippolyte Bayard produces direct-positive images (like Daguerre’s process) on sensitized paper (like Talbot’s).
Sir John Herschel suggests fixing images in sodium thiosulphate. He also coins the terms photography, negative and positive.
1854James Ambrose Cutting takes out several patents relating to the Ambrotype process, underexposed or bleached wet collodion negatives that appeared positive when placed against a dark coating or backing
Parisian portrait photographer André-Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri patents the Carte-de-visite (CdV), a new style of portrait utilizing albumen paper the size of a visiting card that will become commonly traded among friends and visitors
1855 The carbon process is patented by A. L. Poitevin, producing an image resistant to fading which becomes widely used in book illustration
1857 The folding camera with tapering bellows is invented by C.G.H. Kinnear, forming the basis for subsequent bellows designs
1858 John Waterhouse invents Waterhouse stops, a system using plates with different aperture diameters that could be inserted into a slot in the lens barrel which are the earliest selectable stops.
John Harrison Powell registers his design for a portable stereoscopic camera.
1871-1900 Instantaneous Photography without the Chemistry
1871 English physician Richard Leach Maddox invents the lightweight gelatin dry plate silver bromide process, assigning the complex and arduous chemistry work photographers had previously to undertake to a factory
1873Charles Harper Bennett improves the gelatin silver process by hardening the emulsion, making it more resistant to friction
The platinotype process, which produces platinum prints, is patented by William Willis.
1877 George Eastman learns to make his own gelatin dry plates, based on the writings of the British innovators, including Charles Harper Bennett
Adolf Miethe and Johannes Gaedicke produce Blitzlicht – the first ever widely used flash powder
1878 Heat ripening of gelatin emulsions is discovered by Charles Harper Bennett, making possible very short exposures and paving the way for the snapshot
1879 George Eastman applies for a patent for an emulsion-coating machine, which enables him to mass-produce photographic dry plates
1881 Thomas Bolas patents a hand-held, box form camera he calls a detective camera
1882Etienne Jules Marey perfects a chronophotographic gun, a device capable of taking 12 exposures a second.
1883 Ottomar Anschütz designs a camera with an internal roller blind shutter mechanism in front of the photographic plate – the first focal-plane shutter in recognisable form
William Schmid patents the first detective camera to be widely sold
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, though it appears to have enjoyed very limited success
1887The Rev. Hannibal Goodwin files a patent application for camera film on celluloid rolls, though it will be not granted until 1898, by which time George Eastman has started production of roll-film using his own process
1888 The Kodak n°1 box camera, the first ready-loaded, easy-to-use camera is introduced with the slogan “You press the button, we do the rest.”
1889 George Eastman introduces the first transparent plastic roll film, made from highly flammable cellulose nitrate film
The Loman Reflex, the first commercially produced camera with a focal-plane shutter, is introduced
1890 The Zeiss Protar, the first successful anastigmat photographic lens, designed Dr Paul Rudolph, is introduced
The Ilford Manual of Photography is first published, providing detailed technical information regarding optics, chemistry and printing.
W.W. Rouch and Co. introduce the Eureka, which will become a popular detective, or hand, camera
The German manufacturer C.P. Goerz incorporates the Anschütz focal-plane shutter into a camera
1891 Bausch and Lomb introduce the first of their iris diaphragm shutters, incorporating an f-stop and shutter speed setting device
1892 Samuel N. Turner applies for a US patent for paper-backed, daylight-loading roll film. The backing paper is printed with white exposure numbers which can read through a red window in the back of the camera. The idea is incorporated in the Boston Manufacturing Company’s ‘Bullseye” camera of the same year.
The Graflex Speed Graphic press camera is introduced and will continue in production until 1973
1913 Kodak invents 35mm film for the early motion picture industry
Oskar Barnack, creates the Ur-Leica, the prototype of a small-format 35mm camera, doubling the width of 18x24mm cinema film and running it horizontally, rather than vertically as in cinema cameras of the time
The introduction of Eastman Portrait Film begins the transition to sheet film instead of glass plates for professional photographers
1971 Nikon introduce the F2 to succeed the legendary F with a variety of finder options.
1972 Kodak reduces the popular Instamatic Camera to pocket size with the introduction of the Pocket Istamatic Camera with the new easy-load 110 Film Cartridge, extending the cartridge loading principle to what had hitherto been known as the sub-miniature camera.
Polaroid introduces the SX-70 an improvement on previous models that ejects pictures automatically and without chemical residue,
The Copal Compact Square Shutter (CCS), one of the most notable focal plane shutters of the ’70s, is introduced with the Konica Autoreflex TC
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
The Minolta XD11 is the world’s first camera with aperture priority and shutter priority, as well as a fully metered manual mode.
Kodak enters the instant picture field with a range of cameras and a new film. Kodak instant cameras do not need a mirror to reverse the image laterally, which is a requirement for Polaroid cameras, but litigation from Polaroid soon follows.
1978 Konica introduces the C35 AF, the first point-and-shoot autofocus camera.
1980 The Ricoh AF Rikenon 50mm f/2, the first interchangeable autofocus SLR lens, is introduced
Nikon introduces the F3, with manual and semi-automatic exposure control.
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.
International speculation on the silver market causes a significant rise in the price of silver, an important base material for the photographic industry. Agfa-Gevaert’s struggles results in the group being acquired by Bayer.
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 and a fast flash X-sync speed of 1/250th second.
Kodacolor VR 1000 film is announced at Photokina. It is a T-Grain film, which makes possible such a high speed film with tolerable grain.
1983 The Olympus OM-4 is the first camera with a multi-spot exposure meter, taking up to eight spot measurements and averaging them
Nikon introduces the FA, the first camera to offer a multi-segmented (or matrix or evaluative) exposure light meter, which uses two segmented silicon photodiodes to divide the field of view into five segments.
1984 LOMO begin mass-producing the LC-A, achieving popularity within the USSR and kickstarting Lomography.
The Contax T, the first in a series of high quality, exceptionally compact 35mm rangefinder cameras is introduced
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.
1986 The disposable camera is popularised by Fujifilm with the 35mm QuickSnap, which helps to define consumer photography in the late ’80s and ’90s
The Canon T90 marks the pinnacle of manual-focus 35mm SLRs
Canon launches the RC-701 ‘Realtime camera’ the first commercially available Still Video Camera
Kodak introduces T-MAX film which is smooth, fine grained and sharp – characteristics due to its use of a tabular grain emulsion. T-MAX 100 has a very high resolution of 200 lines/mm and is often used for testing the sharpness of lenses.
1987 Canon launches the EOS (Electro-Optical System), an entirely new system designed specifically to support autofocus lenses.
Canon becomes the first camera maker to successfully commercialise Ultrasonic Motor (USM) lenses which appear with the introduction of the EF 300 mm f/2.8L USM lens
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 introduces the DC 210, the first “Megapixel resolution” digital camera selling for under $1000 ($899).
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.
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), enabling the camera to record information other than the image
The Canon IXUS is the firstIXUS APS camera, Canon’s contribution to the launch of the APS film system and an important milestone in compact camera design
Hasselblad introduces the V-system 503 C/W medium format film camera which will continue into production until 2013
1997Philippe Kahn publicly shares a picture via a cell phone for the first time
1998 Leica launches The M6 TTL to replace the M6 with a larger, reversed shutter dial and TTL flash capability
Kodakintroduces the Portra family of daylight-balanced professional colour negative films for portrait and wedding applications.
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
2000 Sharp and J-Phone introduce the first mass market camera-phone in Japan, The J-SH04
Canon introduces the EOS D30, the company’s first digital SLR produced in-house. Previously Canon had a contract with Kodak to rebrand DCS models. It was also the first DSLR with a price tag affordable to enthusiasts.
2001 Nikon produce the manual focus FM3a, the last manual focus 35mm SLR released by a major maker
Mirrorless cameras overtake DSLRs based on unit volume (CIPA data)
2021 Sony introduces the ⍺1, a 50.1MP, 8.6K camera capable of shooting bursts at up to 30fps blackout-free, with 15 stops of dynamic range, real-time animal eye AF and anti-distortion shutter technology.
Olympus exits the camera market, completing the sale of its camera business to JIP, a Tokyo-based venture capital firm.
Nikon announces, and very late in the year, ships, the Z9 – the first professional camera to arrive without a mechanical shutter without rolling shutter thanks to its fast stacked shutter. It also offers the world’s fastest still image frame rate of 120 fps.
2022 French Photographer Mathieu Stern creates portraits of people who do not exist with the Dall-E-2 AI programme.
Leica introduces the M11 with a 60MP full-frame back side illuminated sensor
Japanese media organisation Nikkei reports that the compact ‘point-and-shoot’ market has retracted to 3.01m units as of 2021, a drop of 97% from its peak of 110.7m cameras in 2008.