History Of The Camera

The History Of Photography

Photographic Equipment

Newer Processes

History of the Camera


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One would think that the history of the camera and the history of photography would be inextricably linked. However, that is not so. While photography really gained momentum as late as the 19th century, the history of the camera dates as far back as the early 10th century.

The Camera Obscura

The camera obscura refers to a dark chamber or room all of which functioned similar to what modern cameras do. The difference of course was that the entire chamber was the camera.

An extremely learned Arabian scholar Ibn al Haitam made references to the ‘camera obscura’ in his writings. He made a piercing observation that an inverted image of the sun is reflected on an opposite plane when light passes only through a tiny pinhole. If the size of the hole is enlarged the nature of the image changes as well.

The camera obscura also found mention in the works of Leonardo Da Vinci and Barbaro. It was in the middle of the 16th century that Battista della Porta first spoke of the camera obscura as an aid to drawing. Many artists subsequently used the camera obscura as an aid to their drawing efforts. Finally it was in 1604 that Kepler used the phrase ‘camera obscura’ and in 1609 he also suggested the use of a lens to improve the image cast by the camera obscura.

The early cameras were huge. Kircher describes an entire room converted into a camera obscura! The use of tents as cameras became rather common and went on till as late as the nineteenth century even.

The Camera Evolves

The first real series of cameras were produced in Paris around the 1840s. They weighed a whopping 50 kgs each and cost 400 francs. With the Daguerreotype becoming popular soon after, the Daguerreotype cameras became popular. These were cameras that only allowed a single copy of the photo to be taken and were extremely expensive as well.

The introduction of the Calotype cameras served to break the Daguerreotype monopoly. In 1843, Talbot tried to patent his technique of enlarging the lens for better pictures. Subsequently man different inventors were credited with inventing the shutter, a telephoto lens, a folding camera, a wide angle lens and even the revolver camera.

Cameras for color photography were introduced as late as the 1870s. Amongst all the different inventions taking place the one that really stood out was of Eastman Kodak. Eastman developed the camera with a folding film on which people could click images. They then sent the entire camera back to Rochester, NY where Kodak developed the photos and reloaded the camera with new film and sent it back. Eastman Kodak thus put the camera in every man’s hands.

The middle of the nineteenth century saw another revolution when Polaroid introduced the instant camera. The digital camera made an appearance only in the 1980s.

Thus, photography was greatly supported by better and better cameras that made it easier for the common man to indulge his artistic sensibilities as well.

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