When Did Cameras Come Out? – Answers from the Camera Experts

When Did Cameras Come Out – Answers from the Camera Experts

It’s hard to imagine a life without photos. Especially in the modern age of smartphones and social media. We take millions more photos every day than we ever did just 40 or 50 years ago.

You may be familiar with how a camera works, but have you ever wondered when did cameras come out? Here we will discuss a brief history of the image capturing device known as the camera and how it has evolved over the years.

When Did Cameras Come Out and What is the Definition of a Camera?

Vintage retro film camera

If you tried to explain what a camera was to someone from the past, how would you do it?

A camera is a tool that uses light and special chemicals to capture images so that they may be saved and viewed later. Cameras use special pieces of equipment such as lenses, mirrors and their own light sources to create the images that we are all familiar with. They are a device used to take photos and they are the primary tool used in the art of photography.

Photography is a term derived from Greek culture. The word “photo” means light, and the term “graphene” means “to draw”. The word photography was initially used by Sir John F.W. Herschel back in 1839.

The Camera Obscura or Pinhole Camera

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The earliest known use of a camera dates to the ancient Chinese as far back as 1000 A.D. the device was known as the camera obscura and it basically used a pinhole in a piece of cloth to project an image on an opposing wall.

While it may seem very different from the cameras we are familiar with today, the camera obscura has more in common with modern-day cameras than you may think.

The camera obscura was used in the early days of photography during celestial events such as solar eclipses. It was most notably used by Reiners Gemma Frisius from Leuven University back in 1544. It was suggested that the device was used to aide in creating scientific drawings to use for research.

Later in 1685, scientist Johann Zahn invented the first portable camera that looked very similar to the devices we use today. These early versions of the modern-day camera helped to pave the way for the technology and other advancements needed to make photography as we know it possible.

The First Photograph


While the camera obscura was a remarkable first step, it didn’t provide us with a way to capture images and preserve them.

That didn’t occur until 1827 when Joseph Nicephore Niepce used the camera obscura to create heliographs, also known as sun prints. These images are believed by many to be the ancient prototype for the modern day photographs we have today.

The Heliographs gave Niepce the idea to attempt to transfer images on a different medium to create a more permanent image. Although Niepce died before he was able to complete his experiment, his partner, Louis Daguerre, continued his work. Four years after Niepce’s death in 1833, his partner had succeeded in creating the first practical photographic process known as the daguerreotype.

A daguerreotype is a photo that is made by the process of producing an image on a silver plate, which is sensitized to iodine. The image is then developed using mercury vapor. The device was box-shaped and first manufactured by Maison Susse Frères in 1839.

The first daguerreotype featured a lens, while a later version went through the process of transferring an image onto a sheet of paper or a sensitized plate.

The Invention of Film and Modern Cameras

George Eastman

Film and cameras have been an integral part of our history, and many of the early aspects of photography are still being used today.

Photographic film was first invented by George Eastman in 1885. He created paper film at first before transitioning to celluloid film in 1889. Eastman’s first camera was called the “Kodak”.

That was the beginning of one of the most popular and influential companies in the photography industry that is still highly-respected today.

George Eastman’s Kodak Camera

The Kodak camera was a simple, box style device that featured a fixed focus lens and a single shutter speed. It was quite affordable at the time and each camera came loaded with enough film for one-hundred exposures. After the film was used, the exposures would have to be sent to the factory for processing.

Near the end of the 19th century, Eastman had expanded his company to include box style and folding cameras in his lineup. This invention was remarkable device at the time as families rushed to purchase a camera to preserve their precious memories.

Woman with camera

Imagine what it would be like if we didn’t have those old black and white photos from the past that allow us to catch a glimpse of history?

Another camera model manufactured by Eastman was the Brownie. This compact camera helped to introduce the world to the snapshot. It was a popular device that still sold well in the 1960’s. Eastman is well known in photography history for creating affordable options for those who wanted to capture and preserve memories.

However, Eastman’s cameras still didn’t compare to the larger plate style cameras that were able to produce higher-quality images. For that reason, the higher priced plate cameras were still very popular and used by many during the early part of the 20th century.

How Compact Cameras Changed Photography


The release of compact cameras was another game changer for early photography lovers. The Eastman cameras may have been budget-friendly, but they weren’t very compact.

Consumers didn’t have a portable camera option until Oskar Barnack began experimenting with 35mm film. He found a way to create a compact camera that would use the smaller-size film. However, production of his new device was halted due to WWI.

Barnack’s camera was test marketed between 1923 and 1924. He received great reviews from the public which led to the manufacturing of the Leica 1.

Today, Leica Cameras are considered prominent forms of photography equipment, but unfortunately, they also have the price tag to match their prestigious level of quality.

The Invention of the Digital Camera

digital camera

Following the invention of the compact 35mm film camera, we were introduced to the simple and easy to use disposable camera, and that eventually led us to where we are today with the modernized, high-tech digital camera.

These devices changed the way that we take photos and use cameras. We no longer had to purchase film to take photos, no longer had to wait for the film to be developed, and no longer had to deal with the disappointment of paying for poor quality pictures.

Digital cameras allow us to take as many cameras as our memory cards will allow. We can edit, crop, resize, and filter images so that they look perfect. We can also delete bad quality photos and retake pictures to ensure we get the very best shot.

While there are still a few advantages to using film cameras, most people would agree that the invention of the digital camera made photography better for everyone from beginners to experts.

Some of the best features that digital cameras have to offer include:

  • They are powered by rechargeable batteries, so they cost less to operate
  • They have more advanced settings so that anyone can take professional-quality photos
  • They have display screens that allow you to preview an image and delete any you don’t want to keep
  • They have both internal and removable storage systems that can hold thousands of high-quality images
digital cameras and parts

While digital cameras haven’t been around very long, they already have competition from smartphone devices. Android phones and iPhones now offer an impressive amount features for their cameras, and many people have replaced their digital cameras with the app that is included on their phones.

It’s very convenient to have a camera with you at all times, however expert photographers and those who love the art of photography still prefer to use an actual camera when taking their favorite shots.

The great thing about smartphones featuring high-quality cameras is that it has caused digital camera brands to lower their prices on some of their higher end models. When digital cameras first came out, it was hard to find one that wasn’t more than $1,000. Now you can easily find a good quality camera made by a reputable brand between $100 and $200.

How Modern-Day Camera Use Compares to Early Forms of Photography

So, when did cameras come out?

Comparing how we use cameras today with how they were used during the early stages of photography is almost like comparing apples to oranges. It is a completely different process now that has been greatly improved over time.

But even though we have seen great advancements in the world of photography in just the past 20 or 30 years with the invention of the digital camera and addition of high-quality cameras to smartphones, it was just as thrilling for our grandparents and great-grandparents to have their photos taken using the old plate style cameras many years ago.


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