A brief history of photography
1826 French inventor Nicéphore Niépce takes the first “true” photograph, of his house, using a camera obscura and a sheet of pewter coated with bitumen of Judea (asphalt that hardens when exposed to light). He called this process heliography, or “sun writing.” For some reason, this poetic name for photography didn’t stick.
1838 Charles Wheatstone invents the stereoscopic viewer, the pioneering system for viewing photographic images.
Henry Fox Talbot
1839 William Henry Fox Talbot invents the negative by using translucent paper washed clean of exposed silver particles. He also publishes The Pencil Of Nature, the first book illustrated entirely with photos.
1884 George Eastman invents the first film roll made from flexible paper. It’s used by early moviemakers and an inquisitive guy named Thomas Edison.
Kodak No. 1
1888 First mass-marketed camera is made available by Eastman, called the Kodak No. 1. It costs $25 and takes 100 pictures, which the company develops for a $10 fee, a lot of money at the time.
Louis and Auguste Lumière
1903 A colour photo process called Autochrome is introduced by French brothers Louis and Auguste Lumière.
1925 Leica releases the first practical 35mm camera.
1948 Connecticut scientist Edwin Land brings polarizing light into photography and gives us his instant-developing Polaroid Land Camera. All 57 units on sale in Boston are sold out on the first day of demonstration. Beat that, iPhone!
1960 Calypso invents the first commercially available underwater camera. Jacques Cousteau, at 50, wonders what took them so damn long.
1963 Kodak markets the hugely popular Instamatic, a cartridge-loading snapshot camera. People who hate taking pictures reluctantly buy it to see what the fuss is about.
1969 Bell Labs develops the CCD (charge-coupled device), the image sensor used in camcorders and digital cameras. Camera companies are happy to have another term their consumers will barely understand.
1976 Canon introduces the AE-1, the first 35mm SLR (single lens reflex) camera with a built-in microprocessor. The focus-friendly feature targets amateur buyers.
1981 Sony debuts the first commercial digital still camera, called the Mavica. Film camera enthusiasts start sweating.
1983 Microsoft invents the BMP file, which produces a picture for PC viewing made from a series of pixels. The porn industry’s ears perk up.
1986 Fujitsu introduces the Quicksnap, a camera used once and then discarded. Dumpster divers find a treasure trove of blurry unwanted pics.
1990 Adobe launches Photoshop, the trailblazing image-manipulation program. Women’s magazines and Saturday Night Live writers pay attention.
1992 A new electronic photo standard is introduced, JPEG (for Joint Photographic Experts Group). It compresses digital photographs into smaller files for storing on digital cameras and transmitting over the Internet. Is this where the Flickr guys got their inspiration?
1994 Apple’s QuickTake 100 is the first consumer-friendly digital camera to connect to a PC via cable. The love affair with all things Apple swings into high gear.
1997 The first consumer megapixel cameras are released.
2000 Sharp and Japan-based J-Phone introduce the first camera cellphone. Pervs and concertgoers welcome a new toy to their portfolio.
2003 In the U.S., more digital cameras are sold than film cameras for the first time in history. Film camera nerds sigh loudly and give in to rampant technolust.
2004 Digital SLRs descend on the market and consumers snap up a technology that conquers shutter lag time. Not coincidentally, paparazzi swamp city streets.
2006 Nikon and Canon announce they will stop developing new film for cameras. Digital cams win the quietest innovation battle ever.
2008 Panasonic releases its Lumix TZ5, which shoots 9-megapixel still images and records HD-quality video (at 720p resolution). Niépce would be proud.
2008 Polaroid announces it will discontinue the Polaroid camera and film to focus on its digital products. The official end of an era.