different cameras on a table

Photography Over Time: From Camera Obscura to Digital Mastery

It is hard to imagine a world before cameras now that we carry tiny cameras in our pockets at all times and see cameras built into our laptops, tablets, and even our watches. 

But how did we get here? How did we go from fuzzy black and white photos to high definition gigapixel photographs that can capture a bit of bird poop on the statue of liberty from hundreds of feet away? 

The history of photography is fascinating and filled with incredible technological advancements that continue to this day.

Check out the surprisingly long and illustrious history of cameras and photography in our comprehensive guide below! 

 

How Long Have Cameras Been Around?

 

pictures of cameras with old photographs

Surprisingly, cameras have been around since 1021CE! Though the idea of a camera dates back even further to the 5th century BCE. 

In the earliest days of the camera, the machines didn’t capture a permanent image, instead, they projected an image onto a surface so they could be copied. (More on this later!)

Cameras that created a permanent image using metal plates arrived in the 1830s and gave rise to photography as we know and love it today. 

It would be another 50 years before handheld film cameras came on the scene thanks to George Eastman and his Kodak company. 

Kodak cameras were the first cameras that allowed common folk, not just the rich, to take photographs. 

 

What did the first cameras look like?

 

old school accordion camera

The very earliest ‘cameras’ looked a lot like tents with a small hole in them because that is essentially what they were.

The earliest cameras were known as camera obscura, but the practice of putting a small hole in a wall or tent to get an image to reflect on an opposite surface predates the name by a good few centuries!
Some argue that camera obscura were even used by prehistoric people to do their cave paintings, so I suppose the very earliest cameras looked like animal hide stretched across the openings of caves with a small hole poked in the middle.

Cameras, as we know them today first, emerged in the 1800s and were big boxes with a curved piece of glass as a lens on the front and a plate on the back. The plates were coated in substances that darkened when exposed to light and were finally able to capture the first photographs.

Cameras in those days were not portable! They were large, often the size of a table, and needed to be left in place for hours to capture an image.

As people began to understand the mechanics of photography better, cameras eventually became smaller and smaller.

So, let’s get into the nitty-gritty, detail of it all, starting with the earliest camera obscura and ending up with the latest, modern gigapixel cameras!

 

The Beginning: Camera Obscura

 

Camera Obscura

camera obscura

Camera Obscura literally translates as ‘dark chamber’ and that is essentially what the earliest cameras were. 

From prehistoric times, through to antiquity and into the renaissance, people used rooms or tents with a small hole in one side to create an image on the opposite wall.

But how does this work? 

It must have seemed like magic to our ancestors, to be honest, it seems a bit like magic to me, but the principle is fairly simple. 

Light travels in straight lines. When light hits an object it bounces off in different strengths depending on the brightness of that object. A Camera Obscura works by funneling these rays of light through a small hole into a darkened room.

A screen or wall inside the darkened room is placed in the path of the rays of light to collect them. These rays of light are visible on the screen as a color image of the original object, albeit upside down and back to front. 

Rays of light that hit darker areas of the object are weaker and show as a dimmer color and image, while the brighter rays are, well, brighter. This is why a camera obscura can reflect an accurate image of an object.

Light rays also contain all the color information from the object they bounce off which is why the projected image is in color. 

The only difference to the image you see inside a camera obscura and the actual object or scene itself is that the image is upside down and back to front. 

This is all because light only likes to travel in straight lines. 

The light that comes from the bottom of an object will travel towards and through the hole in a straight diagonal line. The same happens with light from the top of the object. These lines naturally get closer together as they approach the hole so that they can fit through.

The hole in the wall is the point where these two lines cross or intersect. The light from the bottom of the image now continues to head towards the top of the screen, while light from the top of the image heads towards the bottom of the screen. The result is an upside-down image of the scene or object on the other side of the hole. 

This also works for the light coming from each side of the object which is why the image is back to front.

The earliest written descriptions and explanations of this phenomenon date back to the 4th and 3rd centuries BCE. A Chinese philosopher called Mozi wrote all about the way that the rays of light intersect through a hole and described the room in which you view the images as a ‘treasure room.’

In the following century, the Greek philosopher Aristotle questioned why you see a circular image of the sun through things like wickerwork when the object itself is a different shape. Here, Aristotle was noticing the difference between a shadow cast by an object in front of a light source and the projection and focusing of light rays through a camera obscura. Though, of course, he didn’t use the term ‘camera obscura.’ 

From the 5th century BCE through to the 11th century CE, many philosophers and mathematicians experimented with light and the Obscura effect. They began to calculate and draw the path of light through small holes. 

By 1000s CE the mechanics of a camera obscura were understood. Arab philosopher, Ibn al-Hytham calculated and described the relationship between the size of the hole and the clarity of the image. 

He discovered that the hole, or aperture, would increase the clarity if it was small enough. Larger holes, he wrote, let in too much light and the image disappeared to be replaced by light that matched the shape of the hole rather than the object. 

Ibn al-Hytham also wrote a lot about why and how an image is reversed when projected through a small hole. His writings would later be translated into Latin and would inspire many renaissance inventors, philosophers, and mathematicians, including Leonardo da Vinci.

Da Vinci was fascinated by the effect of a Camera Obscura. He drew hundreds of diagrams about them and wrote extensively about optics and light in his notebook in the year 1502. Unfortunately, ever the mystery man, da Vinci wrote his notes in mirror writing so they weren’t translated and used for over 200 years! 

The earliest use of a lens in a camera obscura is described in a 1550 book by another Italian polymath, Gerolamo Cordano. This idea was later developed by another Italian, Giambattista del Porto who suggested using a convex lens, which is a lens with a domed side, to make the image clearer. 

Del Porto also suggested using a camera obscura, though he called it an obscurum cubiculum, as a drawing aid. He described how you could project the image onto a piece of paper and trace around the image. He also discovered that by using a mirror within the camera obscura, you could flip the image right way up. From then on, most camera obscura made use of lenses and mirrors to correct the image.

It was Del Porto’s work which made the knowledge and use of camera obscura more well known. 

In 1572, a German mathematician, Frederick Reisner, suggested that a ‘portable’ camera obscura be made. His idea of a portable camera was a lightweight wooden hut with holes in each of the sides which would project the surroundings onto a paper block in the middle of the hut. 

It wasn’t really portable in the sense that you could carry it around with you. It was more focused on the premise of being able to move the system from one location to another. Believe it or not, the idea didn’t take off!

The term ‘camera obscura’ was first used in 1604 and became the popular name for any rooms, tents, or boxes which used a small hole to project an image of an external object or scene.

A true portable camera obscura wasn’t made until around 1622. This was a box with a hole in one side that replicated projected the image onto a surface. It was made by a Dutch inventor named Cornelis Drebbel and sold to an artist friend of his. 

Artists had long been using camera obscura to help them draw and paint more realistic images, but Drebbler’s box meant that they didn’t have to sit in a dark room and paint.

Other uses for the camera obscura became apparent as inventors started to make them more portable. Entertainers briefly used them as a way of creating and screening shows to paying customers. They would use models or actors to display narrative scenes onto a screen.

Ultimately, the camera obscura was mostly used as an artist’s aid. Its use in entertainment dwindled fairly quickly once the Magic Lantern was invented. Though, without the camera obscura, there wouldn’t have been any Magic Lanterns.

 

Pinhole Cameras

 

old school pinhole camera

Where pinhole cameras differ from camera obscura is their usage and the lack of a lens. 

Whereas camera obscura were used as drawing aids and used a lens or mirror to correct the projected image, pinhole cameras were used to create some of the earliest photographs and were simply boxes with tiny holes. 

It’s best to think of it this way; a camera obscura was a way of observing an optical illusion whereas a pinhole camera was used as a tool for making photographs. 

Scottish scientist, Sir David Brewster coined the term pinhole in the 1850s and was one of the earliest pinhole photographers. He was obsessed with optics and wrote lots of books and studies on the way light is interpreted and acts. His pinhole photography was a related hobby. 

Thomas Eddison and his team tried to use pinhole cameras as early prototypes of film cameras but found that the images were too coarse and didn’t look good when played at the speeds necessary for moving pictures. 

What early pinhole photographers managed to perfect was the size of the hole. They discovered that the smaller the hole, the clearer the image would be, up to a point. Because of their early experimentation, we now know that the size of the aperture should be up to 1/100 of the distance between the hole and the screen.

They also worked out that too small a hole results in the image being warped due to diffraction. Diffraction is when the light has to bend to get through the hole. 

Today, hobbyists make and use pinhole cameras to photograph the sun because the projected image is safer to look at than looking directly at the sun. This practice is known as solargraphy. 

Pinhole photography is also an artistic choice and is a technical process that encourages photographers to consider aperture and focal distance carefully to get usable images. 

Pinhole cameras are also used as a fun and interactive way to explain how light and cameras work to children. Homemade pinhole cameras require nothing except a box, some paper, and a sharp object to make the pinhole. 

Ultimately, pinhole cameras were the link between camera obscura and early photographic cameras. They used the principle of the Obscura effect to project an image on paper coated in newly developed photographic emulsions which would make a permanent image. 

That leads us nicely on to…

 

Photographic Cameras

 

old photographic camera

This is where we start seeing cameras that are more familiar to the ones we use today. Photographic cameras were the first cameras to capture a permanent image better known as a photograph.

In ancient and early modern times, scientists and inventors focused on explaining how an image was projected in the first place. By the Victorian times, the focus was on turning light rays that had bounced off an object into a completely new object.

When you stop and think about it, being able to permanently record a projected image is a huge advancement and a real marvel!

So how did they do it? 

The key to capturing the image lay in chemistry rather than physics which had predominantly dominated the camera diabetes over the centuries. 

It had been known for a long time that certain substances darkened when exposed to light, skin, after all, tans or burns when exposed to the sun.

While the understanding of photosensitive substances had existed for millennia, the idea to use them in photography didn’t emerge until the 18th century CE.

Silver nitrate was discovered as early as the 12th century CE and its light darkening properties were well documented. However, Thomas Wedgwood would be the first to document the use of the substance to capture the likeness of objects. 

Wedgwood’s experiments initially focused on creating photograms. These were negative images of objects placed on a surface coated in silver nitrate and exposed to light. The uncovered areas would darken leaving a negative outline of the object placed on the surface. 

The problem with these photograms was that once the object was removed, the negative image was exposed to the light and would begin to darken like the rest of the surface and so these images weren’t permanent. 

Wedgwood tried to capture the images produced by camera obscura in the same way but found that the light projected image just wasn’t strong enough to darken the silver nitrate. 

Wedgwood died before a solution could be found but his work inspired others to continue the search. 

Nichéphore Nicépe made the next big leap and is credited with producing the first permanent photograph, though he called the process heliography. 

Nicépe had become frustrated with the way silver nitrate couldn’t be fixed so he turned to a natural material, bitumen. 

Knowing that bitumen hardened when exposed to light, he treated metal plates in bitumen mixed with lavender oil before placing an engraving in front of the plate and exposing it to light. The uncovered sections hardened which still created a negative image. Crucially, the unhardened bitumen could be washed away so that it didn’t expose. 

Once the negative image had been created, the plate was etched using the usual process and a positive, permanent copy was the result. 

Ok, it’s not quite; point the camera and click, but it was progress! 

Nicépe used this same process to produce heliographs of images projected by camera obscura but the exposure time was days rather than hours and was pretty much impractical. 

When Nicépe died, his partner Louis Daguerre continued to refine the process.  Daguerre preferred to work with silver-based chemicals and eventually settled on silver iodine, but his process was similar to Nicépe’s. 

Daguerre’s big discovery was the idea of latent images. Essentially, he had worked out that you only needed a short exposure for the darkening process to start. You could leave the photo to develop properly without having to make people sit for hours for a photograph. 

Once exposed, Daguerre would use a hot salt wash to remove the silver iodine solution in the negative areas and prevent them from accidentally darkening, thus fixing the image. 

With Daguerre’s latent image practice and Nicépe’s heliograph technology the first recognizable, complete photography process had been invented. 

Daguerre was very protective of his inventions and discoveries and initially kept them privately in his studio though he later sold the patent to the French government in return for a pension for himself and Nicépe’s son. 

The French government published the full free instructions in 1839 and the Daguerreotype became the most widely used photographic process for 11 years. 

Daguerre’s process was an incredible step forward but it still had some practical issues. The biggest issue was that Daguerre’s process made opaque negative images which could only be duplicated one at a time by photographing them with a camera.

Henry Fox Talbot was an English photographer and inventor who was working at the same time as Daguerre, though independently. Talbot managed to create translucent negative images using what he called calotype paper. 

This was paper that had been doused in different chemicals including potassium iodine and silver nitrate. This paper could be stored until needed and didn’t react to light until brushed with a further coating of silver nitrate, gallic acid and acetic acid. 

The paper, after being exposed in the sun and having been treated with these chemicals became translucent when developed into a negative image. This meant that any number of replica positive images could be made by contact printing, a process where the negative is placed on a piece of photographic paper and transferred.

Talbot’s process was more efficient, however his rush to patent the idea and constant litigation over copyright infringement, meant that some were weary of using the process.

Talbot’s calotype did become the most popular type of photograph in the 1850s. Many liked the fact that the image had a softness to it due to the visibility of the paper grain in the negative. It was deemed to be more flattering for portraits than the sharp, daguerreotype images. 

The next big invention in photography was the creation of the collodion process by English sculptor Fredrick Scott Archer in the 1850s. Initially, the process was a wet process, meaning it used liquid chemicals applied to a glass or metal plate. 

It was a fiddly process requiring the photographer to carry all the chemicals he needed, plus a portable dark room as the whole process needed to be completed in about 15 minutes. 

The benefit of the process was that negatives were produced on glass so they could be easily copied like a calotype but they were clear, sharp and grainless like a daguerreotype. 

By 1864, collodion had been transformed into a gel which could be applied easily to a glass plate. This meant that photographers no longer needed to carry all those, frankly dangerous, chemicals around. It also meant that the portable dark rooms could be done away with. 

Removing portable dark rooms allowed photographers to be more mobile and allowed them to photograph more difficult subjects. It was during this time that photojournalism and war photography found its footing. 

This gel became known as collodion emulsion and was absolutely revolutionary.

The final, great change in early photography was the creation of film. This was simply paper coated in the collodion emulsion. Photographers no longer had to carry around heavy and fragile plates to produce images.

The gelatin emulsion, once exposed, could be striped from the paper and applied to glass in a dark room to create usable negatives. 

In 1885 this ‘film’ was sold by American George Eastman, but was replaced only 4 years later by a transparent, plastic roll of film made from cellulose nitrate. This film was highly flammable but cheap to produce and it would be used for nearly a century.

With the invention of cheap, simple to use film, photography was ready for its next big step. Mass appeal. 

 

The Birth of the Film Camera

 

Kodak Cameras

 

early kodak camera

The photographic process had been tweaked and refined over a period of about 50 years in the late 1800s to the point where it no longer required in-depth knowledge and understanding of chemicals and light. 

The time was ripe for a camera that could be used by anyone. Enter Kodak. 

Established in 1888, by George Eastman, the man who brought the first commercially available camera film to the market, Kodak began manufacturing smaller, portable cameras which were specifically designed to hold film. 

The Kodak Brownie entered the market in 1900 and cost just $1. It was a camera with a cardboard box construction and a simple lens on one end. The lens didn’t adjust and you couldn’t change the aperture but it was an instant success. 

Kodak operated under the slogan, ‘you press the button, we do the rest,’ and was the first company to offer photograph development. 

Users would load the Kodak film into the back of the camera, take the photo using a button which would open and close the shutter, exposing the film. A dial on the top of the camera allowed users to wind on the film, allowing them to take multiple photographs on one roll. 

When the film was finished, customers sent it back to the Kodak company to be developed in house. The final printed images were sent back to the customer after development. 

Kodak truly brought photography to the masses. Their cameras were small and inexpensive meaning even working class families could own one and their in-house development system meant that you needed no expertise. 

The Brownie camera would be improved and sold as the Brownie II in 1901 and from then on the company continued to create inexpensive cameras with the latest technology. 

Kodak made most of its money by selling film and accessories. The success of the company in the 20th century was largely due to the fact that they became the name for camera film and produced film that would fit in their competitors’ cameras.

 

35MM Film

 

early film camera with film roll

Kodak originally produced 120 film rolls for their cameras which were about 70mm wide. This meant that the cameras needed to be correspondingly large enough to hold them. 

35MM film had been used in film cameras since the late 19th century when Thomas Edison decided to cut a 70mm Kodak film in half and splice it together at the end. 

In terms of still photography, 35mm film didn’t become widely available until the creation of the American Tourist Multiple camera in 1913.

The American Tourist Multiple was much more expensive than the Kodak box cameras available, costing $175 in 1913. This meant that it wasn’t used by the general public who couldn’t afford it. 

The first 35mm camera to be a commercial success was the Leica camera made by Oskar Barnack in Germany. These cameras went on sale in 1925 and significantly reduced the size of cameras as the film was pulled horizontally across the camera instead of having to stand vertically. 

The Leica did well commercially, but in 1926 the Argus A over took it in sales. The Argus was so much cheaper, that ammeture photographers could purchase and use the compact 35mm camera. 

Many companies now began creating compact 35mm cameras and film, though Kodak remained as the king of film for all models. 

 

TLR and SLR Cameras

 

early slr film camera

The earliest plate cameras didn’t have a viewfinder, that is they didn’t have a way for photographers to check what the photo would look like before exposing the film. Photographers would have to point at the subject and hope they were in frame. 

Viewfinders developed along with cameras. The earliest viewfinders were simply mirrors placed at a 45° angle behind a small hole. These were found on box cameras and early folding cameras.

There were two almost simultaneous inventions in camera viewfinders, the TLR or twin-lens reflex, and the SLR or single-lens reflex. 

Both the TLR and the SLR viewfinders were initially patented in the late 1800s but their use didn’t become commonplace until the 1930s. 

The major difference between the two types of camera is the number of lenses. A TLR camera had two lenses. One was the shooting lense which would expose the film to the light. The other, usually placed above the shooting lens, was the viewfinder lens. 

The two lenses were identical in terms of their focal range and size, but the viewfinder lens had a mirror behind it which would project the image upwards so it could be seen from the top of the camera when held at waist height. 

TLR cameras allowed photographers to have a much better idea of what they were shooting, though as the viewfinder was above the shooting lense there were discrepancies between what was seen through the viewfinder and what was seen by the shooting lense. 

SLR cameras have one lens which is used as both the viewfinder and the shooting lens.  A movable mirror would sit behind the lens allowing the photographer to see exactly what the shooting lense sees. 

These cameras were eye level cameras as the reflected image was projected parallel to the lens. In short, these are the cameras that we recognise today. 

SLRs didn’t immediately replace or diminish the use of TLR cameras. The early SLRs were fairly unreliable and jankey due to the moving mirror part and would often produce blurred photos. 

However, as the internal mechanics became slicker, the SLR won out due to the fact that the image you saw through the viewfinder was the image you got in the photograph. 

SLR cameras were the first kind of cameras to allow changeable lenses for different shots. This was really the nail in the coffin for TLR cameras. It was far too expensive to build and purchase both a different shooting lens and viewing lens for different shots. 

TLRs did maintain some popularity until the 1960s, They were reliable and simple enough for amateurs to use and were popular with press photographers. The big name in TLR cameras was Rolleiflex who continued to sell their TLRs until the 60s when they too switched to a SLR format. 

 

Instant Cameras

 

instant polaroid camera

Until the 1950s film negatives had to be sent to a developer to produce the positive photographic images. This had a turn around time of at least a few days for the general public, though professional photographers tended to have their own dark rooms to develop in.

In 1947, Polaroid created the first instant film roll. This film was made up of a negative sheet which was exposed through the lens before being lined up with a positive sheet and passed through a pair of rollers. 

The rollers would squeeze and spread a reactive agent between the two sheets which would start the transfer process. 

With this new film you could point, shoot and see you photograph in a matter of minutes. It was revolutionary. 

Polaroid would go on to dominate the instant camera and film market for around 40 years, though many other companies including Kodak and Fuji would also produce cameras and film for this market. 

Eventually, companies moved away from rolls of instant film and created packs of integral film. These single frame films had an opacifier added so that when they were pushed out of the camera, the dark surface would prevent the film from overexposure. 

Instant cameras became very popular in situations where time was of the essence. Police forces used them heavily for photographing and analysing crime scenes and they were also used extensively by healthcare professionals to document symptoms and procedures. 

The heyday of instant cameras was the 1970s where artists, hobbyists and amateurs found the simplicity and speed of the whole process to be liberating. People could now capture the world around them as they saw it in that moment and see it in seconds. It opened up a whole world of possibilities. 

 

The Rise of Digital Photography

 

Early Digital Cameras

 

small digital camera

The earliest digital image was created as early as 1957 by Russell Kirsch. This wasn’t done with a camera but rather a digital scanner which stored the image on magnetic tape. It would be another 35 years before digital cameras were commercialized, but Kirsch and others like him laid the groundwork.

Digital cameras work in an almost identical fashion to analogue film cameras in that they allow light into the body through the lens and that light is collected to produce the image. The difference comes from the fact that the collecting screen in digital cameras is not film reliant on a chemical process but a collection of electronic photodetectors. 

The photodetectors register the different strengths and color of the light rays hitting them and transmit this information to the storage card which can be viewed either in the camera or when used in a computer. 

Initially, digital cameras were mainly used for military or scientific purposes owing to the fact that the parts and technology were expensive to create and maintain. 

The other limiting factor of the early digital cameras was the file size of the photos. Until data compression was developed in the late 1970s, cameras and memory cards could only really take and store around ten images. This was totally impractical for everyday use.

Kodak were, once again, pioneers in that they created the first, hand held digital camera. However they never made it big in the digital camera market.

 

The Digital SLR (DSLR)

 

digital camera on laptop

The very first digital, single lens reflex camera was made by Nikon. They demonstrated their prototype at a trade fair in 1986 and released the first commercial DSLR in 1988. 

At around the same time, Kodak had begun creating image sensors and other electrical components for digitals cameras. In 1987 they developed the first image sensor with over 1 million pixels. 

Many of the early DSLR cameras used the bodies of film SLR cameras with modifications made to fit the electronics. This helped people transition to digital SLRs as it meant they could still use the lenses they already owned. 

The main advantage of DSLR over film SLR cameras was the speed and immediacy of the image. Some professional photographers were reluctant to switch to DSLRs but the societal changes that came in the 90s and 00s made working in analogue a hindrance. 

Key features like auto-focus, mode selection and simple editing functions were now able to be integrated into cameras making a photographer’s job much easier. It also made the practice of photography simpler and more accessible for the general public. 

As the DSLR really began to take off in the 90s and early 00s, the competition between camera companies heated up. Kodak, who hadn’t really embraced the digital revolution, fell behind to the likes of Olympus and Pentax. 

In 2008, the first DSLR to be able to capture HD videos was sold and since then manufacturers have pretty much added this feature as standard to DSLRs.

 

Smartphone Cameras

 

person taking pictures with iphone

The progress and development of cameras over the first 100 years of their lives had turned photography into an everyday activity for everyone. 

You no longer needed to hire a professional to capture important memories, you could do it and see the photo instantly on your digital camera. 

It seemed like there was nowhere else to go. After all, what more could you ask for in a camera?

The new millennium answered that very question when Sharp began selling the J-SH04 camera phone. Very quickly, competitors began integrating cameras into their own cell phones and the new battlefront in photography was established. 

The early camera phones were grainy, low resolution images that were ultimately designed to be viewed on the small screens of cell phones. 

One of the biggest leaps in smartphone camera technology was the ability to share images over mobile networks. This really helped to boost the popularity and social impact of smartphone cameras. 

The idea that you could instantly share your photo with people across the globe was incredible and unimaginable before the millennium. 

By 2007, Nokia and Sony Ericsson stood out as the best camera phones. They boasted 5MP cameras, which at that time was the same as you would find in a point and shoot digital camera. 

The Sony Ericsson K850 stood out from competitors thanks to it’s macro shooting features, xenon flash and the ability to take bursts of 9 photos. Essentially, it was a digital camera with phone capabilities! 

As smartphone cameras developed, the question became whether it was more important to cram pixels into the photo or to improve the sensor size within the phone? 

Initially companies went down the megapixel approach, with Samsung introducing the first 12 megapixel smartphone camera in 2008. However, four years later Nokia would settle the sensor vs megapixel debate with the Nokia N8. 

The N8 prioritised sensor size over pixels and it’s capabilities outshone other phones on the market.  

The next model, the N808 would set the record for the largest sensor in a smartphone camera. The sensor was 1 ½ inches and had a 41mp output. This was incredible for 2012 and it was unbeaten until 2019! 

Nowadays smartphone cameras tend to feature more than one lens allowing you to capture telescopic shots amongst others.

 

Light Field Cameras

 

light field camera

One of the newest innovations in camera technology, the light field camera uses a number of macro camera lenses in front of a sensor to capture even more information from the light rays. 

Standard sensors with standard lenses, such as the ones found in DSLRs and smartphone cameras, pick up the intensity, color and position of light rays but they don’t capture the angle or direction of the rays.

By placing smaller macro lenses in front of the sensor, the camera is able to get a greater number of views on the subject and can record the angle and direction of light. 

But what is the point?

Well, with all this extra information you can create 3D images and you can refocus the image after it has been taken. 

Commercial applications of light field cameras include use in microscopes and scanners. 

 

Gigapixel Cameras

 

google gigapixel camera

If the aim of smartphone cameras is to get the most out of a small camera, gigapixel cameras get the most out of very large cameras! 

A gigapixel camera isn’t actually one camera, it is dozens of cameras in one body that is able to capture hundreds of photos in a very short amount of time. 

Gigapixel photography has been around since the early 2000s but these photos are made of hundreds and thousands of stitched together images taken by different photographers or the same photographer over a long time. The images are stitched together so seamlessly that the human eye sees it as one image. 

Gigapixel cameras are being developed that will be capable of capturing gigapixel images in one sweep without the need to manually stitch them together. 

At the moment this technology is not commercially available for the average joe, it is mainly being used by scientists in an academic setting. 

 

Final Thoughts

 

So there you have it! The camera from prehistoric holes in the wall, to modern, multi shot marvel. 

In under 200 years, photography and camera technology have changed from large cumbersome machines that required hours of exposure time, to tiny hand-held digital miracles that can snap a series of photos in seconds. 

The rate of advancement has increased exponentially over the years and what the future of photography will bring, well I just can’t picture it.

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