Here's The Epic 2,000-Year Journey The Camera Took To Make It Into Your Smartphone


Photo: Dia

It’s pretty easy to take the cameras on our smartphones for granted.We can shoot hundreds of photos indiscriminately without thinking twice about it. It’s just a bunch of zeros and ones, after all.

But it took us a long time to get to the point where we could even capture a still image, let alone digitally.

Here’s a brief overview of how we went from the camera obscura, which was more of an amusement than anything, to the killer digital cameras we have today.

Ancient times (Approximately 300 B.C.)

The camera obscura is a device that uses a pinhole or lens to project an image from the outside on to a viewing surface inside. The image appeared upside down and couldn't yet be captured.


The daguerreotype was the first practical method of photography. Louis Daguerre perfected it in 1836 after the death of his partner, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce.

He covered a copper plate with silver and exposed it to iodine vapor to make it light-sensitive. The plate was 'developed' by exposure to mercury vapor.


When they were introduced in 1871, gelatin dry plates allowed for cameras to be made smaller while maintaining quality.

Exposure times were shortened, so for the first time, the candid photo became a reality.


George Eastman introduced celluloid film in 1889 for use with a camera he called the 'Kodak.'

In 1900, he introduced a fantastically iconic camera, the Brownie, which was so popular that it remained for sale in various forms until the 1960s.


Oskar Barnack began experimenting with 35mm film for use in photography in 1913. World War I delayed any production plans for his new camera design, the Leica I, until 1925 but once it was manufactured it was a quick success that spawned a number of competitors.


Single lens reflex cameras had been available for many years at this point, but the Ihagee Exakta shook things up with its compact design. It caught on so well that it was the main character's camera of choice in Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window.


This year marked the introduction of the iconic Polaroid instant camera. Called the Land Camera after inventor Edwin Land, the first Polaroid camera employed a chemical process that made completed prints in under a minute.


Here come the analogue electronic cameras, which are distinctly different from the digital cameras we know today. Cameras like the Sony Mavica still recorded pixels continuously and uncompressed, not unlike a videocamera that only shoots one frame at a time.


When Fuji introduced the DS-1P in 1988, we saw the beginning digital cameras as we know them today -- shooting compressed pictures and storing them on digital media.


Japan's J-Phone was the first phone to successfully implement a camera. Now people were sending their photos via MMS and it became apparent that a 'cameraphone' wasn't just a fad.


When it unveiled the iPhone 4, Apple touted the impressive photography specs of the new phone. As far as point and shoot cameras go, the iPhone and many Android phones rank right up there as perfectly suitable workhorses.

Premium smartphones can shoot 1080p HD video and take 8 MP photos.

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