History of Digital Cameras
History of Digital Cameras
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History of Digital Cameras

By Dillon Wallace

Today, everyone with a smartphone also has a digital camera in their pocket. It’s a luxury that we’ve come so accustomed to that it’s taken for granted.

Heck, just 15 years ago, you had to tote around a digital camera along with your cell phone if you wanted to commemorate the night out.

And 15 years before that … well, the word digital was just a blip on the radar.


So, when did the digital camera become the norm for capturing memories quickly and easily? Let’s take a trip down memory lane, digital style.

Who invented the digital camera?

It’s pretty far out, but the first digital camera was created by Kodak engineer Steve Sasson in 1975. Built using parts of kits and leftovers laying around the Kodak factory, including Motorola bits, a movie-camera lens and some brand spanking new Fairchild CCD electronic sensors, the prototype camera barely resembled the sleek and stylish devices of today’s digital shutter bugs. In fact, the camera was so big and heavy that it was nearly the size of a toaster and weighed about 10 lbs. It also took the better part of 25 seconds to capture just a single image … in black and white, no less.

Oh, and let’s not forget the whopping .01 megapixel resolution. Looking back at the prototype, it’s easy to scoff at it, but for the time, it was revolutionary. In fact, had Kodak jumped on the digital pony early, they may have continued their film pioneering status well into the 21st century.

The decline of film?

By the late 70s, the prospect of a digital camera was making the rounds. And in 1981, Sony kickstarted the filmless age with the Sony Mavica. This magnetic video camera wasn’t actually a digital camera per se, but an analog television camera which stored its pictures on two-inch floppy disks called Mavipaks. These floppy drives could hold an astonishing … wait for it … 50 colored photos for playback on a TV or monitor. The camera itself ran off a healthy dose of AA batteries.

Sony’s Mavica led the charge of a slew of other analog cameras like the Canon Xapshot that recorded on electronic media. Not truly digital, these cameras served as a bridge between what was and what was to come.

The arrival of digital

In 1988, the first true digital camera was the Fuji DS-1P – only it never sold. However, it was a testament to how recorded images could be saved onto computerized files via 16MB SRAM internal memory cards. This also led to 1988 being the first year JPEG and MPEG standards were created.

What was the first consumer digital camera then?

The first digital camera to hit store shelves was the 1990 Dycam Model 1. With digital picture storage, the Dycam could connect directly to a PC for downloads. And just like that, the 1990s became the decade of digital determination.

In 1991, digital came to SLR systems like the Hasselblad DB 4000 with a whopping 8-bit storage. This is also around the time that Adobe PhotoShop 1.0 became a thing.

Staking digital claim

By the mid 90s, it seemed that everyone wanted in on the digital action. In fact, even Apple tried its hand in the digital camera market with the Apple QuickTake 100 in 1994. Manufactured by Kodak, the QuickTake was the first color digital camera for under $1,000. Yeah, you read that correctly. With a 640x480-pixel CCD, the QuickTake could store a measly eight images in its internal memory. How far we’ve come ...

The LCD screen makes its debut

The mid-90s also gave us a glimpse at what was to come thanks to the Casio QV-10 in 1995, which featured the first LCD screen on the back of the camera. The screen was less than 2 inches but it ushered in the template for cameras to come. It could also hold up to 96 color images but still couldn’t get past that $1,000 price tag.

Digital and here to stay

Although more digital camera tech innovation would appear throughout the remainder of the 1990s, like incorporation of sound and webcams and compact cameras, the gist of the digital age had been ushered in. Heck, even the first camera phones began to appear in the late 90s, albeit with a terrible megapixel count.

By the mid-2000s, the digital camera hasn’t changed much other than breakthroughs in LCD screen resolution, and of course, megapixel count. You look at a photo taken on your phone today and it’s going to look even better than a photo taken with an actual digital camera 15 years ago.


So where does digital go from here? Well, that’s just something we’ll have to wait and see to find out. In the meantime, if you have some old analog photos or film that you’d like digitized, we can help.

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