Cameras have existed for about 150 years. Sure, some people argue that rudimentary cameras existed prior to that in the form of camera obscura, but I’m not counting that. I’m talking about actual cameras with a lens, film (or digital), and a picture that you can look at on purpose after you’re done.
Over those 150 years, we’ve seen some major changes in the photography department.
Cameras of the 1800s would be almost unrecognizable by today’s standards, and conversely, our cameras of today would look like magical boxes of wonderment to someone from the 1800s. It’s all about perspective, I suppose.
With the development of new technology, older things have fallen to the wayside. Most people don’t even remember some of the crazier types of photographic equipment that used to exist. I want to change all of that. That’s why I’m making a list of my five favorite bizarre cameras of the past 150 years. Some made videos. Some made photos. All of them are totally weird by today’s standards.
- Daguerreotype - Before cameras were called cameras, there was the Daguerreotype. This image capturing machine was named after a guy called Louis-Jacques-Monde Deguerre (Holy moly, have you ever seen a more French name?), and it was the first widely available way to take pictures. To take a picture with a Daguerreotype, the photographer (Daguerreotypist?) had to polish a silver plate that was treated with special chemicals that made it light responsive. Taking a photo (technically, they’re not supposed to be called photos, but you get the picture--PUN TOTALLY INTENDED) was a labor-intensive process that often took days of prep for a single image. It also involved folks sitting completely still for minutes at a time to make things look good. So much work!
- The Mammoth Camera - So here’s the logic: You need to take a bigger picture. What should you do? Change the lens? Nope. Change the perspective? What do I look like, Spielberg? Nope. Build a bigger camera. Oh yeah, that’s the ticket. That’s what the Mammoth Camera was all about. This monstrosity was the size of an SUV, and it was used to take a picture of a train. Seems like a lot of extra work for something that could basically be accomplished by stepping back a little bit, but then again, we also wouldn’t have had to name Mammoth Camera either. You win some; you lose some.
- i-Zone Pocket Cameras - In the throes of the mid 90s, cameras were in a weird state of transition. The expensive SLRs of the 80s were being replaced with inexpensive and disposable alternatives. Nestled in the Nickelodeon-style art craze was the i-Zone pocket camera. It was basically a micro polaroid camera, and the pictures had adhesive on the back, making each picture a miniature sticker. It was so pointless yet so awesome at the same time.
- MicroMV Camera - Released by Sony in the early 2000s, this camera format represented the dying gasps of film personal video cameras. The cassettes were tiny, and even though videos were recorded on film, they were encoded digitally. They were a weird, pointless hybrid between DVDs and other film formats, and they weren’t compatible with basically anything. What a weird product.
- Apple Quicktake 100 - iPhones are ubiquitous these days. Since every iPhone has a camera attached to it, Apple is probably one of the de-facto largest camera suppliers in the world. Even more, their products are some of the most sought after electronics on the market. Given the company’s current popularity, it’s easy to assume that everything they ever made since the beginning of time was awesome. Whelp, the Apple Quicktake 100 was a massive flop, and it’s easy to see why. A completely digital camera that Apple released in the late 90s, the Quicktake 100 was ugly, didn’t look like a camera, and took pretty lousy pictures. Apple proves the adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” appropriately apt. If you ever feel bad about yourself, just look at the Quicktake 100 and think to yourself, “You know, I”m doing OK. I’m not a Quicktake 100.” It works 100% of the time.
So there you have it. These are easily my top 5 favorite old camera formats. They’re mostly weird, sort of pointless, or missed their intended mark completely. Digital cameras these days all feel so similar. Milquetoast. Same same. They don’t have any pizzazz. All of these cameras have style, baby!
Although, looking at these cameras, maybe pizzazz isn’t really something worth aiming for.