[tweetmeme]This guest post was written by Jason Acar. Jason is currently a content writer for MyCamera.co.za. He has extensive journalism experience and a keen interest in photography.

Many budding photographers still debate whether to buy digital cameras, or opt for older analogue film models. The truth is, technology has advanced so much that digital cameras can achieve just about anything you want when it comes to photography.

To easily display the rise and fall of both digital and film eras, we have compiled this interesting timeline, highlighting some of the most important moments in the history of photography:

1826 - Nicephore Niepce took the first permanent photograph in history. Although there may have been other photographs taken during this time, the photograph of the exterior of his home is the oldest photo on record. He took the image using a camera obscura and a sheet of pewter coated with bitumen of Judea, which hardened permanently when exposed to light. Capturing the image took eight hours.

1839 – William Fox Talbot invents the positive/negative process. Although essentially a negative photograph, which he dubbed as the “photogenic drawing process”, he streamlined the process a year later and renamed it the calotype. This effect remains popular today.

1854- André-Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri became known for the introduction of the carte de visite (French “visiting card”). Disdéri’s rotating camera could reproduce eight individually exposed images on a single negative.

1861 – Renowned physicist and mathematician James Clerk Maxwell took the first ever first colour photograph. He created the image of a tartan ribbon by photographing it three times through red, yellow and blue filters before combining them into one colour image.

1868 - Louis Arthur Ducos du Hauron of France became a pioneer in the field of colour photography. Using additive (red, green, blue) and subtractive (cyan, magenta, yellow) methods, he turned colour photography into an art form. He would go on to patent some of his methods, while one of his most famous, and earliest, photos is a landscape portrait of Southern France, taken by the subtractive method in 1877.

1887 - Gabriel Jonas Lippmann, a physicist and inventor, landed the Nobel Prize in 1908 for using the phenomenon of interference to reproduce colours on a photographic basis. This later became known as the Lippmann Plate.

1888 – The Kodak No. 1 Box camera was introduced, allowing the mass market to finally try their hand at photography. Once one hundred photos had been taken, owners would ship the camera back to Kodak and have the images printed at a price of $10.

1900 – If the No 1 Box introduced the average Joe, the introduction took things a step further. This camera made low-cost photography popular and introduced the world to the snapshot. This basic cardboard box camera offered simple controls and a price tag of just $1.

1902 - Arthur Korn discovered practical photo-telegraphy technology, meaning that images could be sent via wires. Europe quickly adapted the technology, sending photographs locally by 1910. Eventually inter-continental delivery was done by 1922.

1923 - Doc Harold Edgerton introduced the xenon flash lamp and pioneered strobe photography. This paved the way for improved portrait pictures, as well as photographs in areas with little or no light.

1936 - The world was introduced to the first single-lens reflex (SLR) camera. This 35mm SLR camera was named Ihagee Kine-Exakta and made in Germany.

1948 – Edwin Land, who founded the Polaroid Corporation in 1937, released the instant film camera in this year. This device would become their most popular product line for decades to come.

1959 – There was a time when AGFA was close behind Kodak as a leader in the world of photography. It was at this point that the company introduced the first ever fully automatic camera, the Optima.

1972 - The rise of digital happened a lot earlier than many people realise. Texas Willis Adcock, a Texas Instruments engineer, actually created a design for a filmless camera and applied for a patent in 1972. Unfortunately, nobody knows if it ever came into existence.

1973 – Fairchild Semiconductor paved the way for digital imaging, releasing the first integrated circuit, just ahead of Texas Digital.

1975 –Steven Sasson unveiled the first digital camera using CCD image sensor chips. This groundbreaking device took black and white (recorded onto a cassette tape) and offered a resolution of 0.01 megapixels. The first image ever captured on this prototype took 23 seconds to record.

1981 – Sony released the Mavica, the first commercially available digital camera. Although this was a revolutionary product in the photographic industry, it was actually digital video recorder that took freeze frames.

1986 – Leading photographic company, Kodak, brought out the first megapixel sensor, which was able to record 1.4 million pixels. By 1991, the company had created the first professional digital camera system (DCS), a Nikon F-3 which was targeted at photojournalists.

1994 – Only a select few were able to enjoy digital technology up until now. Apple introduced the Apple QuickTake 100 camera in February 1994, a digital camera aimed at the average Joe which was able to work with a home computer. Others soon followed including the Kodak DC40, Casio QV-11 and the Sony Cyber-Shot.

2006 – Digital photography steadily edged out the use of a film camera, so much so that Polaroid announced that it was halting production on all of their instant film products.

2010 – Digital cameras are introduced monthly, if not weekly. Each with more advanced features, better quality picture quality and enough on camera space for thousands of images. To top it off, printing of images is quick, cheap and never wasteful as you select the images you want without have to deal with overexposed or dud images.

This guest post was written by Jason Acar. Jason is currently a content writer for MyCamera.co.za. He has extensive journalism experience and a keen interest in photography.

17 responses

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I’m 100% film. I’ve shot digital, and I’m not impressed nor interested.

November 23, 2010 2:06 pm

Thanks for this thorough and enjoyable review. My first experience with film cameras was in the late 60′s as a young child. My Dad had a folding bellow Zeiss Ikon Nettar camera that used 120mm film. It was already antique at that time but it still made fantastic photos. Recently my Dad passed away and I got his Zeiss camera. It reminds me of his great enthusiasm for photography. Unfortunately the shutter button is broken, I hope to have it fixed.

November 23, 2010 5:40 pm

It’s a fairly arbitrary list.

I can’t believe that he has not mentioned Louis Daguerre, who’s positive image process in 1939 was the most successful for decades, and has never been surpassed technically.

What about Oscar Barnak who invented the 35mm stills camera, or Kodachrome, the first commercially available colour film

November 24, 2010 11:02 am


O great master of photography, nobody gives a sh*t what you shoot. Thanks for playing though.

November 24, 2010 11:54 am

The comment of Robert above is just silly. If you continue using film, I will assume that you will need to put spend more money in the future to have it develop.

As for me, I’m all digital. Way easier and processing without those damn chemicals is a way to go.

Thanks for the info.

November 29, 2010 10:02 am

Thanks for interesting article with historical dates/ events.
Seems, digital photo cameras are winners in this competition. Very important is ability to make also movies together with photo.

November 29, 2010 10:54 am

Excellent post Jason. It was a very good read.

February 17, 2011 3:14 am

Louis Daguerre was in 1839 not 1939, and yes daguerreotypes are cool, but sorta antediluvian

February 25, 2011 10:56 am

I believe that people are getting used with this fast changing world. It impress me to think how people look for alternatives for more better ways. At least those oldies stuff is but a stepping stone to a more better ideas. We are now living in a more digital world so you don’t have to use films to punish yourself.

February 28, 2011 12:45 am

Love the timeline, though I would add 1925 when the 35mm Leica camera was invented. Revolutionized photojournalism … easy to carry camera and no need to change film every frame!

May 17, 2011 6:10 pm

The natural evolution of the tools of photography, I do wonder what the next step is.

June 7, 2011 12:14 am

I enjoyed the bit on the history of film and digital even if there are some things missed along the way! Thank you :)

June 7, 2011 9:20 am

Digital is fine and good; but hardly what I would call cheap. I have sold cameras and worked in the photo industry for over 20 years. I have seen the revolution change how people take pictures. One, people don’t print off their images anymore. They are left on memory cards or hard drives and hardly ever see the light of day. Methods change of keeping those images. What is “viable” today will be out in five years with no way of recovery. Hard drives crash. Where as a printed photo is here for your children’s children’s children to frame and look at. Two, the cameras themselves are not as reliable. On average the Camera makers are putting out the newest and better versions every 9 months. If you have a camera that is five years old and the shutter goes out? You MIGHT be able to get it repaired. Quite often, the repair center sends it back and tells you that it is either not cost effective, or the parts are no longer available, so go out and buy a new camera. Where as I have a good friend who repairs old film cameras. He has taken a camera that is 50 years or more old, take his time and get it in pristine shape to take an incredible image through wonderful old Zeiss or Leitz or Schnieder optic lenses.
Digital has it’s place, yes. For someone who has to have immeadiate results and can’t wait, Shoot digital. If you want to take your time and create your image with a quality camera that is going to last for longer than the next decade, shoot film.

June 8, 2011 6:10 pm

It’s impressive how quickly all of this happened. Today digital is taken for granted.

Even though I can’t imagine my photo work without a DSLR camera, I still shoot with a film from time to time, it just rocks and the filling of not seeing shots and trying harder is just good.

June 12, 2011 4:41 am

Fun read. Seeing the timeline is always entertaining. Long live photography…. film, digital or something new.

July 16, 2011 9:51 pm

Ah – but are the images that you shoot permanent? I don’t think so. Stuff that I and my parents and grandparents shot on silver film is still around because, once properly processed, the sliver originals and copies last longer and are visible without any expensive equipment than digital. With digital, images that I shot 10 years ago aren’t visible unless I constantly convert from older formats to newer formats. And I can’t tell you how many friends have lost digital photos of loved ones because their hard drive died. And while HD costs have come down – so have salaries. Who wants to go out and buy a new $100 hard drive every so often and leave them lying around and constantly backing them up?

I for one am glad that I took the last photos of my mother before she died on silver based film – they’ll be around long after I myself am gone in a format that anyone can see. If they were on digital, who knows when the formats would change and I’d not be able to convert them.

August 19, 2011 1:02 pm

Never have I missed film…perhaps processing others’ film for many years will do that, but not paying for processing and being able to shoot thousands of images without stopping to change film, or worrying about having the right ISO and enough of it, or running out, or having it ruined during processing… Enjoy it if that’s your thing. Not mine.

August 19, 2011 1:37 pm

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