Origins of ordinary things: Camera

Photographs have become vital to communication, education and preservation of history thanks to cameras that have proven to be great tools for mass media, visual arts, and being able to capture moments to remember.

The history of cameras dates back to 1000 AD, with the very first “camera”, according to, being the camera obscura or the pinhole camera, which projected the image but the resulting projection was upside down. It is was created by Alhazen or Ibn Al-Haytham.

The camera obscura was initially used for watching solar eclipses, most notably done by Reiners Gemma Frisius from the Leuven University in 1544 but Giovanni Batista della Porta recommended using this device as an aid for scientific drawings in 1544. It was in 1685 when Johann Zahn envisioned the first small and portable camera which is closer to the smaller gadgets known today.

Although, the camera obscura had been around for many years, but no one has been able to preserve the images in a photographic form, it was French inventor Joseph Nicéphore Niépce who produced the first partially successful photograph in 1816 on paper coated with silver chloride, using a homemade camera. In 1829, Niépce partnered with Louis Daguerre, a French artist and photographer and together they continued to experiment and refine the process for taking photographs. That’s according to My Modern Met.

According to, over the course of photography history, the techniques for developing photos improved, and being able to produce colored photographs was made possible by developing more advanced devices to come up with beautiful printed photographs. George Eastman later pioneered the use of photographic film and in 1885, he developed paper film before he switched to celluloid use in 1889. His first camera was called the “Kodak”, a simple box camera that had a fixed focus lens and just a single shutter speed. As the 19th century closed, Eastman was able to expand his camera lineup to include box as well as folding cameras. These innovations were readily taken by the masses who wished to capture their own special moments and preserve them in print.

Oskar Barnack later decided to experiment with 35-mm cine film while simultaneously trying to make a compact camera. His prototype camera was the 35-mm Ur-Leica which was developed in 1913. Its development was delayed because of the First World War though, but it was test-marketed from 1923 to 1924. Conventional cameras steadily became more sophisticated, but come 1948, a completely new “breed” of the camera was released.

The Polaroid Model 95 was the very first instant-picture camera in the world. Today, there truly are a lot of cameras but having a Polaroid and those instant printouts prove to be a novel experience for many. Unlike smartphone cameras which can give you photos limited to only the amount of storage you have, a Polaroid snapshot may seem more unique because the resulting printout is one of a kind.

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