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Timeline: The evolution of digital cameras, from Kodak’s 1975 digital camera prototype to the iPhone

A stroll down the memory lane to look at the first digital cameras the world got used to.

Written by Anuj Bhatia | New Delhi |
Updated: May 15, 2019 8:37:43 am
Kodak invented the world’s first digital camera. (Image credit: Kodak)

The arrival of digital cameras and smartphones have made photography mainstream. A medium that is over two centuries years old, was changed on its head in the past two decades. It continues to evolve, and in the age of social media, people are using photography to capture and share moments of joy, celebration and love.

We stroll down memory lane and examine how the digital camera has evolved from Kodak’s original 1975 digital camera prototype to the iPhone.

1975 Kodak digital camera prototype

In 1975, Kodak engineer Steve Sasson created the first-ever digital camera. It was built using parts of kits and leftovers around the Kodak factory, and an early CCD image sensor from Fairchild in 1974. The camera was about the size of a breadbox and it took 23 seconds to capture a single image. It took 0.01-megapixel images shot only in black and white that were saved to a cassette tape.

Fujifilm launched the world’s first fully digital consumer camera Fujix DS-1P in 1988. (Image credit: Fujifilm)

1988 Fuji Fujix DS-1P

First unveiled at the 1988 Photokina trade show in Köln Germany, Fujix DS-1P is considered as the first true digital camera. It used to record images in a 2MB SRAM memory card that held 5 to a maximum of 10 photographs. Like the Kodak camera, this Fuji-made camera was never sold.

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Kodak DCS camera with its Digital Storage Unit (DSU). Image credit: Nikon

1991 Kodak DCS-100

In 1991, Kodak created the first first-ever digital SLR. The Kodak Digital Camera System (DCS) was essentially a modified Nikon F3 whose film chamber and winder were modified to make room for sensors. The camera had a built-in 1.3-megapixel Kodak CCD to capture images. The camera cost $20,000 and required an external data storage unit that the photographer needed to wear on a shoulder strap and was connected via cable.

1994 Apple QuickTake

Often considered as the first mainstream digital camera (under $1000), Apple QuickTake used to take colour images at VGA resolution. The QuickTake was designed by Kodak and manufactured by Chinon in Japan. The QuickTake 100 had a fixed 50mm equivalent F2 lens, an optical viewfinder and an LCD display to view the settings. It was Apple’s first venture into digital camera space.

1994 Kodak/AP NC2000

In 1994, Kodak and Associated Press launched a digital SLR designed for photojournalists. Based on a Nikon N90 body, the 1.3-megapixel camera had removable memory cards and up to ISO 1600. The Vancouver Sun became the world’s first newspaper to convert to all-digital photography with this camera. Originally priced at $17,950, but discounted to $16,950 for AP members.

1995 Ricoh RDC-1

The Ricoh RDC-1 was the first digital camera to have a dedicated movie mode. Its video recording capabilities were fairly limited, but still, this camera was pretty revolutionary. The camera could record 5-second 768×480-pixel clips at 30 frames per second, and saved them in the then-new MPEG format. It was an expensive camera, costing an estimated $1500.


Fun facts about photography

- Sir John Herschel originally coined the word ‘photography’ in 1839. - Digital cameras have outsold film cameras since 2003. - The Dycam Model 1 was the first commercially available digital camera to launch in the US in 1990. - The biggest photography company Kodak filed for bankruptcy protection in 2012. - The most popular picture on Instagram is currently a picture of an egg with over 40 million likes.

1999 Kyocera VP-210

Kyocera Visual Phone VP-210 was the world’s first camera phone. Yes, a mobile phone with a built-in camera. The Visual Phone VP-210 had a 0.11-megapixel front camera and was launched in 1999. It could store 20 stills and transmit live “video” at a rate of 2 fps. The VP-210 was quickly followed by the Samsung SCH-V200 and Sharp J-SH04 the following year.

2000 Fujifilm FinePix S1 Pro

Fujifilm FinePix S1 Pro was the first interchangeable-lens DSLR to hit the market. Priced at $3500, it was marketed as a camera for serious amateur photographers. It was based on the Nikon N60 that was modified by Fujifilm to include its own image sensor. Given that the S1 Pro had a Nikon F mount, it was compatible with all Nikon manual and AF lenses. The FinePix S1 Pro had Fuji’s 3.1MP, APS-C-format Super CCD Sensor that output images with a resolution of 6.13MP, and enabled sensitivity settings up to ISO 1600.

2007 iPhone

The world changed when Apple CEO Steve Jobs launched the iPhone in 2007. It had a capacitive touch screen and a camera so good that it changed the camera industry forever. It wasn’t the first phone to have a camera, but there’s that convenience factor that made the first iPhone so popular among consumers. Till date, the iPhone continues to be the most popular camera in the market.

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First published on: 14-05-2019 at 04:03:22 pm

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