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The continuing evolution of digital cameras

Photographer 6

Although photography has come an incredibly long way since the first camera in the early 19th century, technological advancements in the last 20 years have been quite remarkable. Today, nearly everyone has access to a camera that is capable of producing incredibly detailed images through digital technology.

From smartphones and tablets to handheld and professional digital cameras, the number of products available to buy today is vast. What’s more, the ongoing advancements in hardware and software mean digital cameras are cheaper and more affordable than ever.

Brief history of digital cameras

Steve Sasson developed the world’s first fully digital camera in 1975. However, it was a far cry from today's devices, as the Kodak engineer's prototype weighed 4kg, took 23 seconds to record a black and white 100-by-100 pixel image to cassette tape, and had to be viewed on a specially developed screen.

But it took quite some time for manufacturers to explore this avenue of photography. Analogue cameras were next on the scene, but comparatively poor quality compact cameras meant that digital soon took over, although many professionals still use high-quality film cameras.

In the late 1980s, the first genuine commercial digital camera was released. Although the Fujix DS-1P's approach to writing digital files to solid-state memory cards was somewhat revolutionary, it was only available in Japan for a brief time.

Soon, the photography industry’s biggest names started to explore digital technology further. Kodak and Nikon collaborated on a device in 1991 that replaced film with digital sensors, but its high price tag meant widespread adoption was a long way away.

However, the Apple QuickTake 100 became the first colour digital camera for under £600 in 1994 and the market started to gain momentum. Soon, Kodak unveiled the first camera to use CompactFlash cards, while Casio debuted a device with a built-in LCD screen in 1995.

Now cameras were becoming equipped with computer connectivity, video recording and larger storage capabilities. Before long, every major photography manufacturer was producing pocket-sized digital cameras.

Today's digital market

At present, the consumer is spoilt for choose when it comes to digital camera selection. From the most basic point and shoot devices to professional digital SLR (single-lens reflex) cameras, there are products to suit everyone regardless of technical ability or photography knowhow.

Specifications of even the most basic compact digital cameras are still remarkable when you consider the price. Typically, you will find these sleek and portable devices have 10+ megapixels, a CCD or CMOS sensor, impressive optical zoom, HD 720p video recording and even Wi-Fi connectivity.

Recently, compact system cameras have become increasingly popular due to their small size and flexibility. Resembling a compact digital camera, the main advantages are that lenses are fully interchangeable, low-light performance is improved and more manual controls come as standard.

The photography market is ever-evolving nowadays, with a team from the Netherlands developing new image sensors from memory chips for use in mobile devices, allowing higher resolution images to be stored. One thing is for sure, digital imaging is getting crisper and the technology more small-scale and startling, with every year that comes.

Image by Bjoern Schwarz, used under Creative Comms license

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