Who invented video cameras

How the development of the camera has changed our world

Thanks to smartphones, almost everyone now has a camera with them at all times. And there is no doubt about the impact photography has had on the whole world. But before selfies were a cultural norm, before geniuses like Cindy Sherman and Andrea Gursky made photography an art form, someone had to invent this piece of technology. So who invented the camera? And how did it develop over time into the device we know today? Let's take a look at how this revolutionary invention changed the way we document life.

Pinhole camera and camera obscura

The ancestors of the photographic camera, both the Camera obscura as well as the Pinhole camera, go back to the ancient Greeks and Chinese. In fact, the Chinese philosopher Mozi, who lived during the Han Dynasty (c. 468 - c. 391 BC), was the first person to write down the principles of the camera obscura. The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle also wrote his reflections on this phenomenon in his book, wondering why the sun appears circular even when projected through a rectangular hole.

So what is the camera obscura? This rationale is a natural optical phenomenon in which an image on one side of a wall - or canvas - is projected through a hole onto a surface opposite the opening. The resulting projection is upside down. Camera obscura, a term coined in the 16th century, also refers to a box, tent or room set up for such projections.

The only difference between a camera obscura and a pinhole camera is that a camera obscura uses a lens while a pinhole camera is a similar device but with an open hole. This technology took off in the 17th and 18th centuries when artists used these devices to project drawings that they could then trace. The only problem with this system is that other than tracking, there was clearly no way to get the images.

This is where the next step on the way to the modern photographic camera comes into play.

Johann Zahn, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce and the invention of the camera

While the early camera obscura devices took up entire rooms, developments in the 17th century led to portable devices. Further advances, such as the invention of the magic lantern, pushed what was possible with projection, but did not solve the problem of capturing still images.

The German author Johann Zahn, an expert on light, wrote extensively about the camera obscura, the magic lantern, telescopes and lenses. In 1685 he proposed a design for the first handheld SLR camera. Ahead of its time, it would be 150 years before his invention became a reality.

The French inventor Joseph Nicéphore Niépce is now widely recognized as the creator of photography as we know it today. With a self-made camera he took the first partially successful photograph on paper coated with silver chloride in 1816. Although this photo no longer exists, letters from Niépce to his sister testify to a successful photograph. The first surviving photograph is also from Niépce and is now in the permanent collection of the University of Texas-Austin. It dates from 1826 or 1827 and is a scene from his window in Burgundy. All of this makes Niépce widely recognized as the inventor of the first working camera.

Using a technique he called heliography, the French inventor managed to create unique images that could not be reproduced. With heliography, a glass or metal surface must be coated with Jewish bitumen. This naturally occurring asphalt would harden in the lightest areaswhile the uncured bitumen is washed off, leaving the photographic print. This is still a long way from photography as we imagine it to be today, but it was a revolutionary step towards permanently reproducible photography.

Louis Daguerre and Daguerreotype

In 1829 Niépce teamed up with Louis Daguerre, a French artist and photographer. Together they continued to experiment and refined the process of taking photos. Several days of exposure were required for the development of the bitumen-impregnated panels from Niépce. Surely there had to be a better way. After Niécpe’s death in 1833, Daguerre refined his process and finally developed the daguerreotype.

It bore his name and would be the most widely used photographic method for the next twenty years. The procedure was introduced publicly in 1839 and required that a silver-plated copper sheet be polished onto a mirror surface. The plate was treated with iodine vapor to make it photosensitive, and after being exposed in the camera, it was exposed to mercury vapor and fixed with sodium chloride. Using this method, Daguerre was responsible for taking in people for the first time.

Daguerre's method spread rapidly, and in 1840 Alexander Wolcott received the first American patent in photography for his daguerreotype camera. However, the process was costly and limited photography to professionals, making a photo a precious, one-off keepsake for a select few elites.

The invention of the photo negative

Until then, photographs were still unique pieces, printed originals that could not be reproduced. This all changed thanks to William Henry Fox Talbot. The scientist and inventor developed photosensitive paper and a process known as calotype that would lay the foundation for photography into the digital age.

Around the same time that Daguerre was perfecting his technique, Fox Talbot had a different method for quick and accessible photography. It started with his "salt paper", in which he soaked ordinary writing paper in a weak solution of ordinary table salt. By then coating one side with a silver nitrate solution, he effectively made a photosensitive paper that could be used for photograms or taking pictures from the lens of a camera. Although the exposure took several hours to produce a legible image, the inventor managed to find a method of fixing the photo printout. This was a huge step that had not yet been taken and it made it possible to print copies of the photo by simply placing new photosensitive paper against the fixed photo - or negative.

In late 1840, Fox Talbot unveiled its calotype process for developing photographs. With the calotype, a latent image could be created in bright sunlight with only a few minutes of exposure time. This was a giant leap forward as the calotype also produced a negative that allowed multiple reproductions through contact printing - a true revolution in photography.

George Eastman, Kodak, and consumer cameras

If we are to see how still cameras fell into the hands of the general public, it is impossible not to be talking about George Eastman. In 1888, the photographer introduced the first Kodak Black camerawho benefited from the advances in technology. At the time, gelatin plates, which were rapidly developing, meant that people did not need a tripod for their cameras, and so the first handheld cameras began to be sold.

Unlike other cameras, the Eastman Kodak ingeniously used flexible film instead of the usual glass plates. Aside from the bulky platters, the Kodak was really portable. It was easy to use and helped turn photography from a pure profession into a hobby, that even amateurs could enjoy. Kodak Black cameras were already sold with the film, and the photographers simply sent the entire camera to Kodak headquarters in Rochester, New York to have their images developed and returned.

Kodak's beloved brownie was introduced just two years after the original Eastman camera. Now the brownie came with a detachable film container instead of a pre-installed camera. Cheaper than the Kodak Black, coupled with the advantage that you didn't have to send the entire camera to get your photos back, the Brownie caused a sensation contributed to the popularization of amateur photography.

Photo technology advanced rapidly from the mid-19th century as inventors expanded the ability to capture still images. From the beginning of the 20th century, things peaked with the development of the compact camera through our today's digital DSRLs. From glass plates to paper prints to digital image processing - the intention of the photo revolution remains the same - to perpetuate our world.

Collect more KNOWLEDGE? The German Photo Museum in Markkleeberg shows the history of photography from its beginnings to the present!