January 26, 2024

This is the second post in a series about the history of photography and you can find part 1 here.

To begin this second article, we wanted to give you a very quick breakdown of what we learned in the previous article, to catch you up.

The Quick History of Color Photography

In the first part of this series, we explained that the first color images were actually created in the 1800's, but the images were unstable and were not able to stay true to the subject of the photo. Because of this, people would hand paint colors of things like jewelry, lips, cheeks, and other items in the photo that would 'pop' out. After that, the process was improved quite a bit and around 1935 the process was improved again and was bought by Kodak. They named the product/service Kodachrome and this process persevered for many years, as they created a similar and less expensive process for home photographers to create their own labs to process their own photographs. Many photographers were very pleased by the sharp colors and details the film was able to produce.

There! Now that we're a little more caught up with the timeline, let's jump into the 20th century, where we left off with the beginnings of Kodachrome and color images.

Series Photography and the Birth of Cinematography

Image from Wikipedia

In 1877, a man named Eadweard Muybridge was hired by railroad tycoon Leland Stanford who owned the Union Pacific Railroad to prove, with photography, that his racing horses' hooves were all up in the air at the same time during a gallop. After many trials and errors, Eadweard was able to finally prove Stanford correct when he was able to use 12 to 24 cameras and a special camera shutter he developed for the experiment to capture a series of photographs of a horse at a full gallop. The cameras were triggered by a series of threads that were broken as the horse passed them.

Because of the popularity, both positive and negative, of the results of his experiment, they were widely published and circulated and he traveled throughout the United States and Europe to give lectures on animal motion. At these lectures, he also brought with him another invention called a zoopraxiscope. This device was essentially a lantern in where the images he produced from his experiments were printed onto a rotating glass disc in a quick series and then projected onto a screen. This produced the illusion that these pictures were moving. His device was a big hit in 1893 at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago and was an important first step that lead us into modern cinematography.

Thanks to decreases in exposure time (which we spoke about in our first article) that came in 1870 as well as the advancements in series photography and the invention of the zoopraxiscope. But when George Eastman and Kodak developed their film processes, a man named Hannibal Goodwin got the idea to use film for moving pictures, or what we now call movies and that really helped them take off. However, that was not able to take place without a camera that could process the images in real-time. The first motion-picture camera was created in 1888 by an assistant to Thomas Edison named William Dickson and this invention helped spur the growth of movies and because of this, theatres were starting to get built. In 1902, there were only a few in the United States, but by 1908 there was an explosion of theatres and that number quickly increased to around 8,000 or 10,000.

Photographic Film

The first roll of film was invented in 1888 along with the advent of more "portable" cameras that did not require a tripod. These cameras with film, called Kodak cameras, were marketed toward women and were very popular. They contained a roll of film made from paper and gelatin and once all of the film was used up, the entire camera was sent to a lab at Kodak for processing, which cost $10 ($269.57 today), much like what we know as "disposable cameras". However, unlike our disposable cameras, these cameras cost $25 at the time ($673.93 in today's money). When they were returned from developing and printing, the whole camera was given back along with mounted prints and negatives of the images the photographer took.

In 1889, the film used in the cameras was replaced with nitrocellulose film, which was more flexible, tougher, and easier to insert into the cameras. However, this film was also more dangerous as it was extremely flammable.

Image fromBrownie-Camera.com

In 1900, Kodak introduced the "brownie" camera which led to the explosion of amateur photography all over the world. These cameras were sold for only $1 ($27.84 today), initially intended for children, but were also used by and popular with servicemen of the time. Because they were only sold for $1 and the rolls of film costed only $0.15 ($4.18 today), photography was finally affordable to the masses. This, as well as other new creations, allowed for more and more people to be able to afford the film and cameras to try the hobby for themselves, when before this time, it took home labs for processing, which required deadly chemicals, as well as expensive equipment.

Safety film was introduced by Kodak in 1908 and was their answer to the dangerous, but standard nitrate film. This new film was made of cellulose acetate and was not as flammable or dangerous as nitrate. However, nitrate film was tougher, more transparent and cheaper, so people did not adopt it quickly. It wasn't until about 1951 when nitrate film was completely replaced.

In 1936, Kodachrome, which is arguably the most popular and iconic film in photographic history was sold for the first time. It used the subtractive color method and it was used for home movies and photography, but was still dark and more expensive than black and white and it was still complicated, requiring Kodak labs to do all of the developing. Because of this, in the 1940's, Kodak released their E series of processing, their best being E6, which was a much simpler process and could be done in a home lab. With the release of E6 and another negative color process, C41 released in 1972, Fuji and Kodak got caught in a race between each other in who could make advancements faster in order to impress and woo professional photographers with better and better films. This race continued through the 1980s and 1990s.

By the mid 1990's, film reached it's technical peak and every street had several photographic mini labs all claiming and attempting to be the fastest, with prints in 30 minutes. Photographic film was cheap and plentiful, and there was a very wide selection of manufacturers, types and speeds available.

The Birth of Digital Photography

The first -- as in first ever -- digital camera was made under none other than the Kodak company in 1975 by a young man named Steven Sasson. Although, the project he was assigned to was not directly related to actually discovering how to create digital images. Steven was asked to take a charged coupled device (a CCD) and figure out if there was any practical use for them. These devices convert light into electrons then read the accumulated charge of each cell in the image and then transport that charge across the chip where reads it at one corner of the array. Sasson coupled it with other electronics to develop a primitive (though very advanced at the time) digital camera.

Image from New York Times.

Of course, he showed it to his bosses and his bosses' bosses, but no one was very impressed. They were living in the high time of cheap photography and cheap print processing, and Kodak owned a piece of it all. Who would want to see their pictures on a T.V. set? They eventually listened to Steven. But a little late.

The first available digital camera to consumers was made by Fuji, in 1988, but it wasn't marketed. Kodak finally released their first digital cameras 18 years after Steve Sasson invented them, in the 1990's. Fuji's Fujix DS-1P was the very first handheld consumer digital camera.

The Rise of Digital Photography

Film died a slow death until the early 2000's, when the technology for digital cameras finally decreased in price enough to match film camera pricing. The first consumer level digital camera was the Dycam Model 1 released in 1990 and it proved to be too expensive for people at the time, at a price point of $600 (about $1,175.63 if it were today), as well as too simple, being only black and white.

It wasn't until 1994, with the release of the Apple QuickTake 100 camera, that digital photography was really available and affordable for the masses. But with a price tag of $749.00 ($1,294.28 in today's money), it was still pricier than the Dycam. However, this camera also allowed people to use their home computers to transfer images, which was a first at the time. It offered 0.3 megapixels and 640x480 maximum resolution, which was just enough resolution to fill a 13-inch VGA monitor, standard at the time, and it got its power from three double "A" batteries. For comparison, a camera at that same price point now offers 17.0 megapixels and 4K photo and video capabilities, Bluetooth and wifi enabled, fueled by a lithium ion rechargeable battery. Boy, how times change.

Things really started to heat up for digital photography in the late 90's and early 00's, and this is the same timeframe that camera manufacturers started to build in live preview screens to allow a person to see what the picture was going to look like. It started with black and white preview screens, which allowed you to preview the image you took for only 30 seconds on the Fujifilm FinePix S3 Pro and graduated to full color images and live preview (the ability to use the rear LCD screen as a viewfinder) from the Canon Powershot G1.

Cameras in Phones

By 2000, we had our first camera phones. The first camera phone was introduced in South Korea in June of 2000 and was the SCH-V200 from Samsung, although some believe it wasn't really the first real camera phone. Those people say the J-phone by Sharp released in November 2000 was the first (real photo from a J-phone on the left). In fact, the BBC reported on that phone and these comments are truly priceless.

The United States' first camera phone was the Sanyo SCP-5300, released in November 2002 and was available via Sprint. Since then technology has simply not stopped progressing and now we have phones that are tiny computers with cameras that can take slow motion, hyperlapse, and 360 images, ideas that were probably unthinkable only just 40 years ago. So next time you stop to take that selfie with your besties or smile for one of our photographers at your wedding, you can appreciate how far we've really come!

Current Camera Tech

Currently, DSLR's (Digital Single Lens Reflex cameras) are the most widely used camera in the wedding industry, and newer, mirrorless cameras are starting to gain traction among professionals all over. These cameras have no optical viewfinder, like a DSLR. Instead of having light reflect from the mirror to the viewfinder, the image sensor is exposed to light at all times. These cameras are still being improved, but they do stand out in the video arena against DSLRs and are getting better all the time, so we won't be surprised if they become the replacement for the DSLR as all of the other cameras that have been replaced throughout history!

If you have any questions about any of our cameras or would like a quote, get in touch! We love being a part of your love stories here at Epic and we hope you have enjoyed this series of the history of photography.

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