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Photography Timeline

5th Century B.C.

Chinese and Greek philosophers describe the basic principles of optics and camera.

4th Century B.C.

The Greek philosopher Aristotle discussed pinhole image formation in his work.

1021 A.D.

The invention of the camera obscura is attributed to the Iraqi scientist Alhazen and described in his book of optics.


Sir Isaac Newton discovers that white light is composed of different colors by refraction of white light off a prism.


The vision of a box form Camera that was portable and small was envisioned by Johann Zahn, though it would be nearly 150 years before technology was able to bring his vision to life.


Johann Heinrich Schulze discovered that silver nitrate darkened upon exposure to light.


Frenchman Joseph Nicephore Niepce constructed a wood camera fitted with a microscope lens.


Joseph Nicephore Niepce invented Heliograph, which he used to make the earliest known permanent photograph from nature, “View from the Window at Le Gra.”


In collaboration with Joseph Nicephore Niepce– Louis Daguerre invented the first practical photographic process which was widely used in portraiture until the mid 1850s.


The first aerial photograph was taken by Gaspard Felix Tournachon of Place De L' Etolie, Paris. It was shot from an altitude of 520 meters in a tethered balloon.


Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell produced the first color photograph in 1861.

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Dr. Richard Maddox discovered a method of using gelatin instead of glass as the plate material for the light-sensitive solution.


Eadweard Muybridge successfully captured the sequence of movement. It was this groundbreaking discovery and technique that helped invented motion pictures.


George Eastman introduced celluloid based film and the small portable easy-to-use box camera.


The camera went into production at the Leitz factory in Germany. It was called the Leica from the initials of "Leitz Camera."


Underwater color photography was born with this shot of a hogfish, photographed off the Florida Keys in the Gulf of Mexico by Dr. William Longley and National Geographic staff photographer Charles Martin.


The major step forward to mass marketing of the TLR (twin-lens reflex) came with the Rolleicord and then Rolleiflex, developed by Franke & Heidecke in Germany.


The first 35mm SLR was introduced. The Ihagee Kine Exakta had a left-handed shutter release and rapid film wind thumb lever, folding waist level finder and 12 to 1/1000th second focal plane shutter.


An entirely new type of camera is introduced– the Polaroid Model 95. It was the world's first viable instant-picture camera. The Model 95 used a patented chemical process to produce finished positive prints from the exposed negatives in under a minute.


A historic camera: the Contax S— the first pentaprism SLR for eye-level viewing.


Asahi's first model, the Asahiflex, was the first Japanese-built 35mm SLR.


The Nikon f— the first Japanese system camera with interchangeable components that constitutes the core of a system.


The first ever digital camera was invented by Steven Sasson, an engineer at Eastman Kodak.


Steve McCurry captured one of the most famous portraits the world had ever seen.


Though it never hit the market the 1988 Fuji Fujix DS-1P introduced an important technology– a removable SRAM (static RAM) memory card developed with Toshiba.


The Kyocera VP-210 introduced a concept that we still use frequently today– phone photography!


Unlike many other digital cameras that stored photos in “volatile” memory that required battery power to prevent file loss– this video graphics array (VGA) resolution camera was the first to save image files in the kind of solid-state flash memory that is now the near-universal storage medium in digital cameras.


Generally believed to be the first consumer (under $1,000) camera to take color images on a single sensor, the QuickTake, designed by Kodak and manufactured by Chinon in Japan, captured at VGA resolution. It represented the first take on photography by Apple.


Foreshadowing the camera phone and Wi-Fi-equipped cameras that wouldn't appear until many years later, the 1994 Olympus Deltis VC-1100 model was the first digital camera with the ability to transmit images over a phone line, without the intermediary of a computer or other device!


The Nikon D1 was the first DSLR body designed from scratch by a single manufacturer. It completely changed the game for SLRS at that time- dropping the price of a digital SLR by more than half.


The Casio Exilim EX-S1/EX-M1 leapt forward in the ultracompact design race with the 0.4-inch-thick EX-S1 “wearable card camera.”


When this 6MP DSLR was announced on the Internet, editors scurried to redo the cover to trumpet the first DSLR priced below $1,000 ($999.99, street, with kit lens). The Reb flew off the shelves and proved to be the tipping point for countless serious amateur photographers to switch from film to digital.


The Canon EOS 5D had the popular new market category all to itself until 2008, when Nikon and Sony released their D700 and Alpha 900.


The GoPro Digital Hero 3 is introduced to the market and offers go-anywhere cams with rugged cases. Now most people who do sports, ride bicycles and even drive cars have these.


The first ever Apple iPhone is introduced. Though Apple was not the first to include camera phones– they combined a simple camera interface, intuitive downloading and sharing tools, and, in 2008, a highly accessible platform for third-party photo apps– making these incredibly popular.


Polaroid announces it is discontinuing the production of all instant film products, citing the rise of digital imaging technology.


When Panasonic took the mirror and prism assembly out of a DSLR and replaced them with an electronic viewfinder, the resulting camera, the Lumix G1, became the world’s first Compact System Camera.


The Nikon D800 comes to the market with an unprecedented 36 million pixel full frame sensor.


The iPhone 7 introduces its latest in camera technology- a camera has a six-element lens and a 12-megapixel sensor.

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