Anyone that has an iPhone or Droid can take high quality pictures these days. With one more touch it can be uploaded to published to flickr. This makes them a photographer. Right? That is an argument that I hear all to often. What is more important is how we have gotten to this point? What are the developments that make it possible to do this?

Know Your Roots

We know what a camera originally was, it used to just take pictures, but what about now? With the rapid technological advancement in digital cameras and digital storage devices, the lines are beginning to bend on what exactly a camera does. Whether it is Mother recording her son’s game winning goal on her point and shoot camera or Phillip Bloom recording a High Definition video on a DSLR camera. No longer is a camera…just a camera.

Phillip Bloom

Phillip Bloom

We must first understand what a digital camera is and where did it come from. The basic functions of a digital camera is the same as the traditional camera but instead of using photographic emulsion and film stock, a digital camera captures the images in a more complex way. Bob Brooke has been a writer most of his career but began working in photography and fully embraced the digital photography era, he explained in an understandable way how the digital camera works:

“Unlike traditional cameras that use film to capture and store an image, digital cameras use a solid-state device called an image sensor. These fingernail-sized silicon chips contain millions of photosensitive diodes called photosites. In the brief flickering instant that the shutter is open, each photosite records the intensity or brightness of the light that falls on it by accumulating a charge; the more light, the higher the charge. The brightness recorded by each photosite is then stored as a set of numbers that can then be used to set the color and brightness of dots on the screen or ink on the printed page to reconstruct the image.” (Bob Brooke, Brief History of Digital Photography)

Eugene Lally

Early Eugene Lally design

This new technology ushered in the era of cameras that many of us know today. The foundation of this technology can found in the early 1960’s with a theoretical approach to space navigation developed by Eugene F. Lally that would capture digital images of the planets and stars. But as Rich Trenholm from CNET wrote “the technology had yet to catch up with the concept.” (Trenholm,The History of the Digital Camera) The camera that really started the filmless era was produced in 1981 by Sony and was called the Mavica, a compounded name for Magnetic Video Camera. It was not until 1990 that the first true digital camera was sold to consumers though.

The Digital Development

Dycam Model 1

Dycam Model 1

The Dycam Model 1 was released and was different from all of the other digital cameras because it stored the data digitally, instead of analog. Digital storage is important because of the SD cards that most cameras have today have their roots in the the Dycam’s internal memory card. The last piece of technology that has relevance to this blog is the Ricoh RDC-1. Developed in 1995 and at a cost 1,500 dollars, the Ricoh RDC-1 had the capabilities to take pictures as well as capture video with sound. This put the development of cameras that also record video on the fast track.

What really launched this growing trend of camera that do video was the Nikon D90. Released in 2008, the D90 is marketed as

“Fusing 12.3-megapixel image quality and an exceptional 24fps D-Movie Mode, the Nikon D90 exceeds the demands of passionate photographers.” (Nikon USA)

This camera was a game changer because while it still had technical limitations, the camera had the capabilities to capture high-definition video for under the 1,000 dollar mark. The D90 provided an inside look at what the future will hold. With cameras like the Canon Rebel T2i or Nikon D7000 we have seen the technology advance while the cost has either stayed the same or slightly increased. This will hopefully be the continuing trend with camera technology.


About dslrcinematics

As an aspiring DP, this blog is dedicated to the growing industry trend of motion picture creation using DSLR Cameras.
This entry was posted in Camera Tech, Digital Camera History and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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