Development of the Camera

The original concept of the camera dates from Grecian times, when Aristotle referred to the principle of the camera obscura [Lat.,=dark chamber] which was literally a dark box—sometimes large enough for the viewer to stand inside—with a small hole, or aperture, in one side. (A lens was not employed for focusing until the Middle Ages.) An inverted image of a scene was formed on an interior screen; it could then be traced by an artist. The first diagram of a camera obscura appeared in a manuscript by Leonardo da Vinci in 1519, but he did not claim its invention. The recording of a negative image on a light-sensitive material was first achieved by the Frenchman Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in 1826; he coated a piece of paper with asphalt and exposed it inside the camera obscura for eight hours.

Although various kinds of devices for making pictures in rapid succession had been employed as early as the 1860s, the first practical motion picture camera—made feasible by the invention of the first flexible (paper base) films—was built in 1887 by E. J. Marey, a Frenchman. Two years later Thomas Edison invented the first commercially successful camera. However, cinematography was not accessible to amateurs until 1923, when Eastman Kodak produced the first 16-mm reversal safety film, and Bell & Howell introduced cameras and projectors with which to use it. Systems using 8-mm film were introduced in 1923; super-8, with its smaller sprocket holes and larger frame size, appeared in 1965.

A prototype of the the digital camera was developed in 1975 by Eastman Kodak, but digital cameras were not commercialized until the 1990s. They have gradually superseded many film-based cameras, both for consumers and, by the mid-2010s, for professionals as well, leading many manufacturers to eliminate or reduce the number of the film cameras they produce. The digital camera phone, which developed rapidly in the the 21st cent., contributed to the demise of the film camera, and has supplanted the camera for most amateur uses.

The demise of the super-8 film format began with the development of the camcorder, which used videotape cassettes, in the early 1980s; digital recording was introduced in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In the late 1990s and 2000s high-definition digital video recording and tapeless (optical disc, hard drive, and solid-state) recording were introduced. By the 2010s most movies, whether taken by professionals or amateurs, were shot using digital video cameras.

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