Read interesting facts about Kodak cameras, SLR cameras, instant cameras, disposable cameras and much more.
The Ancient Greeks and Chinese used an optical device called the ‘camera obscura’ to project an image of the surroundings on to a screen. This invention played an important role in the development of cameras and photography.
Although designs existed earlier, it wasn’t until the 1800s that practical cameras were developed.
The ‘Kodak’ camera was developed by George Eastman and went on sale in 1888, pioneering the use of photographic film. It was simple box camera with a single shutter speed and fixed focus lens.
Around the year 1913, a German optical engineer named Oskar Barnack made a prototype compact camera that used 35 mm film. Named ‘Lecia’, it was put into production in 1925 after further developments.
Reflex cameras became popular in the 1920s and 1930s.
Single lens reflex cameras (SLR) use a mirror and prism system to allow photographers to accurately see the image that will be captured. This system uses one optical light path whereas previous cameras had two, one through the lens to the film and the other to the viewfinder.
Polaroid cameras hit the market in 1948, allowing photographers to produce images instantly. A special chemical process was used to used to produce prints from the negatives in under a minute.
The popularity of instant cameras took off in 1965 with the introduction of the Polaroid Model 20 Swinger, one of the top selling cameras of all time.
Despite the technology being around in 1949, disposable cameras didn’t really catch on until the 1990s when Kodak models became popular. They are cheap alternatives designed to be used once, perfect for one off events such as birthdays and vacations.
The first successful imaging technology using a digital sensor was made in 1969 by Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith. In 2009, they were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their contributions which paved the way for digital photography.
The first commercial DSLR (digital single lens reflex) was launched by Kodak in 1991.
Photos on digital cameras are typically compressed using the JPEG standard and stored on memory cards.
The popularity of digital cameras exploded in the 2000s as technology improved and the costs of production decreased.
Modern digital cameras produce detailed photos made up of a huge number of pixels.
The technology behind cameras is improving all the time with additions such as touch screens and electronic viewfinders.
How does a camera work?
When you press the button on your camera to take a photo it briefly opens the shutter (like opening a curtain), allowing light to pass through the lens on to the film or sensor inside.
In daylight situations the shutter may be open for just 1/200 of a second, in darker situations the shutter needs to stay open for longer, perhaps a few seconds, or even much longer in dark, nighttime environments.
Why is my photo blurry?
Tiny camera movements that occur while the shutter is open often cause blurred photos, this is more likely to happen in dark environments where the shutter needs to stay open longer to collect enough light. It’s almost impossible for humans to hold a camera perfectly still for even just one second so using a tripod in low light situations is a good way to avoid this problem.
Sometimes blurred photos are the result of movement in the scene you are capturing rather than camera shake. A fast shutter speed in bright sunshine may ‘freeze’ someone running for example but a slower shutter speed may produce a blurred effect against a still background. A photographer can also create a sense of speed by panning the camera and following the subject, blurring the background but keeping the subject in focus.
How about focus?
Usually when you take a photo, you want to have the subject (a person, object etc) in focus, this occurs when light from the subject is bent by the lens so it hits the same place on the film or sensor inside the camera.
Sometimes you need to move the lens backwards or forwards to achieve a clear, sharp image. This can be done by manually turning a ring around the lens or using an autofocus system that most modern cameras feature.
Digital or film?
Despite the conveniences of digital, many photographers still prefer using film. This system uses film inside the camera to record images before they are later developed into negatives and prints of various sizes.
What are those large lenses for?
Professional photographers (and amateurs) sometimes use large telephoto lenses, these are lenses which have a shorter physical length than focal length. They can be used to make objects appear much closer than they really are, perfect for sports or wildlife photography!
Basics of Photography
Check out our photography basics for kids which feature a wide range of easy definitions and information. Learn what photography related concepts such as depth of field and exposure really mean in simple language that is easy to understand. Here are some words you may come across on your photography adventure:
Camera – The thing you use take photos, easy!
Tripod – A camera stand with three legs, great for keeping the camera steady!
Flash – A portable light source that helps illuminate the subject, many cameras come with built in flashes but they don’t always give a natural looking result.
Viewfinder – The part of a camera you look through to compose a photo.
Focus – The sharp part of an image.
Foreground – The nearest part of a scene in front of the viewer.
Background – The area behind the subject, farthest from the viewer.
Panorama – A wide view of an extended area, the top of a mountain is a good place for this kind of photo.
Macro photography – Close up photos of small objects like insects.
Pixels – The tiny dots that make up a digital photo, usually too small to see with the naked eye.
Lens – A combination of curved glass that light travels through before reaching the sensor or film inside your camera. Some cameras feature interchangeable lenses that can be swapped in various situations for a variety of different results.
Aperture – The opening in a lens that controls how much light passes into the camera. The size of the opening is measured in strange sounding fractions such as f/2.8 and f/22. f/2.8 is a wide opening that allows in lots of light while f/22 is a narrow opening. Don’t worry if this sounds confusing!
Depth of Field – This refers to the distance between the nearest and furthest objects in focus. Sometimes only a small slice of the scene is in focus while other times everything is in focus. A wide aperture of f/1.4 or f/2.8 creates a small depth of field while a wide aperture of f/16 or f/22 creates a large one.
Shutter – A device (think of it as a curtain) that opens and closes, allowing light into the camera for a certain amount of time.
Exposure – The amount of light that enters your camera, a combination of aperture and shutter speed. Overexposed photos appear very bright, while underexposed photos appear very dark. Modern cameras do a good job of automatically getting the exposure right but some people like to control it manually.
Noise – Some photos look a little ‘noisy’ with little dots or areas where the color isn’t right. This usually occurs at high ISO levels (this is a measurement of sensitivity to light and yet another confusing photography term that you don’t need to worry about too much).
Focal Length – This is the distance between the center of a lens and the focal point (where light converges on the film or sensor). Different lenses have different focal lengths, a shorter focal length of 24mm for example has a wider angle of view than a longer one such as 200mm. Some lenses have a fixed focal length (prime lens) while others have a range (zoom lens).
ISO – A measurement of sensitivity to light. Your camera will be more sensitive to light at higher ISO settings, taking photos faster but creating ‘noisy’ areas that don’t look right.
Disposable camera – As the name suggests, disposable cameras are designed to be used once. Although a cardboard camera was developed in 1949, it wasn’t until the 1990s that disposable cameras such as those made by Kodak became popular. They are convenient options for underwater photography and fun snaps at events such as weddings.
Filters – Camera accessories used to alter light before it enters the camera. Typically attached to the front of the lens they can be used to block ultra-violet light, darken skies, reduce light, take black & white photos, change color balance and make other adjustments. Apps such as Instagram use filter effects to help give your cell phone shots a unique look.
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