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What If the Camera was not Invented?

The Evolution of Photography

1826 View from the Window at Le Gras, France - world's first photograph taken by Joseph N Niepce.

1826 View from the Window at Le Gras, France - world's first photograph taken by Joseph N Niepce.

1861 First Colour photograph by James Clerk Maxwell

1861 First Colour photograph by James Clerk Maxwell

1909 First Explorers believed to have reached the North Pole

1909 First Explorers believed to have reached the North Pole

A Camera Obscura box, used in for drawing images

A Camera Obscura box, used in for drawing images

19th Century Studio Camera    Source: Wikipedia

19th Century Studio Camera Source: Wikipedia

1910 Brownie Box Camera

1910 Brownie Box Camera

1949 Contax S - First SLR

1949 Contax S - First SLR

1961 Polaroid Model J66

1961 Polaroid Model J66

Modern Digital Camera - Cannon Powershot

Modern Digital Camera - Cannon Powershot

MRI - Nuclear Medicine - Photography Application

MRI - Nuclear Medicine - Photography Application

High Definition Video Pen Recorder Camera

High Definition Video Pen Recorder Camera

The History of Camera and Photography

Just the other day, I was looking at some pictures with a colleague. They were pictures that I have stored on my computer at work, mostly of my family and I at several vacation spots over the years. As we were looking at the pictures, I thought out a loud ' I wonder what would happen if the camera was not invented? I quickly answered my own question, 'Then we'd have to draw pictures and I would suck at it!' I said somewhat relieved that this somewhat essential yet undervalued equipment was invented during the eighteenth century. I went on blabbering that perhaps we would all develop our skills to sketch or draw. But it would be tedious because we would have to walk around with our sketch pads and pencils to capture wondrous scenery or a place of interest. Oh! I said perhaps we would have to get our portraits done for special events by well known artists. That could become costly. All this time I was chatting incessantly, as my mind was racing a mile a minute. My colleague looked like she was also thinking about what would happen if camera was not invented. She said, "I'm sure glad that it was invented because I cannot draw if my life depended on it." How, who and when was the camera invented? I asked.

This hub is a search for the answers to the questions, how, who and when. It is about the evolution of the camera and its application over the years. During the Industrial revolution, camera and photography became a necessary tool for the growing middle class and the demand for portraits. Today, a camera, like a television set is perhaps an item that is found in every home in North America. I would even venture to say that most homes have more than one camera. Cameras have evolved to the stage that they are in cell phones, portable games (DSi), laptops and security systems, to name a few. Cameras have become smaller and smaller over the years. Cameras can be as tiny as a pen point. The application of camera/photography technology has many implication for healthcare (nuclear medicine), law and order, education, personal safety, transportation, meteorology, entertainment and multi-media, business administration, financial, design and research and development as well as the military and international surveillance and space navigation.

The Advent of the Camera Before Photography

In the 4th and 5th centuries BCE, Aristotle and Euclid describe a pinhole camera. In 960-1040 Ibn al-Haytham studied the camera obscura (dark chamber) and the pinhole camera. 1193/1206-1280 Albertus Magnus discovered silver nitrate.1516-1571 Georges Fabricus discovered silver chloride. 1694 Wilhelm Hamberg described how light darkened some chemicals (photochemical effect). The early cameras did not record images, but rather projected from an opening in the wall of a darkened room onto a surface, turning the room into a large pinhole camera (Wikipedia).

The advent of Photography

In 1814, Joseph Nicephore Niepce made the first exposure and photograph using a sliding wooden box camera. This was the introduction of photography which was not permanent and faded. In 1826 Joseph Nicephore Niepce used the camera obscura to burn a permanent image of the country side of his Le Gras, France estate onto a chemical-coated pewter plate, which he called heliograpgy (sun drawn). The black and white image took eight hours to fade significantly, but an image remains permanently on the plate. Hercules Florence in 1832 discovered photograhie, much similar to the dagurreotype of seven years later. In 1839, Louis-Jacques -Mande Daguerre refined the silver process of Niepce and successfully created the first photo of a person. Daguerre made two major contributions (dagurrotype) to the development of photography; exposing the silver first to iodine vapour before exposure to light, and then to mercury fumes after the photograph was taken, could form a latent image. Bathing the plate in a salt bath then fixes the image. 1840 First American patent issued in photography to Alexander Wolcott for his camera. 1841 William Henry Talbot patents the calotype process - the first negative-positive process making possible the first multiple copies.

Modern Camera and Photography

1843 First advertisement with a photograph made in Philadelphia.

1851 Frederick Scott Archer invented the collodion process - images required only two or three seconds of light exposure.

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1859 Panoramic camera patented - the Sutton.

1861 Oliver Wendell Holmes invents stereoscope viewer.

1865 Photographs and photographic negatives are added to protected works under copyright.

Collodion dry plates were invented in 1855 but it was not until 1871 when gelatine dry plate was invented by Richard Leach Maddox, that speed and quality could be improved. This invention made hand held cameras possible as well as various designs of single and twin lenses as well as cameras disguised as pocket watches, hats and other objects.

The shortened exposure times that made candid photography possible also necessitated another innovation, the mechanical shutter. The very first shutters were separate accessories, though built-in shutters were common by the turn of the century.

In 1885 the use of photographic film was pioneered by George Eastman, who started manufacturing paper film before switching to celluloid in 1889. His first camera, which he called the "Kodak" was first offered for sale in1888. It was a very simple box camera with a fixed-focus lens and single shutter speed, which along with its relatively low price appealed to the average consumer. The Kodak came pre-loaded with enough film for 100 exposures and needed to be sent back to the factory for processing and reloading when the roll was finished. By the end of the 19th century Eastman had expanded his line-up to several models including both box and folding cameras.

In 1900 Eastman mass marketed the Brownie, which was a simple and very inexpensive box camera that introduced the concept of the snapshot. The Brownie was extremely popular and various models remained on sale until the 1960s. In the twentieth century, photography developed rapidly as a commercial service. End-user supplies of photographic equipment accounted for only about 20 percent of industry revenue.

1913/1914 First 35mm still camera developed.

1927 General Electric invents the modern flash bulb.

1932 First light meter with photoelectric cell introduced.

1941 Eastman Kodak introduces Kodacolor negative film.

1942 Chester Carlson receives patent for electric photography (xerography).

1948 Edwin Land markets the Polaroid camera.

1954 Eastman Kodak introduces high speed Tri-X film.

1960 EG&G develops extreme depth underwater camera for U.S. Navy.

1963 Polaroid introduces instant color film.

Even though colour photography was taken in 1861, it was not until 1907 when the first fully practical color plate, Autochrome, reach the market. It was based on a screen-plate method, the screen (of filters) being made using dyed dots of potato starch. The screen lets filtered red, green or blue light through each grain to a photographic emulsion in contact with it. The plate is then developed to a negative, and reversed to a positive, which when viewed through the screen restores colors approximating the original.

1973 Polaroid introduces one-step instant photography with the SX-70 camera.

1978 Konica introduces first point-and-shoot, autofocus camera.

1980 Sony demonstrates first consumer camcorder.

1984 Canon demonstrates first digital electronic still camera.

1985 Pixar introduces digital imaging processor.

1990 Eastman Kodak announces Photo CD as a digital image storage medium.

A digital camera (or digicam for short) is a camera that takes videos or still photographs, or both, by recording images via an electronic image sensor. Compact cameras are designed to be smaller for portability. They utilize the point and shoot technique that even the most technologically challenged user can master.

Bridge or SLR-like cameras are higher-end digital cameras that physically and ergonomically resemble DSLRs. They share with them some advanced features, but are similar to the compacts by the use of a fixed lens and a small sensor. Autofocus is achieved using the same contrast-detect mechanism, but many bridge cameras feature a manual focus mode for greater control.

Digital single-lens reflex cameras (DSLRs) are digital cameras based on film single-lens reflex cameras(SLRs). They take their name from their unique viewing system, in which a mirror reflects light from the lens through a separate optical viewfinder. In order to capture an image the mirror is flipped out of the way, allowing light to fall on the imager. Since no light reaches the imager during framing, autofocus is accomplished using specialized sensors in the mirror box itself. Most 21st century DSLRs also have a "live view" mode that emulates the live preview system of compact cameras, when selected.

The move to digital formats was helped by the formation of the first JPEG and MPEG standards in 1988, which allowed image and video files to be compressed for storage. The first consumer camera with a liquid crystal display on the back was the Casio QV in 1995, and the first camera to use CompactFlash was the Kodak DC-25 in 1996.

According to Wikipedia, the pixel count alone is commonly presumed to indicate the resolution of a camera, but this is a misconception. There are several other factors that impact a sensor's resolution. Some of these factors include sensor size, lens quality, and the organization of the pixels (for example, a monochrome camera without a Bayer filter mosaic has a higher resolution than a typical color camera). Many digital compact cameras are criticized for having excessive pixels. Sensors can be so small that their 'buckets' can easily overfill; again, resolution of a sensor can become greater than the camera lens could possibly deliver.

In late 2008 a new type of camera emerged, combining the larger sensors and interchangeable lenses of DSLRs with the live preview viewing system of compact cameras, either through an electronic viewfinder or on the rear LCD. These are simpler and more compact than DSLRs due to the removal of the mirror box, and typically emulate the handling and ergonomics of either DSLRs or compacts. As of 2009 the only such system is Micro Four Thirds, borrowing components from the Four Thirds DSLR systems.

Photography and its evolution is undoubtedly an essential invention in today's modern world. Whether its application is in medicine, law enforcement, education, space explorations or personal enjoyment, it is clear that our lies have been tremendously impacted by this invention. I hope after reading this post, you will look at your camera with more appreciation for the inventors who have given us such a useful gadget.

So click away and don't forget to zoom in for a close-up as to the how, who and when of your camera, while you zoom out in the world.

Sources used in writing this hub:


  1. History of Photography
  2. History of Camera
  3. History of Digital Camera - Timeline - History of Photography - History of Camera

National - Photography Milestones


Anna Smit! on January 23, 2019:

What would happen if photography was not invented

aaa on April 02, 2014:


Sandria Green-Stewart (author) from Toronto, Canada on January 08, 2011:

Carl Hahn, thanks for your comment. I concurr, the world would not be the same without the camera. The digital camera has truly revolutionized the way we capture images.

Carl Hahn on November 28, 2010:

What a question? It is hard to imagine if photography was not here yet. The art schools would be busy teaching people to draw and sketch. Just about everything that happens today involves photography of some type,

Sandria Green-Stewart (author) from Toronto, Canada on October 22, 2010:

Sally, thanks for your visit. Thanks for the info re Thomas Sutton. My husband had an SLR and now he has the DSLR which he loves very much.

You can check out and search for the How the SLR works. The wwebsite provides a fairly simple explanation of the technology.

Good luck.

Sally on October 12, 2010:

Hi DynamicS

you know the SLR camera by Thomas Sutton..that took the first coulored photo..i think?

In school we should write about an invention..and that's mine. How do you think I can find a technology design of it and somewhere where it explains how it works inside??

Sandria Green-Stewart (author) from Toronto, Canada on February 10, 2010:

Epiphany99, thanks for stopping by. The camera continues to evolve. As it's size gets smaller, it use become more diverse.Thanks.

Epiphany99 from TN on February 10, 2010:

The evolution of the camera thanks.

Sandria Green-Stewart (author) from Toronto, Canada on February 07, 2010:

lilly, thanks for your visit. Historical accounts can indeed be dry. Intellectual curiosity is a prerequisit to really enjoy dry information of the evolution of anyone/thing, even if it's about something as interesting as the camera.

lilly on February 06, 2010:

boring :[

Sandria Green-Stewart (author) from Toronto, Canada on December 27, 2009:

quicksand I hope that you had a merry Christmas and I wish you all the best for the New Year.

The gunpowder question is a great one; maybe a post about that would be an insightful experience. I look forward to read it.

Thanks for stopping by.

quicksand on December 23, 2009:

A thought just struck me ... what if gunpowder was not invented ...

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you!!! :)

Sandria Green-Stewart (author) from Toronto, Canada on November 19, 2009:

James, thanks for your kind comment, it means alot to me. I'm fascinated by our inventors and how they were able to use their minds and knowleddge to develop devices that are of such value to us today.

James A Watkins from Chicago on November 17, 2009:

This is an outstanding article. You are a fine researcher and an excellent writer. I enjoyed it. Thanks!

Sandria Green-Stewart (author) from Toronto, Canada on October 27, 2009:

quicksand, your out of focus, my friend. Come closer, closer, closer, now smile and say sssssssss. There I got you. Looking good!

LOL! Good to see you. Thanks for stopping by.

quicksand on October 27, 2009:

Okay I am still smiling, have you clicked yet?

Sandria Green-Stewart (author) from Toronto, Canada on October 17, 2009:

Melinda, my friend thanks for stopping by. I like the new avatar. You are absolutely right, camera and photography allow us to relive past snapshots of special events in our lives. I am amaze by the technology and I applaud the scientists who have developed such wonderful technology.

I have taken hundreds of pictures over the years and now I have them on my laptop which is usually on a table in my kitchen and family room. They are stored as screen saver and so a part of the enjoyment of my home. Very often we would be sitting down for a meal and a fun picture pop up of a family member doing something really funny and we'd all laugh and start talking about the event. This had given us much enjoyment even after the events have long past. Sometimes I see my son looking and smiling at pictures that we took when he was much younger. This allow for valuable family history to be passed on.

I can go on and on about photography. My next hub will be about The history of Photography in Medicine.

Thanks for stopping by and as always for your supporting comment. Blessings

Sandria Green-Stewart (author) from Toronto, Canada on October 17, 2009:

advisor4qb, thanks for your comment. I've never really considered about the invention before, but its an amazing gadget, at least the science of it. My step-father dabbled in photography when I was a child and even though I did not pay much attention to what he was doing, he really looked like he enjoyed the hobby. He would spend hours in a darkened room trying to develop pictures of the family. Some of them faded over time.

My husband's hobby is photography, something that he had forgotten for over a decade and I encouraged him to get back to. So photography has some significance to my life. I'm not done researching the topic so stay tuned.

Thanks for stopping by.

msorensson on October 17, 2009:

Wow, thanks, DynamicsS,

I did not know it has been that long since it was invented.

Cameras are instruments of precision to capture a moment in time, that when we look at the pictures produced, the past becomes the present and for a brief moment we are transported back in time.

Thank you. A very informative hub.

advisor4qb from On New Footing on October 17, 2009:

What a neat hub! I had a great uncle who was really into old cameras. I always found photography interesting, too. Thanks!

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