The Evolution of the Digital Camera

We love our gadgets here at eBay Classifieds. Especially digital cameras. After all, what better way to post pictures of the things you put in your classifieds ad?

But sometimes it’s hard to remember that the everyday technology we know and love would have been inconceivable even a quarter of a century ago. There are some things, like digital cameras, that have exploded in popularity and technological advancement in fewer than 25 years.

We decided that it was time to take a look at the development of what is, to us, a truly innovative invention.

Early digital cameras

Compared to other forms of technology, the digital camera’s evolution has been rather slow. Arguably the first “mobile” phones were radio telephones used in the 1920s (they didn’t use the cellular radio telephone networks we use today, but they were mobile), and Alan Turing, the father of modern computer science, was working in the 1930s. The simple fact is that digital cameras couldn’t exist in their current form before computers became small and powerful enough to capture, process and store all the data that is in a photograph. But as computers have evolved to become that powerful, digital cameras have raced to push the technology as far as it can.

The very first still image digital camera was a Kodak prototype built in 1975 by Steven Sasson. The 8.5 pound camera actually recorded images on cassette tapes, taking 23 second to record a single image.

Kodak sat on their innovation for a little while, but by 1988, Fuji got in on the act, creating the first digital camera that saved images to removable flash cards, the Fuji DS-1P. Though the DS-1P was the first consumer digital camera to be demonstrated, there is no record of the camera being marketed or sold anywhere.

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The 1990s – A Boom in Innovation

The Logitech Fotoman

Eventually, manufacturers broke through the hurdles of affordability and viability, and in 1990 the world saw the release of the first commercially available digital camera: the Dycam Model 1, also known as the Logitech Fotoman.

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The Kodak DCS-100

Not to be outdone, Kodak showed the Kodak DCS-100 at Photokina ’90, the world’s largest photography trade fair. It used a 1.3 megapixel sensor and was initially priced at $30,000, making it more suitable for professional use than for personal.

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The Casio QV-10

Before manufacturers figured out how to utilize liquid crystal display (LCD) screens, they had external monitors, like the one on the Kodak DCS-100. But 1995 brought shoppers the first consumer camera with a LCD screen on the back, the Casio QV-10.

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Kodak DC25

Still, these innovative cameras didn’t have a built-in flash. However, the release of the Kodak DC-25 in 1996 fixed this problem.

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Nikon D1

The Nikon D1 was introduced in 1999. The 2.74 megapixel camera was the first digital SLR developed entirely by a major manufacturer, and as it cost under $6,000, professional photographers and high-end consumers could afford the camera.

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The 2000s – New Technology Gets Even Cheaper

Sony DSC-S85

Released in 2001, the Sony DSC-S85 was the first consumer camera to offer a whopping four megapixels. That revolution in technology would set you back $800.

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Six years later, cameras had twice as many megapixels for less than a quarter of the price. The first 10 megapixel camera to retail for less than $200 was the DXG-110, which sold for $199.99.

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Today – High-end Tech Gets Expensive Again

Leica M9

The Leica M9, released in 2009, is amongst the most expensive digital cameras on sale today. With 18 megapixels, it retails for around $7,000. Not including the accessories.

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In 2010, Walter de’Silva, the renowned Italian car designer, designed the ‘Titanium’ version, made of solid titanium.

If you want to read even more about the evolution of digital cameras, check out the website DigiCamHistory, where they have loads of images and facts about this remarkable invention.