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Home /History / Photography Equipment Over the Last 100 Years

Photography Equipment Over the Last 100 Years

By Mollee Shannon

Oh, how we love to flip back through our family albums and see our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents as they lived before we knew them!

The sepia and black and white tones add a golden charm to the people in the photos, and as we see our grandmothers in pin curls, a part of us longs for a bygone era.


The history of photography tells us that humans have long been eager to freeze time to remember people and places they love. 

The Most Affordable Brownie You’ll Find 

If you’re lucky, you may have seen the original mass-marketed still photo camera up close and personal, but for most of us, we’ve seen these early cameras only in the movies. In 1900, Eastman Kodak released the long-running, very affordable Brownie camera to American consumers. It was essentially a box with a lens that took 2 ¼ inch pictures on 117 roll film. With 150,000 units produced and sold in the first year, it quickly became a favorite for children and soldiers alike. The Brownie was just as popular in the toy chests of children as it was in the rucksacks of U.S. soldiers during World War I! Think of the Brownie as an older version of those disposable cameras we used to take on vacation

The Instant Camera 

These days, we are accustomed to the instant gratification of taking a photo. However, the instant photo didn’t begin with digital photography! In 1948, Polaroid released the instant photo camera. Edward Land unveiled his instant camera in 1947 at the Optical Society of America in New York City. The camera used positive paper, developing chemicals in pods, and rollers to produce the photos. The paper would come out of the rollers and be peeled apart. Then, voila! A photograph! In 1963, Polaroid released its Polacolor film, which made it possible to take instant photos in color! Remember shaking those Polaroid photos to speed up the processing? I’m still not sure that actually worked! 

The Point-and-Shoot-Camera

One of the tricky things about that old favorite, the Brownie, was getting a focused image. But in 1978, Konica introduced the first autofocus camera! Trading in an older model for an autofocus camera would be like trading in your old point-and-click camera for a digital one! The camera included an electronic rangefinder that eased the work originally done by the human eye. The Konica brought about a camera largely operated by electronic technology, but the film advance itself was still mechanical. It was one of the first hybrid electric-mechanical cameras available to consumers on the market! 

Goodbye Analog, Hello Digital 

Few people use actual film to take photographs these days. With its decline in popularity, film has become more expensive and harder to find. I can’t remember the last time I saw a vast array of film sizes and brands on display at the store. In 1990, a consumer’s version of the digital camera hit the market with the Dycam Model 1. This was the first camera that connected to a PC for photo downloading, and with it came Adobe Photoshop! From 1990 on, digital photography innovation boomed! You can probably find what now seems like old photography news sitting on the shelves of your local thrift store. Imagine two decades from now finding shelves and shelves stacked with smartphones! 

The Camera Phone

As the new millennium drew near, we weren’t the only ones partying like it was 1999. This is the year that brought us the first commercially marketed camera phone, the Kyocera Visual Phone VP-210, which featured a camera that could take photos, record videos, and send images using the cellular service. And though many of us only take digital photos now, you’re bound to have some old print photos you’d love to have in digital format, and at Kodak, our Digitizing Box can preserve both the charm of a print photo and the convenience of a digital image! 

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