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Photography Facts for Kids

History of Cameras TimelineThe History of Cameras

Learn about the history of cameras with our timeline that takes you from early optical devices all the way through to modern digital cameras.

Read interesting facts about Kodak cameras, SLR cameras, instant cameras, disposable cameras and 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.

More Photography!
History of cameras

Old camera box

Classic camera

Modern camera









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