When Did Digital Cameras Come Out?

Piper O'Shanassy01 Mar 2022

With the introduction of digital cameras, photography quickly entered the mainstream. In the last two decades, a medium that has been around for nearly two centuries has been turned on its head. It is ever-evolving, and in this modern-day, photography is more relevant than ever. People use photography to capture important celebrations and milestones in their life. Not only that, but it has also become an artwork in and of itself, especially with the rise of social media.

When Were Digital Cameras Invented?

The year was 1974. Sasson, a young electrical engineer at Eastman Kodak Co. in Rochester, New York, was seeking a purpose for Fairchild Semiconductor's new type 201 charge-coupled device. His supervisor advised that he attempt digitizing an image with the 100-by-100-pixel CCD. Thus Sasson created a digital camera to catch the image, save it, and replay it on another device.

Sasson's camera was a jumble of parts. He recovered the lens and exposure mechanism from a Kodak XL55 video camera to use as the optical component for his camera. The picture would be captured by the CCD, then sent via a Motorola analog-to-digital converter, briefly stored in a DRAM array of a dozen 4,096-bit chips, then transmitted to audiotape using a portable Memodyne data cassette recorder. The camera weighed 3.6 kilos, was roughly the size of a toaster, and operated on 16 AA batteries.

In 1975, a year later, the first-ever digital camera was created. After working on and off on the invention of his camera for a year, Sasson concluded on December 12, 1975, that he was ready to snap his first photograph. Joy Marshall, a lab worker, consented to pose. It took roughly 23 seconds to capture the photo into the audiotape. However, once Sasson played it back on the lab computer, the picture was a jumble. While the camera was clearly showing hues that were black or bright, anything in between looked simply static. Marshall's hair was fine, yet her face was absent.

Fast forward to 1978. For the next years to come, Sasson worked to refine the camera, finally obtaining stunning photographs of various individuals and things in the lab. In 1978, he and his supervisor, Garreth Lloyd, were granted US Patent No. 4,131,919 for an electronic motionless camera, but the undertaking never progressed further than the prototype stage.

Although Sasson and Kodak set the stage for digital cameras, it was actually in 1988 that the very first working digital camera was successfully manufactured by Fuji.

In 1988, the Fuji DS-1P would have been the first truly portable digital camera. It saved photos as digital files on a 16MB SRAM internal storage card created in collaboration with Toshiba, however, the DS-1P was never commercially available. The 1990 Dycam Model 1 was the very first digital camera to be sold in the United States. This camera, also known as the Logitech Fotoman, featured a CCD image sensor, saved images digitally, and hooked directly to a computer for download - In other words, it's similar to the digital cameras we've grown accustomed to. The iconic digital camera design was established by the mid-1990s, and it rose in popularity over the next decade.

When Did Digital Cameras Overtake Film?

The transition of photography from film based on chemically-developed light-sensitive emulsions to one based on digital innovations for picture capture and storage started in the 1980s with the introduction of the first consumer digital cameras and in 1990 with the release of the very first version of Adobe Photoshop, a software for tweaking and controlling digital photos. The software, designed as an expansion of the traditional darkroom, embraced many of the classic techniques of black-and-white film photography but allowed photographers to go much farther. It brought into question long-held notions about photographic validity or documentary correctness by allowing photographers to readily modify the structure of a picture and even its contents. In some people's perceptions, it altered the core identity of the medium.

The full influence of digital photography wasn't realized until the first decade of the twenty-first century. Even as late as 2001, major events, most notably the 911 terrorist attacks, were predominantly captured on film photos. However, because digital photos could be transferred and altered considerably more quickly, by the end of the decade, practically all newspapers and magazines had switched to a digital procedure, and photographers were using professional-grade digital cameras.

When Did Digital Cameras Become Affordable?

The cheapest digital cameras in the United States were available for roughly $100 in late 2002. With the advent of the Ritz Dakota Digital, an $11 disposable camera in July 2003, digital cameras hit the disposable camera market. Ritz designed the Dakota Digital with the traditional single-use principle that has long been used with film cameras in mind. Whenever the pre-programmed 25-picture threshold is reached, the camera is returned to the store, and the customer gets prints as well as a CD-ROM with their images. After that, the camera is reconditioned and resold.

Following the release of the Dakota Digital, a slew of similar single-use digital cameras surfaced. Most single-use digital cameras seem to be almost identical in features and functionality to the original Dakota Digital, while a handful has greater specifications and more sophisticated functionality including better picture resolutions and LCDs. Most, if not all, of these single-use digital cameras are just under $20, not including processing. However, the enormous demand for complicated digital cameras at low costs has frequently resulted in production shortcuts, as indicated by an increase in consumer complaints about camera failures, expensive parts prices, and limited service life.

Digital camera sales reached their peak in March 2012, with an average of roughly 11 million devices sold each month, but have subsequently decreased dramatically. By March 2014, around 3 million units were bought per month, accounting for almost 30% of the highest sales total. The drop may have peaked, with monthly sales averaging around 3 million. The biggest opponent is smartphones, the majority of which have built-in digital cameras that are constantly improving. They, like other digital cameras, can capture videos. While smartphones keep on improving in terms of technology, their component is not designed for use as a camera, and battery life is often less than that of a digital camera.

For many years now, digital cameras have made a significant impact on photography. Whether you're a professional, an enthusiast, or simply someone who wants to capture moments and memories in photos, a digital camera can be a handy and life-changing tool. Digital cameras provide immediate satisfaction in terms of seeing or sharing photos without the expense of film or development. Even better, once the photographs are downloaded to a computer, digital photography opens up a world of new possibilities.

Piper O'Shanassy

Piper O'Shanassy

Piper grew up with a love of animals, which quickly turned into a love of photographing them. She shares her tips and tricks on photography, and hopes she can help you shortcut your expansion of a passion.

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