The History of the 20th Century Camera

Bob Rose. Focal Encyclopedia of Photography: Digital Imaging, Theory and Applications, History, and Science. Editor: Michael R Peres. 4th edition. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2007. 

Numbering over 16,000 objects, the George Eastman House technology collection is one of the world’s largest collections of photographic and cinematographic equipment. It contains nineteenth and twentieth-century objects of photographic technology, including cameras, processing equipment, motion picture devices, and a broad range of early historical accessories. Many of the objects are unique, representing distinguished historical ownership and significant scientific achievement.

This collection is the most comprehensive held by any institution in North America and equaled in overall quality by only three other major holdings worldwide. From devices that predate the formal invention of photography in 1839 to the most modern state-of-the-art instruments used by both amateurs and professionals, the collection offers visitors an unparalleled opportunity to examine and learn about photographic technology.

The history of cameras is presented as a chronology of the events and times in the photographic industry. It is a series of “firsts” and is limited both by this concept as well as the space allowed. Therefore it can only list specific details and regrettably cannot include every company that has made a contribution to photography, most of whom no longer exist. It is, however, an accurate accounting of the facts and history itself.

At the start of the 20th century, photography had officially existed for more than 60 years. Even though George Eastman had introduced the simplicity of the Kodak camera about ten years earlier, “You press the button, we do the rest” was not an affordable concept for potential photographers of all ages. With that thought in mind, Eastman started to deliver the Brownie camera. Priced at $1 the Brownie appealed to youngsters giving them six 2-1/4 × 2-1/4” shots for only 40¢ on a 15¢ roll of 117 film. This concept was so good that this camera lasted in one form or another for 80 years.

Eastman also set the standard at the higher end with the Kodak Model 3 Folding Pocket camera which shot 3-1/4 × 4-1/4” images on 118 film and incorporated a fold-down front with bellows and pull out lens. In the meantime, in Germany, A. Hch. Rietzschel GmbH (later to become Agfa-Gevaert) introduced their first camera, the Clack.

Cameras of new proportions like the Kodak No. 1 and No. 4 Panoramic came to the market and photography was considered so exciting that for the Paris Exposition of 1900 the Chicago & Alton Railway created the Mammoth. Shooting 8 × 4-1/2 ft. isochromatic plates and weighing in at 900 pounds (plus 500 pounds for the plate holder), the Mammoth was the largest camera ever built.

The year 1901 brought new technology in the form of the first transatlantic radio transmission, instant coffee, and the creation by Kodak of a foil wrapper package, which effectively kept moisture and humidity away from roll film. This allowed roll film to be used for the first time in countries with tropical climates like Japan. It was also the year that two competitors, E. & H. T. Anthony & Company along with the Scovill & Adams Company, formerly known for selling photographic products, merged to become the distributor and camera manufacturer Ansco.

Air conditioning was invented in 1902 making it possible for photographic materials to be better stored. The world was given its first taste of digitized imaging in the form of Dr. Arthur Korn’s demonstration of an electronic scanning, transmission, and reproduction system—the forerunner to the fax.

Kodak marched on with the No. 2 Brownie Box Camera and the No. 3A Folding Pocket camera that were introduced to the public with a 3-1/2 × 5-1/4” postcard format on 122 film. George Eastman purchased the rights to the developing machine, which was first used and publicized in the 1905 Russo-Japanese War.

Looking for recognition as artists, photographers banded together for the first time in 1902 when Alfred Stieglitz organized the Photo Secessionist show in New York City. The quality of photography improved dramatically as Dr. Paul Rudolph finished calculating the design of the Tessar lens in Germany, producing levels of sharpness and contrast that helped make the name of his employer Carl Zeiss legendary.

The first major motion picture film (The Great Train Robbery) was produced by Edison labs in 1903. Photography was used to document the historic few seconds of the first flight of the Wright brother’s airplane in North Carolina. Across the ocean Agfa started to compete with Kodak by introducing its first film to the German market.

In 1904 Konishi-Hoten (Konica) stepped up to the challenge and introduced their first camera, one that would start the photographic industry in Japan. The Cherry portable hand camera was affordable and used readily available 2-1/4 × 3-1/4” plates. Back in the United States Kodak introduced the No. 2 Folding Brownie, and the New York City subway introduced rapid transit to the masses. Meanwhile, Alfred Gauthier GmbH in Germany considered a different kind of rapid movement when he discontinued camera production but announced the new Koilos shutter design. The shutter name changed to Prontor (a play on the Italian word “pronto” to emphasize its quick activation) and the basic design is still in use in cameras today.

In addition, large format panoramic photography was introduced in the form of the Cirkut camera. Rotating on its special geared tripod head and shooting 10” wide film (on 240cm long rolls) the Cirkut camera reproduced a full 360 degree field of view. Like many cameras of the time that were available for an extended number of years, the path of ownership and production can be traced through an interesting journey. This was especially so in the case of the Cirkut, which was first introduced by the Rochester Panoramic Company in 1904, and continued production at the Century Camera Company in 1905, the Century Camera Division of Eastman Kodak Company in 1907, the Folmer & Schwing Division of Eastman Kodak Company in 1915, the Folmer & Schwing Department of Eastman Kodak Company in 1917, Folmer Graflex Incorporated in 1926 and Graflex Incorporated in 1945, and finally ending its 45-year run in 1949.

Einstein presented his Theory of Relativity in 1905 while Eastman purchased the Folmer & Schwing Manufacturing Company and moved it to Rochester. He added the Graflex large format single lens reflex (SLR) with its focal-plane shutter to the product line a few years later.

By 1906 technology helped us wake up to Cornflakes in the morning, and general availability of panchromatic black and white film enabled high-quality color separation color photography to become a reality. But the greatest technology to be realized was the fact that new and better lens designs made it practical to experience images sharp enough to incorporate focusing into the box camera, so the Kodak 3B Quick Focus box camera was born.

Image transmission over wires was commercialized with the first fax network connection between Berlin, London, and Paris in 1907. It was also the same year that Ernst Leitz (later of Leica fame) started in business as a manufacturer of binoculars in Germany, and Ansco Photoproducts in the United States introduced its first camera, the No. 1 Ansco. But the Lumiere brothers in France really made the news with the announcement that one-shot simple color photography was possible using their Autochrome plates.

The next year Kodak fully integrated the Press Graflex 5 × 7” SLR into the product lineup and would later find that the Graflex design was the choice of press photographers who appreciated the option of two shutters—focal-plane and lens—as well as three viewfinders—optical, wire frame, and ground glass. About the same time the first Japanese SLR was introduced. Equally talented but with fewer user options, the Sakura Flex Prano only came with a focal-plane shutter.

Henry Ford opened the nation to travelers wanting to photograph and record the wonders of the great United States when he introduced personal transportation in the form of the Model Thin 1908. In the meantime, demand for photography was so great in Europe that Agfa built the largest film production facility and F. W. Hasselblad & Company spun off a separate division, Hasselblad’s Fotografiska AB.

Around 1909 a variety of different manufacturers started to make roll film backs for plate cameras. It was also the year that Laben F. Deardorff left for Chicago to open up his own camera repair shop after having designed the Scovill Trial camera, which was sold to the Rochester Camera Company and produced as the Primo View. The Compound shutter, the first sealed shutter for view camera lenses was introduced.

By 1910, Stieglitz’ Photo Secession movement was no longer concerned about how to make photography an acceptable art—it was more concerned about “abuse” of the art by the rapidly growing numbers of amateurs. Photographic technology broke new ground in the United States when Bausch & Lomb produced the first optical quality glass made in America. At the same time in Germany, Ernemann had its own lens design and manufacturing divisions, which relied heavily on the leading lens designers of C. P. Goertz and Carl Zeiss Jena. It was also the year that Ernemann’s top lens designer, Ludwig Bertele, revolutionized the industry with his formulas for high-speed lenses. Although some of these lenses did not start to appear in production for a number of years, Ernemann was responsible for the Ernostar of the 1920s as well as the Zeiss Sonnar and Biogon designs introduced in the 1930s.

As most camera manufacturers started moving away from all wood to wood/leather or leather-covered metal, the Premo camera was introduced by Rochester Optical Company. More news from Rochester was made when Rudolph Klein and Theodor Brueck left Bausch & Lomb to form the XL Manufacturing Company and produced lens shutters (and later, to avoid confusion with a similarly named Goertz shutter, they changed the name to the Ilex Manufacturing Company).

This was also a time when the use of bellows was becoming more common along with scientifically computed lenses and an increasing number of complex moving parts. Valentin Linhof, who years earlier produced the first shutter to be incorporated into a lens, stopped making shutters and sold this business to his partner Fredrich Deckel who eventually introduced the Compur clockwork timed shutter and the Compound pneumatic shutter.

1912 was a sweet year as both LifeSavers candy and Oreo cookies were introduced to the public. X-rays were also discovered and would soon be harnessed as a life-saving tool as well as one of the biggest uses for film around the world. Germany was still busy expanding the photo industry and Agfa built its first dedicated camera factory. New camera designs started to appear too as Plaubel & Co. announced the Baby Makina with its folding struts and interchangeable roll film holder backs for mainly a 6 × 9 cm format. It was also a time for another company to come on the scene as Industrie-u. Handelsges-ellschaft mbH was founded (becoming Ihagee Kamerawerk GmbH in 1913 and ultimately Exacta). The Speed Graphic was announced in the United States, but perhaps no camera introduced that year was as successful as the Kodak Vest Pocket. This camera for the middle class made 1-5/8 × 2-1/2” images on 127 film and would inspire camera designs around the world for many years to come.

In 1913 dressing up became slightly more convenient and comfortable with the creation of the bra and the zipper. The use of film was more convenient too as Eastman Portrait Film started the transition away from the use of glass plates. Optische Anstalt Jos. Schneider & Company was founded in Germany.

The next year was costly for Kodak when Eastman paid Ansco $5 million to settle the Goodwin flexible film patent—to this day nobody knows for sure who was first. However, once Kodak resolved the flexible film battle, a new strategy for identifying film was adopted. Originally Kodak numbered film by camera model, now films would be numbered sequentially in the order they were introduced.

After only six years in production, the Model Thwas so popular that to reduce the number of accidents on the fledgling road system, the traffic light was born in 1914. To help all these new motorized photographers remember where their photographs had been taken, the Autographic Kodak was announced. It included a stylus that was used to scratch a message through a small door on the back of the camera. Inside, carbon paper acted as a stencil through which light could expose a frame of film with the written information—almost 20 models appeared through the mid-1930s ranging from the 1A for $23 to the 3A for $109.50.

Because cameras were portable and fast working, photographers started shooting fashion for magazines. Oscar Barnack was inspired to start using the scrap ends of 35 mm motion picture film in Germany to build his first Leica Prototype, but it was not the first 35 mm still camera. That honor goes to the Tourist Multiple which took 750 18 × 24mm exposures (or frames half the size of the ultimate 35 mm camera film format).

Unfortunately WWI started and had a big impact on the German camera industry. Even though there were more uses of photography for reporting purposes, Japan became less reliant on Germany for supplies and started to call on the United States for roll film and England for plates.

In 1915 the Technicolor two-color process (followed by the three-color process in 1932) started to pave the way for expectations of incredibly vivid color photography, although it was used exclusively for motion pictures. The Speed Graphic became the standard press camera as newspapers started to regularly include halftone reproductions. Kodak tried its first hand at color photography with the introduction of two-color Kodachrome.

Civilian options grew as a benefit of expanding military technology such as the introduction of the tunable radio in 1916. Kodak continued to expand the product line with the No. 3A Autographic Special Model B, which featured the first coupled rangefinder to assist with focusing.

Military needs continued and Kodak’s most prolific scientist, Dr. C. E. Kenneth Mees, predicted wars would be supported by photography for tactical and documentary reasons. That prediction was followed up in 1917 when the Folmer division of Kodak developed an aerial camera and Japan Optical Co. (later Nippon Kogaku, K.K., and eventually Nikon) made their first lenses for aerial plate cameras.

The Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 was a period of experiment and general social upheaval that spawned the emergence of the Soviet camera industry during the late 1920s and early 1930s.

The Treaty of Versailles in 1919 ended WWI and started Prohibition. German companies attempted to revive their camera industry, and began working together in new ways, i.e., Nettel and Contessa who merged to form Contessa-Nettel. Their first product, the Contessa-Nettle Piccolette 127 Vest Pocket camera with its 75 mm f/4.5 fixed focus lens was introduced and became widely used as a press camera because of its portability and simple viewfinder. But some industry members resisted the idea of merging, such as entrepreneur Dr. August Nagel who laid the groundwork to create the basic camera that evolved into the Super Ikonta family of rangefinder cameras. He left to form his own company, Nagel Camera Werke, after Zeiss integrated some of the other German camera manufacturers.

One good by-product of the war was the introduction of personal first aid in the form of the Band-Aid in 1920. The first radio station KDKA went live, and women won the right to vote (in the United States). Kodak released the Brownie in six colors as well as Boy Scout and Camp Fire Girl models. This was also the era of the automobile. With more than six million vehicles on the American roads, and growing rapidly (up to more than 23 million in the decade to follow), Eastman sent professional photographers around the country to identify the first Kodak Picture Spots, which were marked with signs announcing “Picture Ahead.”

The German photographic industry continued with its rapid attempt to recover by flooding Japan with post-war camera deliveries, but market resistance caused the final step in German company consolidations. The Carl Zeiss Foundation continued pursuit of a unified group of companies in 1920 by merging Ica, Contessa-Nettle, Goertz, and Ernemann ultimately forming Zeiss Ikon AG in 1926.

After seeing so many images of World War I, the public started to consider photography to be normal and the rotogravure process made the pictorial section of the Sunday papers more practical. In addition, it caused the birth of a number of illustrated magazines. It was in these printed pages that wartime photographers were given a chance to become the first major wave of news, sports, and documentary photographers.

Reinhold Heidecke and Paul Franke founded Franke und Heidecke Werkstatt für Feinmechanik und Optik (F & H workshop for fine mechanics and optics, which ultimately became Rollei) in Braunschweig, Germany, and a year later announced the Heidoscope, a three lens 6 × 13 cm format stereo plate camera, which produced a pair of 45 × 10mm images making three-dimensional photography a possibility. The Rolleido-scope or roll film version appeared about three years later.

The years to follow were a bit slow for the industry and an anti-trust ruling required Kodak to sell six companies (two camera, one paper, three plate). The public was entertained both by the photography in the form of the first 3D movie and also when the discovery of King Tut was documented and publicized. As if that was not enough, the peanut butter and jelly sandwich was introduced making a perfect portable snack for photographers on the go.

Although Deardorff had been approached in 1920 by some photographers and architects in Chicago and asked to make an 8 × 10” view camera with movements for their work, it was not until his eighth version in 1923 that he had a winner. Based on English folding designs of the 1880s, the Deardorff view camera with its extreme flexibility beat the competition for years to come.

In 1924 the first low-level light photography became available when the Ernemann Camera Factory introduced the Ermanox, which utilized the phenomenally fast f/2 Ernostar lens. It allowed documentary photographers to show events that could never have been photographed in the past, and was most famously used by Erich Salomon who, more than anyone else, can claim to have invented photojournalism.

Japan’s economy was suffering, so the government implemented high tariffs on many photographic products. This forced more domestic development like the Pearlette, the Japanese imitation of the Vest Pocket (from Konica) and the acceptance of Voigtländer/Zeiss cameras using 120 film to get 8 or 16 shots versus 8 shots on 127 film.

Advancements in 1925 came from Ansco who offered semi-auto spring wind advance and the AutoAnsco wind, which advanced film each time after the shutter fired. But it was the E. Leitz Company who created a worldwide sensation with the introduction of the Leica 35 mm camera. The Model A, the first production Leica, featured a relatively fast f/3.5 lens and a range of shutter speeds from 1/5 to 1/500 second. Although 35 mm film was considered too small by some, this was the start of something really big. But it would take time for 35mm to become accepted, which was evidenced by the fact that Ihagee was producing more than 1000 roll film cameras per day.

Ansco made big news when it announced the Memo camera in 1926. The first mass produced 35 mm was introduced to the United States along with the Ansco Photo Vanity, which included makeup in the camera’s case lid. 1926 was also the year that the former Rietzschel cameras (opal, bag Clack, Kosmo Clack, special Clack) finally started to carry the Agfa rhombus to identify the new brand name.

In 1927 the first talkie motion picture and the television debuted. Lindberg crossed the Atlantic and we were introduced to PEZ candy. A new weapon was brought into the war against disease when penicillin was introduced, and the world found a new form of entertainer when Mickey Mouse appeared in his first cartoon.

The photo industry crossed continents when Agfa merged with Ansco. Their first introduction was the Billy 120 roll film camera which shot 6 × 9 cm images and stayed in production up until the 1960s. Kodak responded to the Ansco Photo Vanity with their own line of Vanity cameras in five colors—Bluebird, Cockatoo, Jenny Wren, Redbreast, and Sea Gull—and later as a Vanity ensemble with camera, lipstick holder, compact, mirror, and change purse. In Japan Nichi-Doku Shashinki Shoten (Japan-Germany Camera Company ultimately to become Minolta) was started, and in Germany the Rolleiflex twin lens camera, the first camera to really influence the professional photographer to shift from sheet to roll film, was introduced.

Lots of innovations were to be found in 1929. They included the car radio, frozen food, the Yo-Yo, bubble gum, and the first commercially available flashbulb, the Vacublitz. First introduced by Johannes Ostermeier in Germany, it was later manufactured by GE and sold in the United States as the GE20, and private labeled for Sashalite in England. Despite its innovations, the U.S. Stock Market crash is the most memorable event of that year.

Even so, the photo industry overseas was on a roll. The first EFTE plate cameras were produced in limited numbers by the Foto-Trud cooperative in Moscow, the first Nifcalette (Minolta) 127 fixed focus folding Vest Pocket camera came out of Japan, and Zeiss Ikon started a series of folding roll film cameras, which brought prominence back to Germany.

Who could not like 1930? Sliced bread hit the market, and to celebrate 50 years of business, Gold-colored anniversary Kodak cameras were advertised as free for 12 year olds. Over half a million were given away in the first two to three days.

The Fotokor-1, a 9 × 12 cm folding plate camera was produced by the State Optical Mechanical Works (Gosudarstvennyi Optiko-Mekhanicheskii Zavod, GOMZ) and almost one million were made before the next war. Seiko Precision, formerly Seikosha, founded in 1892 as the clock-manufacturing arm of Seiko Corporation, started to produce lens shutters. The Speed Graphic with both rangefinder and flash gun sync were introduced in the United States, while the 6 × 9 cm Voigtländer Bessa roll camera became a German classic.

However, the world market was captivated with the Leica I: the first Leica camera with threaded lens flange and a highspeed interchangeable Hektor 50mm f/2.5 lens. This new lens mount with an M39 × 1 mm thread continued in the Leica line up until the M3 appeared in 1954. It is still in use today on many enlarging lenses.

America was proud of the new Empire State Building in 1931 and Kodak brought precision engineering to America from Kodak AG (Glanz Film Factory and Nagel Camera Works) by starting production of the Nagel Vollenda and the lightweight Brownie 620.

The first Japanese lenses for conventional photography came out in 1931 (Hexar by Konica, using Zeiss glass), and in Germany, the Baby Rollei 44 was born. The Baby Rollei, which used 127 film to make superslides (4 × 4 cm) was popular until around 1938. In the meantime, Voigtländer introduced the Brillant 6 × 9 cm roll film reflex camera, along with the scale focusing Bessa I.

Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, Willard Van Dyke, Edward Weston, et al., formed Group f/64 dedicated to “straight photographic thought and production” in 1932. In unique contrast, in the F. E. Dzerzhinsky Labour Commune (named after Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky, founder of the Soviet secret police), the FED Camera, a copy of the Leica A, was built.

Ihagee Kamerawerk and Steenbergeen & Company introduced the VP Model—a waist level SLR named after the Vest Pocket 645 format. The Leica II with a built-in, coupled rangefinder was also announced. Twin lens reflex (TLR) users were delighted to hear about the new Rolleiflex. Its mechanical system could finally place twelve 6 × 6 cm shots on 120 film that was originally intended for 6 × 9 cm spacing. Weston introduced the Universal 617, the first light meter with a photoelectric cell bringing with it levels of exposure accuracy previously unknown.

The Zeiss Contax I was introduced to compete with Leica and offered faster lenses and a faster top shutter speed. Japan had not yet accepted 35 mm as a quality format like the United States, so Kodak bought Nagel Camera Werke and started to design a more affordable quality camera. But the year ended sadly for Kodak when George Eastman, aged 77, wrote a suicide note—”To my friends: My work is done. Why wait?”—and then shot himself.

Post-war times had their better moments, even during a depression. Prohibition ended and music was heard for the first time over FM radio and in the form of stereo records. Exacta came out with the first roll film SLR and the first Minolta brand camera appeared in 1933. Minolta’s Plaubel-type camera featured a side-strut folding design, a 105 mm f/4.5 lens made by Asahi, 1-1/1200 second shutter speeds, a built-in rangefinder, and it used sheet film or plates.

Coincidentally Plaubel Makina introduced their Model 2 body with a coupled rangefinder, which stayed in production with only small variations for the next 27 years. Not to be outdone, the Zeiss Super Ikonta folding spring-out design camera with rangefinder appeared as did the Voigtländer Superb roll film TLR.

The cheeseburger and the board game Monopoly were introduced in 1934. It was also the year that the modern 35mm cassette (officially called the Kodak film magazine) was introduced by Eastman Kodak. Prior to this date, manufacturers of 35 mm cameras provided proprietary cassettes for their cameras. The FED (Leica II copy) became the first Soviet small-format camera to be mass-produced and only the second major Soviet camera of any type. And out in a small Japanese village located at the foot of Mt. Fuji, Fuji Photo Film Company, Ltd. was founded.

Zeiss introduced the art-deco styled Ikoflex TLR, but Kodak finally produced the Retina. The new Kodak “People’s Camera” brought German engineering to the United States for $54 at a time when a Leica sold for $300. Even though the No. 2 Brownie only cost $2.50, the Jiffy Six-20 cost $6.75 and the Vest Pocket Special cost $25, there were more than 60,000 Retinas sold to “serious amateurs” during its first two years of production.

Who could forget 1935; the year canned beer was introduced? The Soviet Union came out with the 6 × 9cm Turist, 645 Reporter, and large-format (13 × 18cm and 18 × 24cm) film cameras. After the invention of a universal swing-and-tilt frame mechanism, engineer Nikolaus Karpf perfected Linhof’s camera with the introduction of the first Technika (named from Technische Kamera).

Photography was first used for political means when the Farm Security Administration (FSA) brought Roy Stryker in to publicize the effects of the Depression and the forces of nature in the America. His photography got legislative support for recovery. Some of the most memorable photographs of all time were produced over the six years that Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Arthur Rothstein, et al., photographed rural hardships.

Color became a reality for amateur motion picture photographers when the first full color version of Kodachrome was introduced in a 16mm format. Leica continued to evolve with the Leica IIIa, which offered a 1/1000 second top shutter speed. Rollei introduced the Rolleicord, which featured the Triotar lens and came in at half the price of the Rolleiflex. Zeiss announced the Contaflex 35 mm TLR with a built-in meter.

The first regular TV broadcast was made in 1936 on NBC-TV NY, and the first color negative film was announced by Agfa. Agfacolor-Neu color film had no less than 278 patented features in its design. Even though the Depression was not over, Leica sold more than 25,000 cameras that year at an average price of $300 each. This was quite remarkable considering a new Plymouth automobile cost only about $400.

But International Research Corporation appealed more to the masses with the Argus Model A priced at $12.50. The first low-cost, easy-to-use 35 mm film camera made out of Bakelite sold 30,000 units in the first couple of days. Pretty good considering the average weekly U.S. salary was only $25.

By 1936 the Contax II began producing the world’s first camera with a combined viewfinder and rangefinder. The Hansa, built by Seiki Kogaku Kenkyusho (Canon) Precision Optical Instruments Laboratory, appeared as a Leica copy design concept with a Nikkor 50 mm f/3.5. The Reflex-Korell, 6 × 6cm SLR was introduced as was the Ihagee Kine Exacta—the first 35mm SLR. The Exacta incorporated an amazing array of features including a 20 speed shutter covering a range from 12 seconds to 1/1000 second.

Kodak finally came to market with the 35 mm Kodachrome, and LIFE magazine was first published opening the door for other photo feature magazines.

Some found the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge in 1937 to be an amazing engineering accomplishment and some were equally impressed with the production of the 2,000,000th Voigtländer lens. The LeCoultre Compass, one of the most complex and rare cameras of all time, was produced in very limited quantities.

A more commercially successful camera, the Argus C 35 mm camera (or the “Brick”) appeared and two million were sold during its initial year. The Minolta Flex was the first TLR manufactured in Japan and spy cameras were first seen in the form of the Riga Minox. This 130g marvel was built by Valsts Electro-Techniska Fabrika Latvia, and used a 15 mm lens, with a fixed aperture of f/3.5, to make 8 × 11mm images on 9.5 mm film. Exposure was controlled by varying the shutter speed from 1/2 to 1/1000 second. This basic design worked successfully in different models over the next 50 years.

More would be heard from the great grandson of Arvid Viktor Hasselblad, but after years of privileged exposure to the photo industry and travels, he opened his own photo shop, aptly named Victor Foto.

Freeze-dried coffee came on the scene in 1938 and the first practical commercial strobe was invented by Dr. (Doc) Harold Edgerton. Kodak introduced the first photoelectric exposure control (Electric Eye) 620 camera, aptly named the Super Kodak Six-20, Voigtländer came out with the Brilliant TLR, and the Russian FED-S (Cyrillic letter C, which corresponds to the English letter S), now included an additional top speed of 1/1000 second along with a faster f/2 lens.

Although the invention of the helicopter was exciting in 1939, its first use was for WWII which started that same year. This meant a change in the relationship between Agfa and Ansco, ultimately causing General Analine & Film Corp (GAF) to be formed many years later. German camera supplies dried up so the UK and the United States started making more of their own products. The first of many of these new products for Kodak were 2 × 2 Ready Mounts and the Kodaslide Projector. The Soviets managed to produce the 100,000th FED camera and Argus announced the extremely popular Argus C3 selling more than two million units over the next 28 years.

The year 1940 marked the end of production of German cameras as all facilities were shifted over to war-time requirements. Japan was caught up too as the first Minolta-made lens with the Rokkor name appeared on a portable aerial camera (it was a 200mm f4.5 Rokkor copy of the Zeiss Tessar design). And the Swedish government approached Victor Hasselblad asking him to produce a camera identical to a recovered German 7 × 9 cm aerial camera. He built a better version called the HK7 a year later.

However, all cameras were not built for war. The Anniversary Speed Graphic integrated bed and body track rails allowing compression and focus for wide angle lenses, the Falcon-Abbey Electricamera, was the first camera with a flashbulb holder; in Japan, Mamiya Camera Co. built the Mamiya 6, a 120 roll film camera that moved the film plane to focus.

Back in the United States, the Office of the Alien Property Custodian (APC) instructed the U.S. government to sever all relationships with Agfa in Germany, and as a result took over Ansco during the war.

Over the following four years the world was amazed by the completion of Mount Rushmore and shocked by the attack on Pearl Harbor. In 1943 Kodak introduced its first true color negative film (in response to Agfacolor) just in time to photograph the first holiday season featuring Silly Putty, the Slinky, and the T-shirt.

By 1944 Ansco introduced Anscochrome, the first user processable color film. America and the world were captivated by the images shot by Margaret Bourke-White, Robert Capa, Carl Mydans, and W. Eugene Smith who covered the war forLIFE magazine. But, in 1945, nobody was ready to see the unbelievable photos of the atomic bomb. Fortunately, it marked the end of WWII.

The war had a disastrous effect on the people and the economy of two of the largest contributors to the photographic world. Allied Forces ruled that Japanese-made cameras could not be sold to the Japanese public until the company’s overseas volumes were large enough for them to be considered a top camera exporter.

The treaty at Yalta positioned the American lines in Germany west, so Jena and Dresden fell under Soviet occupation, taking almost the entire Carl Zeiss Foundation with it. The Soviets claimed reparations and removed 94 percent of the Carl Zeiss tooling and factories, relocating them to the USSR as Kiev camera works began producing low-quality copies of the Contax and other Zeiss Ikon products.

But some of Zeiss survived and moved to Oberkochen where the German camera industry restarted. American GIs were anxious to use the Contax II and the Leica IIIc. In the newly founded firm Optische Werke Oberkochen—subse-quently becoming Carl Zeiss Stiftung—126 of the former management and staff resumed operations.

Although the Japanese photo industry was basically destroyed, they were encouraged to rebuild and formed a coalition of companies. Copal began production of lens shutters and Kashio Sisakojo (Casio Computer Company Ltd.) was started.

From the USSR, Krasnogorsk Mechanical Works (Kras-nogorskii Mekhanicheskii Zavod; KMZ) brought out the Zorkii (referred to in English as Zorki), a Russian word meaning “sharp-sighted,” and the FED 35mm camera was reintroduced (both were Leica II copies). In addition, Moskva (Russian for Moscow) introduced copies of the Zeiss Ikonta and Super Ikonta line.

In the meantime, the baby boom was going strong in the United States. Families were expanding and everyone wanted to use photography to share their special moments. So Kodak introduced Ektachrome, the first color film that photographers could process themselves with special chemical kits.

Japan still struggled with the photographic economy and for a time had to stop camera film production so that X-ray film could be made, but great progress was made in the rest of the world. Cambo BV was founded in The Netherlands and became the first European studio camera manufacturer to produce an all-metal large format camera. Third generation Swiss photographer Carl Koch wanted a camera for universal use and to satisfy the quick precise changing needs of the photographer, so he developed and patented the Sinar camera system. The Pacemaker Speed Graphic post-war model added new features to a design that continued for four more camera generations.

Perhaps one of the most remarkable events in 1947 was Dr. Edwin Land’s announcement of the Polaroid Land Model 95, the first instant camera. Another group of photo enthusiasts became infatuated for the next 25 years with the Stereo Realist Camera from the David White Company. A glimpse of things to come popped up on the radar when Bell Labs announced the invention of the transistor.

After spending the war building sensitive clock movements, Victor Hasselblad introduced the Hasselblad 1600F, the first 6 × 6 cm consumer SLR with interchangeable Kodak lenses, film magazines, and viewfinders. Equally ambitious but totally unsuccessful was Bell & Howell’s Foton. This was a first attempt by an American camera manufacturer to create a world-class 35 mm still camera with a 6fps spring motor and T-stops. Its career was short-lived even when the initial price of $700 dropped to $500.

The first 35 mm cameras started to appear in Japan, reflecting the beginning of post-war industry. Pentax introduced the automatic diaphragm in a lens and Mamiya announced the Mamiyaflex, the first TLR with flash sync. Minox became available to the general public and started selling the Model II (A) while Nikon’s first camera, the Nikon (later called model I) featured a 24 × 32 mm format and was described as some to have a Contax exterior and Leica interior.

Carl Zeiss Dresden (East Germany) introduced the world’s first 35 mm SLR camera body with a built-in pentaprism viewfinder for unreversed image viewing. The Contax S (Spiegelflex or mirror reflex) featured a horizontal shutter and M42 × 1mm screw lens mount. This lens mount was quite remarkable as it became a “universal” lens mount for many and was most notably adopted by Asahi in 1957 when they changed from their original 1952 version M37 × 1mm screw mount. The universal or Pentax screw mount is still in use today. Due to the Zeiss post-war split some Contax cameras were also sold under the Pentagon brand, which later changed to Practica under the KW Company.

In 1949 Nikon moved closer to adopting the now standard 35mm format with the Nikon M. Its 24 × 34mm image allowed it to work with modern slide mounting equipment. This was also the year the Graflex Graflok back was introduced. With a metal focusing hood and removable ground glass in a frame, it became the standard for all 4 × 5” view cameras.

In addition, Ilford Ltd.—the British manufacturer of monochrome plates, films, and papers—introduced a unique 35mm ivory color enameled camera called the Advocate. Manufactured by Kennedy Instruments and utilizing a semi-wide angle 35mm f/4.5 Dallmeyer lens, the body, with the exception of the viewfinder housing and the back, was a single piece die-cast aluminum pressing that gave the camera exceptional strength and durability.

In 1950 the credit card was born. LIFE magazine photographers discovered Japanese lenses (Nikon), which they used later in the Korean War. While Germany and Japan continued to recover from the war, this decade marked the Golden years of American (mostly Kodak) 35mm cameras. Stereo cameras became especially popular, but a survey showed that overall only 16 percent of photos were taken in color at the time.

Hasselblad introduced more robust engineering into the newly designed 1600F but kept the focal-plane shutter. Leica added variable flash sync to the model IIIf, while in Japan Ricoh announced the Ricohflex III TLR, the first truly inexpensive Japanese camera priced at ¥5800 (compared to most others costing ¥20,000).

The introduction of color television and Superglue occurred in 1951. The first video tape recorder was demonstrated at Bing Crosby Labs, and the world became aware of Univac—the first commercial computer, which weighed in at eight tons. The Nikon finally conformed to the 24 × 36 mm full frame 35 mm format standard when introducing the Nikon S. But the big news for photographers was that the slow transition away from flammable cellulose nitrate base, which had started many years earlier, was complete and all film was now Safety Film.

Although Victor Hasselblad had spent time at Zeiss Jena in 1930, he finally was able to adopt Zeiss lenses for his cameras in 1952. Meanwhile in Japan the Canon IVSb appeared as the first 35 mm rangefinder with X-sync for use with strobes (strobos in Japan). The Asahiflex Model I, the first Japanese 35 mm SLR built for mass production, featured a 50mm f/3.5 lens, 1/25 to 1/500 second shutter speeds, and a waist level finder.

The transistor radio was announced in 1953. The photo industry in Japan still lagged a bit as some components were in short supply. So Citizen Watch Company picked up the slack and began production of shutters. Rapid film transport was first demonstrated in the 35 mm compact Voigtländer Vanessa and the West German part of Carl Zeiss finally got back in business with their first 35 mm SLR, the Contaflex, which was a leaf shutter model and the first 35mm SLR to incorporate a behind-the-lens light meter.

The Asahiflex II was the world’s first SLR with an instant return mirror. That same year, 1954, Japan Camera and Optical Instruments Inspection and Testing Institute (later called the Japan Camera Industry Institute; JCII) was formed to set standards and eliminate the image of poor Japanese quality. At this time the TLR became the most popular camera design in Japan.

It was also the year Leica announced the Leica M3 with its quick-change bayonet mount and bright-line frame viewfinder for 50, 90, and 135 mm lenses.

Surveys in the United States showed a new level of prosperity. The 53 million American families who owned 38 million cameras were on track to take over 2 billion photographs a year. The shift from 4 × 5” cameras to 35 mm was accelerated by the introduction of Tri-X film.

Photographers lined up for the opening day of Disneyland in 1955. Velcro was introduced but did not quite interest the public as much as the Kodak Stereo Camera, which debuted at half the price of the Realist (signaling the beginning of its end). New camera brand names began to appear as Japanese companies were encouraged by the size of the market and the confidence that consumers were starting to develop photographs with Japanese products. The Miranda T (Orion Camera) was the first Japanese 35 mm SLR with a pentaprism which, as a bonus, also happened to be interchangeable. The Olympus Wide with the first fixed 35 mm lens gave ideas about future point-and-shoot (P&S) cameras.

Elvis gyrated on Ed Sullivan’s TV show in 1956, but fortunately the TV remote control had just been invented so nobody needed to move from the couch to adjust the volume. Kodak introduced an amazingly tolerant Verichrome Pan film, which made taking quality pictures truly a snap. And at the same time Type C (color negative) and Type R (color reversal) print material standards were established so labs across the United States could produce better color prints more reliably.

The world entered the space age in 1957 when Sputnik orbited the globe. Asahi introduced the Pentax, the world’s first 35 mm SLR with right-hand rapid-wind lever, the world’s first 35 mm SLR with microprisms on a focusing screen, and the first Japanese SLR with a fixed pentaprism. Big camera news was Hasselblad’s complete redesign of the system and utilization of a Compur shutter in the Hasselblad 500C, which was followed by the supreme wide angle (SWA) in 1954 and the 500EL motorized camera in 1965. In the meantime, Mamiya announced the Mamiyaflex C, the first interchangeable lens TLR and the Mamiya Magazine, a 35 mm camera with an interchangeable back, moving film plane, and auto shutter cock actuated while winding film. With the Nikon SP Nikon found a way to make a single shutter speed dial handle the entire range of settings, where previously it required everyone else to use two dials.

The Integrated Circuit (IC) showed up in 1958 and the world was in for some big changes. Rangefinder cameras were the standard now, but many pros discovered that their exotic high-speed lenses could focus the light from the sun and burn holes in the camera’s cloth focal-plane shutter. Manufacturers responded with alternate materials in new models like the Canon VL (stainless steel) and the Nikon SP (titanium).

Leica took the next step with a new bright-line frame viewfinder for 35, 50, and 90 mm lenses in the M2. The Mamiya Elca became the first 35 mm camera with match-needle metering, the Minolta SR-2 became the first 35 mm SLR with auto diaphragm, and Yashica hit the market with the Yashica 44 while the Primo Jr. came from Tokyo Kogaku Kikai K.K. (Topcon) and Zenza Bronica introduced the first Japanese 6 × 6cm SLR.

By 1959 Nikon decided to discontinue the rangefinder camera, but response from press and magazine photographers kept them in production with Nikon SPs for another five years. Fortunately that did not stop them from introducing the Nikon F, the first system SLR, which lasted for fourteen years and is currently in its sixth generation. Canon attempted to introduce a 35 mm SLR but the Canonflex only lasted about three months. In Germany Agfa announced the Agfa Optima, the first fully automatic 35 mm camera, and Voigtländer delivered the Zoomar, the first production zoom lens (36-82 mm f/2.8) for 35 mm still cameras (first in Bessamatic and Exakta mounts but later in 42M × 1 mm screw).

The swing lens panoramic Widelux 140 was brought to market by the Panon Camera Company. But the Japanese industry was delivering products at a haphazard pace so in an unprecedented alliance, the Japan Camera Industry Association was formed with 44 member companies. They all agreed to limit new product introductions to only twice per year and launched the first Japan Camera Show, which was attended by 130,000 people during its 6-day run.

In 1960 Konica and Mamiya, together with Copal, developed the vertical Hi Synchro shutter, which was capable of running at speeds as fast as 1/2000 second. Its initial use was in the Konica F, the first 35 mm SLR with a built-in, external selenium cell meter. That was the same year as the Lord Martian (Okaya Kogaku), which had a selenium meter around the front of the lens designed to compensate for filters. Miranda came on the scene with the Sensorex, the first 35mm SLR to provide full-aperture metering, and Olympus showed the AutoEye, the first compact 35mm Japanese camera with automatic exposure. Around the same time Voigtländer’s Dynamatic became the first 35mm compact camera in the world with a fully automatic programmed shutter.

The Asahi Pentax S2 of 1961 featured a detachable CdS meter. For its 35mm rangefinder series, Canon introduced the fastest lens in the world, the 50mm f/0.95 lens. The Contax IIa and IIIa were discontinued bringing to a close the era of rangefinder Contax cameras. At the same time the first mass production camera line was built in Japan. It was a great year for film with the introduction of Fujichrome 100, Fujicolor 50, and Kodachrome II.

When John Glenn became the first American astronaut to go into orbit in 1962, bringing a camera was an afterthought. An Ansco Autoset (Minolta Hi-Matic) 35mm camera was purchased in a local drug store and hastily modified so it could be more easily operated while he was working in space in his pressure suit. While other cameras have been used in space, the Hasselblad 500C was the first to be properly integrated into the program (in total, six special different models were built for NASA). Back in Japan, the Taron Marquis was the first camera with a built-in CdS meter shortly followed by the Minolta SR-7.

In 1963 The Kodak Instamatic 100 introduced the world to the first successful drop-in loading 126 cartridge camera—all for only $15.95. After a 10-year run the records show that more than 70 million cameras were sold, so it is not surprising that the Instamatic-type camera signaled the start of the end for German viewfinder cameras. That year, Voigtländer introduced the Vitrona as the first 35mm compact camera with built-in electronic flash. The Topcon RE Super became the first 35mm SLR with a focal-plane shutter and through the lens (TTL) meter, and Olympus announced the PenF, the first half-frame 35mm SLR. Also, underwater photographers were relieved to see that Nikon had purchased the Calypso camera from La Spirotechnique and refined it for reintroduction as the Nikonos I. The other big news was Polaroid’s introduction of the first auto exposure instant camera, the Automatic 100, along with the first instant color print film, Polacolor.

The public was glued to their television sets in 1964 not only to watch The Beatles first appearance but also to see the results of the first high-quality electronic still photo transmission from Ranger 7 in orbit around the moon. At this time 220 film came on to the scene and cut down on the number of rolls of 120 film that photographers had to carry. Germany continued to lose its share of consumer cameras, which mostly featured lens shutters. As a result Zeiss merged the two shutter manufacturers it owned—namely Prontor and Compur—at the location of the Prontor Werk.

The CD was born back in 1965 but it would be a few more years before user recording could be a reality. Konica introduced the Auto-Reflex, the first shutter priority auto exposure SLR and the Koni-Omega Rapid, its 6 × 7 cm rangefinder with 120 and 220 backs. Minolta was the first to make it easy to use 220 film by featuring a 120/220 switchable pressure plate in the Autocord CDs TLR. Both Olympus with the 35EM and Yashica with the Electro Half announced the first Japanese electronic shuttered cameras. Leica brought its precision to the first Leica 35 mm SLR, the Leicaflex, and Sylvania announced the Flashcube. But the most memorable camera of the year was Polaroid’s instantly successful $20 Swinger instant camera.

The first time anyone saw a hand-held calculator was in 1966. It was also the first time a lens with aspherical elements was produced in commercial quantities; the Leica M-mount Noctilux had a high-speed 50mm f/1.2 lens. In Japan, Canon delivered the Pellix, a 35 mm SLR with a fixed position semi-silvered pellicle mirror that did not move during exposure thus eliminating mirror noise and vibration. It also reduced the light that reached the film because it had to be transmitted through the mirror. While pellicle mirrors work well, the Pellix was not a great commercial success (and neither have any other cameras that followed using this same technology).

In Germany, Rollei came out with two cameras: their first 6 × 6cm SLR system camera, the Rolleiflex SL 66, and the smallest 35mm camera at the time, the Rollei 35. Despite its relatively high price, the Rollei 35 started the P&S revolution and sold more than 1 million cameras.

Technology permitted the first heart transplant, made the floppy disk drive a reality, and delivered the world’s fastest film, Anscochrome 500, in 1967. It was also the year that marked the last Zeiss Ikon SLR, the Contarex Super Electronic (SE). Advanced for its time with behind-the-lens light metering, an electronically actuated shutter, and an accessory motor drive, it also was designed to accept an optional Tele Sensor that converted it into possibly the first aperture preferred automatic SLR. At the same time, in Japan, in spite of a reasonably positive track record, the Japanese camera industry (JCII) raised the standards bar just a bit higher to assure even higher levels of performance. These standards were used to convince everybody once and for all that “Made in Japan” meant high-quality.

By 1968 the first independent lens companies started to deliver lenses that could fit on different camera mounts via a method of interchangeable lens adapter systems. Soligor (Mirax Shoji) and Sun Optical were the first, but others soon followed. Konica delivered the AutoreflexT, the first TTL shutter priority automatic exposure 35 mm SLR. Leica improved their SLR and became the first to have selective light metering through the lens in the Leicaflex SL. It was also a big year for medium format roll film cameras in Japan with the introduction of the Kowa Six, Fujica G690 RF, and Rittreck, among others. At this time Yashica started selling the TL electro-X, the first 35 mm SLR with an electronically timed shutter.

ARPANET appeared in 1969. It was the first practical computer networking system and the precursor to today’s Internet. Although nobody could imagine what the Internet would become, our thoughts were out in space as we watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon and marveled at the photographs he and his team brought back using their highly modified motorized Hasselblad Electronic Data Cameras (HEDC). The HEDC was equipped with a specially designed 60 mm Biogon lens with polarizer and a glass (Reseau) plate in contact with the film providing reference crosses that could be used to calculate various dimensions of parts of the scene. All twelve HEDCs taken to the moon are still there, only the film magazines were carried home. Back home on earth, Asahi continued to follow the medium format roll camera trend by introducing their scaled up version of a 35 mm SLR, the Pentax 67.

Although Nikon was the professional’s choice in 35 mm SLR cameras, Canon took their first successful step into the high end of the market introducing the all black Canon F-1 camera with its extensive system of lenses and accessories. Light metering improved dramatically with the introduction of the silicon photocell, and the Fujica ST701 was the first 35 mm SLR to utilize it. Like Asahi the year before, Mamiya followed on the path of medium format roll cameras by introducing the Mamiya RB67, a 120/220 camera with revolving back.

The first e-mail was sent in 1971, and the Japanese government lifted a long-standing restriction on importation of color film, which opened the door for Kodak to expand into Asia. Asahi delivered the Pentax Electro Spotmatic (ES), the first aperture priority auto exposure and electronic focal-plane shuttered 35 mm SLR. Leica announced its first rangefinder camera with a built-in, selective area exposure meter, the M5. But the big news for consumers was Kodak’s attempt to improve on the Instamatic concept by scaling down cameras and film to a 110 size cartridge. The new Pocket Instamatic format with its 13 × 17mm image was well received, but never as successful as the full-size 126.

Polaroid took the next bold step in instant photography in 1972. The SX70 SLR camera could fold conveniently flat yet it delivered high-quality instant prints on a revolutionary new film. No more peel-apart packets. With the new system you could actually watch the self-contained print process in daylight. But all was not good for the German industry as Zeiss closed its Braunschweig plant and finally ended camera production.

Although most people did not know it, high-quality digital imaging systems were used regularly in 1973. The first commercial charge-coupled device (CCD) based digital cameras from Fairchild Imaging were fit into orbiting satellites and became the new “eye in the sky.” Although the light-emitting diode (LED) had been invented two years earlier, the Fujica ST801 became the first 35 mm SLR to take advantage of the LED’s bright illumination and low power consumption. Large format mass production ended in the United States when Graflex sold its tooling to Toyo Camera Company of Japan where they still continue to make 4 × 5″ and 8 × 10″ cameras.

A year after the oil crisis of 1973 the United States was affected by an increase in prices across the board in all markets. With higher prices, sales of camera bodies and lenses slowed down, so manufacturers looked to other ways to sell more and discovered there were great opportunities in providing new accessories. It was a good year for technology as Rollei delivered the Rolleiflex SLX, the first medium format electronic camera system. As a way to compete with Japanese pricing, Zeiss, Yashica, and Porsche Groupe teamed up to introduce the incredibly sophisticated Contax RTS 35 mm SLR camera system.

The first apochromatically corrected production lens, the Leitz Apo-Telyt-R 180mm f/3.4, came out in 1975 as did the revival of the 6 × 4.5 cm format with the introduction of the Mamiya M645. Olympus delivered the OM-2, the first camera to measure light off-the-film (OTF) plane during exposure, and in 1976 Fujifilm introduced Fujicolor 400 the world’s first ISO 400 color print film.

We saw the future in 1977. The Apple I computer was born and the first Star Wars movie (which turned out to be the fourth in the series) hit the big screen. Konica showed the world that autofocus (AF) was possible and delivered the C35 AF camera. Canon managed to fit a basic computer CPU chip into the very successful Canon AE-1 35 mm auto SLR.

A year later in 1978 Canon stepped up to announce the next generation and delivered the A-1. The A-1 had more automatic features than had ever been seen before, and they were all controlled from the first camera-based microprocessor system. This year also marked the end of 40 years of the universal screw mount (M42 × 1 mm) when Pentax converted their camera lenses to the K-mount bayonet (although Cosina would revive the mount about 25 years later).

The Sony Walkman first appeared in 1979 and Canon showed the AF35M (also called SureShot and AutoBoy). It was the first auto everything (expose, focus, wind, and rewind) camera that also incorporated an infrared (IR) system to allow it to focus in the dark.

Personal computers started to appear everywhere by 1981. IBM had its first desktop PC running on Microsoft DOS, and the floppy disk drive started to shrink down to 3.5″. The magnetic disc took another form as Sony used it as a recording medium in their first CCD-based digital camera, the Mavica. Pentax showed the ME-F, the first 35 mm SLR with AF (which only worked that way with their special 35-70 mm lens). Although it was a limited success, other manufacturers followed with similar designs.

The Instamatic concept took another twist in 1982 when the disc format was announced. The idea of providing 15 8 × 10 mm shots in a flat cartridge was clever but image quality was only good on small prints and the system only lasted about 8 years. More successful was the introduction of the DX encoding system, which provided electronic settings so each roll of film could tell the camera important information (eliminating the need to set film speed, for example) and provide bar code details for labs to read. While Kodak was teaching film to speak, Fujifilm delivered speaking cameras. The Fujifilm Fotorama F55-V could actually tell the photographer what to do in several different languages (“Please use flash”).

Big Brother was watching in 1984 when Apple introduced the Macintosh Computer. Electronic imaging made more of an appearance when Canon and Sony used prototype electronic cameras to record events at the Los Angeles Olympic Games. The first standard for electronic film camera recording media was set on a 47mm magnetic disc, and CD-ROMs also became a reality. Fujifilm completely dropped the name Fujica and also announced the Fuji DL-200, the first modern 35 mm camera with pre-wind (which completely winds the roll out upon loading and rewinds frame by frame during use to protect the exposed shots).

The world first heard about Windows from Microsoft in 1985. Canon introduced the T80 35 mm SLR, which was the first to use pictographic settings, and Minolta shook up the camera industry with the announcement of the Minolta Maxum 7000 (or Alpha ά outside of the United States). Initially called Maxxum, it was the world’s first AF SLR system and was years ahead of everyone else.

By 1986 it became apparent that electronic imaging was challenging the computer with much larger image files than were originally imagined. To help minimize this effect, the Joint Photographic Experts Group was formed and the JPEG standard was established. It was also the year that the first commercial still video camera came to market when Canon announced the RC-701. A year later the first electronic still (not video) camera, the Casio VS-101, was delivered. And on the other end of imaging technology, Fujifilm revived the onetime-use camera (first popularized in the 1950s) with their QuickSnap.

In 1989 the first true-color photography editing system, PhotoMac, came to market. It was also the year Fujifilm introduced the world’s first digital camera with removable media—Fujix Memory Card Camera DS-X.

The world had changed by 1990. Computers and digital imaging were no longer science fiction. The “standard” software for digital photographers, Photoshop V1.07, was on the market and Kodak announced the Photo CD. But the Contax RTS III arrived too and incorporated the most incredible array of technical features in a 35 mm SLR, which included for the first time both a real time vacuum back and a ceramic pressure plate that assured the ultimate in film flatness (the Leica M3 used a ceramic pressure plate and other cameras used vacuum backs, but both had never been used together). Another first was the pre-flash spot meter capability. But Zeiss had more good news. The German Democratic Republic allowed East and West German companies to merge and become one Zeiss Germany.

By 1991 consumer digital still cameras broke the 1 Megapixel barrier, and on the high end Kodak announced the DCS100 Digital, the first Kodak Pro-Digital SLR (with a CCD imager built into a Nikon F3). But the biggest event was when Tim Berners-Lee effectively created the World Wide Web and posted the first code demonstrating the ability to combine text, images, and sound on a Web page.

Apple was still the dominant computer in the graphics and photographic community in 1994, so it only seemed natural that they would introduce the first affordable camera for that market, the Apple QuickTake 100. Limited to a 640 × 480 resolution, the Kodak-built camera was superseded by the model 150 in 1996 and the model 200 (made by Fujifilm) in 1997. The rangefinder camera made a comeback with the introduction of the titanium-bodied Contax G1—the first new model since 1961.

The DVD was introduced in 1995 and Casio shipped the first “low cost” (¥65,000) digital camera with built-in LCD, the QV-10. In 1996 the world had the first look at a format that was destined to become a digital standard. The Advanced Photo System (APS) was announced by Canon, Fujifilm, Kodak, Minolta, and Nikon as the next generation Instamatic that utilized a new compact film cartridge with variable format imaging. It required the design of new cameras and lenses optimized for its relatively small imaging area. This was greeted with only modest success by the public. But the basic dimensions of the APS-C format (25 × 16 mm) were adapted as a standard by CCD manufacturers for digital cameras.

In the final years before the end of the century, professional cameras reached toward new performance levels with the Pentax 645N, which was the world’s first medium format camera with a high-precision AF system. Digital camera backs were available for these pro-grade cameras providing performance and quality levels approaching and, in some cases, equaling films. By the year 2000, the consumer electronic industry started to drive camera development in a direction away from the imaging trends of the traditional camera companies. The market adapted and continues to adapt readily to the conveniences of smaller, more compact cameras and leaves the highest quality and more unusual applications to the limited number of specialized cameras and a unique niche of photographers.