Since the cave-man period, a man wanted to record himself and his surroundings. This is evident if you look at the early cave paintings. In his desire to capture images, his journey of experiments began. They say that necessity is the mother of invention; well they couldn’t have been surer.
The idea of a pin-hole camera first evolved in the 5th and 4th-century BC. However, it was not until the 11th century that an instrument called “Camera Obscura” was invented. This camera obscura was basically a huge dark box/room with a pinhole on one side. Via the pinhole, the images of the lighted area were created on a paper in the darker room. This camera actually did not record images. They were simply projected onto the surface and that too in an inverted form.
During the 16th & 17th-century, the telescopic lens was inserted in it to produce a clearer and crisper image. Also for the convenience of the photographers, these were made portable in the form of sedan chairs. But the main drawback was that the images produced were temporary in nature. They were mainly used for drawing purposes and for making portraits with hands.
In the early 1800s, images were made on paper surfaces on which a light-sensitive material was coated. The process worked. In 1827, the first photographic image was made by Joseph Nicephore Niepce using a camera obscura. It required eight hours of exposure time but would easily deteriorate in light. Therefore the major problem that still remained was how to make the captured images permanent. In a quest to find a solution, a Daguerreotype image was created in the late 1830s. For this image, a copper plate coated with silver was exposed to iodine vapor. This was then exposed to light for about 15 minutes. Although images stayed long enough for common portraiture, they still could not be made permanent. Many experiments with chemicals took place to find out what can make the images permanent. And in an attempt to do so, a new thing was discovered: the paper negatives. These negatives could be used to produce paper prints. This became a high turning point in history as multiple images could now be produced without multiple sittings.
Next came the Emulsion plates/Wet plates which replaced the Daguerreotypes. These were less expensive and required only 2-3 seconds of exposure time. Rather than simple coating used in Daguerreotypes, these used an emulsion process, called the Collodion Process. Since these plates were more sensitive to light, they required to be developed quickly.
In 1870, another major contribution was made with the invention of Dry Plate Process. In this process emulsion of gelatine and silver bromide took place and glass plates were used. Now, this allowed freedom in taking photographs because these dry plates could be taken out, exposed as well as stored. By this time, cameras were made hand-held too. Later in the 1880s, a self-contained box camera was developed. This was called “Kodak Camera”. The problem of constant changing of solid plates was overcome as it had a flexible roll of film. This made it easier to handle for the amateur photographers and the price was quite affordable too. But it was not until 1901 when Kodak Brownie was introduced and was made available in the markets for the middle class. It took black and white shots only. Despite its monochrome display, this camera became instantly popular.
Finally, in 1907 the first color plates were introduced in the market. They used a screen of filters through a blue, green, and red light. These captured images that could be developed on negatives. And with the help of these negatives color photos could be produced with preserved colors.
In 1936, the first multi-layered color film called the Kodachrome was developed. They made the pictures appear even more real and attractive. Simultaneously the Exakta Camera was developed with an in-built flash socket. In 1963, the first color instant film and the first purpose-built underwater camera was developed.
But the real revolution in photography came with the Digital Era. In 1970 the charge-coupled device was invented in the first solid-state video camera. In 1981, the first prototype digital camera was released. This was basically a video camera that froze video frames. Then in 1991, the first digital camera system came into being. It was aimed at photojournalists. With the advancement of technology, lots of cameras have developed over the years. If the technology continues to grow at the same speed, then we can expect many more inventions still to come in the field of photography.