Digital photography

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Digital photography is a type of photography where you use digital technology – not photographic film – to make images of subjects. While traditional photographic film has to be chemically developed in a photo lab, digital photographs can be instantly displayed using computer techniques. They are also easy to store, transmit and alter digitally and if you want to have a more traditional version of your digital image to hang on your wall you can print one using an ordinary computer printer or send the image to a professional printer. Today, many photo labs that develop traditional films will also make high-quality prints of digital images. Normally, you upload your image to them using the Internet, but it is also possible to pass on the image on a USB memory or similar.

Digital photography is just one of several types of digital imaging. It is for instance possible to create digital images using radio telescopes or computer tomography scanners, or by placing a traditional photograph in a scanner.

The advent of digital photography

The first recorded attempt to construct a digital camera was carried out in 1975 by Eastman Kodak engineer Steven Sasson. The camera weighed 3.6 kg, had a resolution of 0.01 megapixels (10,000 pixels) and could only record in black and white. It contained the newly developed CCD (charge-coupled device) image sensor chips from Fairchild Semiconductor and stored its pictures on a cassette tape. When the first picture was taken in December 1975, it took 23 seconds for the camera to capture the image.

The Sasson camera was developed in an age where concept of digitalizing video signals and the concept of digitalizing images using scanners already existed. As early as 1961, Eugene F. Lally of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory described a mosaic photosensor for use as a star sensor for measuring the altitude of a spacecraft, and in 1968 three researchers at Philips Labs in New York filed for a patent on “all solid state radiation managers”.

The Fuji DS-1P camera of 1988 is widely regarded as being the first true digital camera. This camera did not use cassettes; it recorded its images as computerized files on a 16 MB internal memory card and needed a battery to keep its data in memory. It never seems to have been marketed anywhere, not even in Japan.

The development of digital cameras was aided by the creation of the first JPEG and MPEG standards in 1988, since these new formats allowed files to be compressed for storage. The first commercially available digital camera was the Dycam Model 1 of 1990, also known as the Logitech Fotoman. This camera could connect directly to a computer for download of its stored digital pictures.

The 1990s

In 1991, Kodak started marketing what would be a long series of digital Kodak cameras based in part on film bodies (often Nikons). The first model to hit the market was the Kodak DCS-100 which used a 1.3 megapixel sensor and could be purchased for whopping 13,000 USD.

Another important step in the history of digital cameras was taken in 1995, when the first consumer camera with a liquid crystal display on the back was released – the Casio QV-10. The Kodak DC-25 of 1996 is another important milestone since it was the first consumer camera with CompactFlash.

The 1990s was the scene of rapid improvements in the world of digital cameras, especially in the consumer market even though the new inventions usually came with hefty price tags. If you wanted to purchase the 2.74 megapixel Nikon D1 in 1999, you had to pay almost 6,000 USD.


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