My Photo Blog

A Little Digital Camera History

Todays digital cameras and other capture devices have come a long way in the last twenty years,from where they started. This is my view as an observer and user. My experience started with digital camera backs that attached to my 4″x5″, or medium format cameras. The first ones had to be attached to a computer and the experience went something like this. Focus and open the lens shutter, then press the exposure button… …”Message”…”Camera not connected to computer”…”Please wait”. Check all of the wire connections and try again. Finally! we have an exposure…well almost, as the filter wheel rotates making three individual captures, one red, one blue and one green. Sure hope the subject didn’t move. At that time I rented digital cameras as needed. The purchase price tag with all hardware and software was around $100,000. Did I mention that camera was a whopping 4 mega pixels? One of the other types to come out was a scan back, that fit on the back of a view camera. It too was suited for still life only and no vibrations please, for ground floor use only. The exposures took several minutes and were totally ruined, if someone accidentally open the studio door, a band of stray light was now part of the exposure. Some manufactures went the way of using a beam splitter, to separate the three primary colors, but it didn’t catch on. The biggest breakthroughs came through scientists at Kodak, Steven Sasson who invented the first digital camera and Bryce Bayer who invented the Bayer filter, which made color practical in digital cameras. On a light sensitive capture chip, they placed alternating red, blue and green filters on the pixels. The Kodak DCS 660 now looked like an SLR camera and was built into the body of a Nikon F5. We are now up to 6 mega pixels and computer free. Initial price tag, $30,000. After it was out for a while the cost dropped to $15,000 and we purchased one. It paid for it’s self in six months with what we saved in film and processing. Well today, I’m afraid to say what the next camera, or largest sensor will be. I will be wrong before I press the publish button. The photograph below is from one of the first shoots we did with the Kodak DCS 660 digital camera.

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