History of the camera
Camera obscura, from a manuscript of military designs. Seventeenth century, possibly Italian.
The history of the camera can be traced much further back than the introduction of photography. Cameras evolved from the camera obscura, and continued to change through many generations of photographic technology, including daguerreotypes, calotypes, dry plates, film, and digital cameras.
The camera obscura
An artist using an 18th-century camera obscura to trace an image
Photographic cameras were a development of the camera obscura, a device dating back to the ancient Chinese and ancient Greeks, which uses a pinhole or lens to project an image of the scene outside upside-down onto a viewing surface.
On 24 January 1544 mathematician and instrument maker Reiners Gemma Frisius of Leuven University used one to watch a solar eclipse, publishing a diagram of his method in De Radio Astronimica et Geometrico in the following year. In 1558 Giovanni Batista della Porta was the first to recommend the method as an aid to drawing.
Before the invention of photographic processes there was no way to preserve the images produced by these cameras apart from manually tracing them. The earliest cameras were room-sized, with space for one or more people inside; these gradually evolved into more and more compact models such as that by Niépce's time portable handheld cameras suitable for photography were readily available. The first camera that was small and portable enough to be practical for photography was envisioned by Johann Zahn in 1685, though it would be almost 150 years before such an application was possible.
Abu Kalam Shamsuddin
Department of MCT