Timeline of Digital Photography Technology

A trip down digital photography lane

A timeline of digital photography technology can sometimes seem difficult to keep track of. There have been so many quick developments that it's hard to remember when the first digital camera was made or who created the digital camera.

A Timeline of Digital Photography Technology


The history of digital photography begins in 1957. That year, the first digital image was produced on a computer. Russell Kirsch for the United States National Bureau of Standards created a rotating drum that allowed images to be scanned. Using this device, he scanned a 5 centimeter by 5 centimeter shot of his son into the computer.


The 1960s introduced two developments to the world of digital photography. Digital photography technology took another step forward in the 1960s as NASA began using digital signals in mapping the surface of the moon. Digital photography editing also began from this point, as NASA began using their computers to enhance the quality of images sent to their computers from the moon. In 1961, Eugene Lally published a description of how one could create digital photos using a photo sensor.


The 1970s brought some of the biggest steps in the history of digital photography. In 1972, Texas Instruments patented the first electronic camera that did not require film. While it is not known if a prototype was ever produced, this proved to be a big step into the future for digital photography.

In 1975, Eastman Kodak created the prototype for the world's first digital camera. Created by Steve Sasson, the device was never intended to be mass produced and used CCD image sensor technology.


The 1980s created several of the practical steps necessary for digital photography technology to progress. In 1981, Sony produced the first consumer camera that did not require film and was based off a charge-coupled device similar to Eugene Lally's original mosaic idea 20 years prior. In 1986, Kodak created the first sensor that could detect megapixels. The next year, Kodak also released seven new products that changed the way images could be stored, transferred and used. This paved the way for future digital cameras to use megapixels in the manner that they do nowadays.

In 1986, Nikon created a prototype for an analog electronic SLR camera. The Fuji DS-1P was released in 1988 and was the first device to digitally store images. From this point on, digital photography technology exploded.


In 1990, Kodak developed its photo CD system. In the same year, Kodak released the Kodak Professional Digital Camera System, a device aimed at photojournalists looking to quickly get their photos back to the reporting room. Considered the first DSLR, this device started the digital camera revolution. The camera featured 1.3 pixels and was a Nikon F-3 body with Kodak pieces.

In 1994, the Apple Quicktake 100 camera was the first to connect to the home computer. Year after year, digital cameras became equipped with more features and began to gain larger megapixel sensors.

In 1999, Nikon released the Nikon D1. The device was the first DSLR that started to take professional market share away from film and to compete with Kodak. By the end of the 90s, most digital cameras were aimed at professionals and tended to have at least 2.0 megapixels.

2000s and Beyond

Early 2000, Fujifilm released the FinePix S1 Pro, which was the first digital SLR to be directed at consumers in the timeline of digital photography technology. In 2001, Canon introduced the EOS-1D and entered the world of professional digital SLR cameras. Two years later, Canon upgraded their line and began showing image sensors that could detect 6.3 megapixels.

Since that point, Nikon and Canon have competed for shares of the digital camera market of around 40% each. In 2004, Kodak announced it would no longer be producing film cameras. In 2006, both Nikon and Canon followed suit. While megapixel sensors now detect up to 22 pixels, there are also camera phones that can sense up to 4 megapixels used on most cellular phones.

Indeed, there seems to be no end to digital photography technology.

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Timeline of Digital Photography Technology