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The Evolution of Digital Cameras (Who Needs Analog?)

imageWe're living in an “age of the digital”. Digital technology is being used in almost every electronic device we use. Even automobiles are making extensive use of digital technology. From getting up in the morning to hitting the bed in the night - we're swimming in a “digital sea” all the time. No one wants to be 'analog'.

Digital innovations have left behind many marks on history. Out of the several electronic devices which have undergone drastic changes in the due course of time, the camera has evolved in a dramatic manner. The practice of capturing, storing and sharing images has come a long way. The days of capturing images on a silver bromide film are passé. These are the times of digital photography which provides better quality, superior handling, and enables us to easily manage our images.


Many would believe that digital photography is a relatively new practice but that is not true in entirety. The history of digital photography dates back to 1969 when Williard Boyle and George Smith invented the charged couple device, which is commonly called the CCD chip. CCD was the transition line between digital and analog photography. It was a breakthrough invention and helped us bid adieu to the long rolls of films (Digital cameras differ from their analog predecessors primarily in that they do not use film, but capture and save photographs on digital memory cards or internal storage instead). It was this invention that brought photography into our mobile phones and other hand-held devices.


Steve Sasson, an electrical engineer at Eastman Kodak has gone down in history for making the first attempt at making a digital camera in 1975. The camera weighed about 4 kg and recorded black and white images, had a resolution of 0.01 megapixels and took 23 seconds to capture an image (we've indeed a come a long way since then, haven't we?)!! The first CCD chip-based consumer camera was rolled out in 1981. However, this one could not be connected to a computer. After this a number of analog electronic cameras arrived at the scene only to deliver unimpressive performances as compared to a true digital camera.

Cameras Truly Digital

Fuji DS-1P was the first digital camera that stored images like a computerised file. It came out in 1988 and boasted of 16 MB internal memory at that point of time. The first commercially accessible digicam was 1990 Dycam Model 1 and it was marketed by the Swiss computer-peripherals giant Logitech. It used a CCD image sensor, stored pictures digitally, and connected directly to a computer for download. Then came the Kodak DCS series camera. They had 1.3 megapixel resolution. But it was until 1997 that digital cameras were available for consumers in the market. The first SLR was developed by Nikon in 1999. Called Nikon D1, it was 2.74 megapixel camera priced at a whopping USD 6,000. Developments of JPEG and other image formats (like GIF, PNG etc.) also aided tremendously in the evolution of digital cameras.


The Future

Digital photography is still evolving rapidly. We live in the age of point-and-shoot cameras, like the ones in our mobile phones. The next stage of evolution in digital photography can be in terms of facial recognition. While many cameras have the face-detection feature, developers are trying to develop programmes and applications which recognise a face which has been tagged earlier. Imagine taking photo of a friend and your device knows who that person is! 


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