If you were an early adopter of digital cameras, there’s a good chance that you thought of your mid-to-late 1990s digital camera as a revolutionary but bulky and slow device. Those old Sony Mavicas with their floppy disk drives, 0.3 megapixel resolution and brick-like construction have absolutely nothing on the first digital camera when it comes to heft and slow operation.
The first hand-held digital camera was a product of research conducted in the Eastman Kodak labs by engineer Steven Sasson. In the winter of 1975, he created a device that was a veritable Frankenstein of cobbled together parts. The lens was from a Super 8 movie camera, a portable digital cassette recorder served as the storage, 16 NiCad batteries powered it, and an experimental CCD array served as the digital film that captured the image. The whole thing was packed into a large frame stuffed with digital and analog circuit boards to control the entire operation.
The 8-pound monster could take one 0.01 megapixel black & white picture every half minute and required another half minute to process the photo and display it. The results were displayed on a standard television set.
It would be roughly fifteen years before a commercial digital camera hit the market and, ironically, Kodak was beaten to the punch. Despite inventing the whole process, the first digital camera on the market in the United States was the Dycam Model 1, released in 1990 (later rebranded as the Logitech Fotoman in 1992). A year later in 1991, Kodak released the DCS-100, the first digital SLR; it retailed for a whopping $13,000 and less than 1,000 were sold.
Although Kodak was a leading innovator in both film and digital photography throughout the 20th century, the company found itself in decline by the early 21st century. Due to economic woes and shifting markets, Kodak announced in early 2012 that they were shutting down their camera divisions.