When was the digital camera invented and other fun facts about digital cameras

Olympus mirrorless camera with Mac
Olympus mirrorless camera with Mac (Image credit: Luke Filipowicz / iMore)

Today the very best digital cameras are amazingly advanced and useful for all sorts of different videography and photography. Still, long before digital cameras became the norm, film cameras were all the rage. The digital camera has an interesting history, so I thought I would share some of the fun facts about digital cameras you may not know!

When was the first digital camera invented?

First Digital Camera

First Digital Camera (Image credit: The New York Times)

When you think of the first digital camera, you likely imagine some sort of point-and-shoot camera you remember your parents using, or buying yourself, but it wasn't like that at all.

While digital sensors were being worked on by various people since about 1959, the first self-contained digital camera is mostly attributed to Steven Sasson, an engineer at Eastman Kodak. He designed and built the camera in 1975. It weighed about eight pounds, and the best estimates were that it had about a 0.001MP sensor (pictured above) — it certainly doesn't look comfortable to carry around to snap your Instagram pictures.

Other interesting facts: It captures pictures on a cassette tape, in black and white only, and require Steven and other engineers to build a special screen to view the images.

When could the average Joe buy the first digital camera?

Fujix DS-1P (Image credit: Fujiflim)

As you can imagine, every camera company was working on digital camera technology for years before they had a mass-produced digital camera they could present as a consumer good. The first portable digital camera is typically attributed to the Fujix DS-1P (pictured above), and it has a 2MB memory card that could store about 5-10 photos. The camera was shown off in 1988, but never actually marketing to the public. Fujifilm would later sell the DS-X in Japan starting in December of 1987.

The first portable digital camera in the U.S. went on sale in November of 1990. The Dyna Model 1 (produced by Dycam) was mostly a failure. It only could take black and white photos, and a much lower resolution than standard film cameras at the time and cost $1,000, which, adjusted for inflation, is about $2000 give or take nowadays.

What about the first DSLR?

In 1986, it was Nikon who first reveal the prototype of the first DSLR camera, the Nikon SVC, but it wasn't until the QV-1000C came out in 1988 that Nikon released its first DSLR; however, it wasn't widely available for general consumers.

The "QV" stood for quick-vision, and the camera stored images on a 2-inch floppy disk. It wasn't a digital camera in the strictest sense. Still, it was the main stepping stone for what DSLRs are today, making it the first widely recognized DSLR among camera history aficionados.

First camera with an LCD panel?

While we are very used to all cameras having screens on them now, that wasn't always the case. The first digital cameras didn't have LCD panels on the back to view images or change settings.

The Casio QV-10 was the first LCD panel camera — basically the first modern-day point-and-shoot camera — sold to consumers. It had a 1.8-inch LCD screen and sold for roughly $900 at the time. Although it only had a 0.07MP sensor, it did connect to a computer via a serial cable! That's right, not even USB!

Reportedly, it got warm if you used it for a long time, it took about 4-5 seconds to actually save the image to the internal storage, meaning you couldn't take pictures fast in a row, and it would drain the 4AA batteries it required to power up in about an hour.

First camera phone

Well, we know that a digital camera is better than an iPhone in many situations, having these awesome cameras in our pockets at all times is something we take for granted. There was a time when cell phones didn't have cameras, but that all changed in 1999.

The first camera phone to be sold widely to consumers was the Kyocera VP-210, and it debuted in 1999. It had a 110,00-pixel front-facing camera — that's right like a selfie cam — and it could store about 20 images on the phone's storage. It could also send those images via email, which for 1999, is pretty impressive.

What fun facts about digital camera do you know?

Let us know in the comments below!

Luke Filipowicz
Staff Writer

Luke Filipowicz has been a writer at iMore, covering Apple for nearly a decade now. He writes a lot about Apple Watch and iPad but covers the iPhone and Mac as well. He often describes himself as an "Apple user on a budget" and firmly believes that great technology can be affordable if you know where to look. Luke also heads up the iMore Show — a weekly podcast focusing on Apple news, rumors, and products but likes to have some fun along the way. 

Luke knows he spends more time on Twitter than he probably should, so feel free to follow him or give him a shout on social media @LukeFilipowicz.