The history of the camera and photography go hand in hand, and is traced back to the very beginning when man began to understand the properties of light and darkness.
As far back as 1000 AD Alhazen (Ibn Al-Haytham), a prominent figure during the Middle Ages invented the first pinhole camera called the Camera Obscura.
This device was a box that was able to project an image of its surroundings onto a screen.
As far back as the 5th – 4th centuries, Chinese and Greek philosophers understood the principles of the behaviour of light (optics) and the camera.
Then in the 17th century, Sir Isaac Newton discovered that white light was made up of many colours.
During the 18th century, the study of light advanced even faster when Johann Heinrich Schulze discovered that the chemical silver nitrate darkened when exposed to light.
By 1827, Joseph Niepce took the first photographic image using the camera obscura. However, this image had to be exposed to light for eight hours and faded later on.
An improvement on this was made in 1837, when Louis Daguerre took a picture, which only needed to be exposed to light for less than half hour, yet did not fade. He named this method of photography after himself, calling it the daguerreotype.
Because of his achievement, Louis Daguerre is considered the inventor of modern photography, and he collaborated with his fellow French countryman Niepce to improve their creation.
Since then the first negatives, and many positive prints of it, tintypes (which was a thin sheet of iron that was light sensitive and allowed for a positive image to be developed), wet plate negatives were created.
By 1889 with the invention of the dry plate which was a glass negative plate with a chemical, which was able to absorb light rapidly, people were able to use handheld cameras.
Until the early 1940s however the pictures being produced were only black and white. After that with the use of dye-coupled colours, colour photographs were possible.
So what is a camera? Simply, a camera is a box with a hole in it. There are special parts of the camera that have different functions, which help understand how it works.
The hole in the box has a special piece of glass called the ‘lens’ which makes a small picture of the object being pictured by focusing on the light on the object.
The ‘shutter release’ button is a button that is usually on top of the camera that is pressed when taking a picture.
Pressing this button opens the ‘shutter’, which is like a door. It covers the hole and is placed behind the lens.
When the shutter is closed, no light can enter the camera. When the shutter is open the light comes in.
Therefore, when the ‘shutter release’ button is pressed, the shutter opens and closes very quickly. The speed at which it opens and closes is called the ‘shutter speed’.
When the shutter is opened, the ‘aperture ring’ controls the amount of light that enters the camera. It is placed behind the lens but in front of the shutter.
This ring is a flat circle with a small hole in the centre and this small hole is called the ‘aperture’, and its size can be changed.
When the aperture is very small, only a small amount of light enters, and when it is big, more light gets in.
In a normal (non-digital) camera, there is a photographic film that is also inserted on which the small image of whatever the object being photographed gets imprinted.
A whole reel of these are called ‘negatives’ and it is when these negatives are developed or printed on special photography paper that we see the object that was photographed.
Digital cameras have a special electronic sensor that saves the picture. Digital cameras have a lens, aperture and a shutter but do not use photographic film to record the picture.
The great thing about digital photography is that if the picture was not good it can be erased and another taken in its place. The non-digital cameras did not have this feature.
Many advancements and improvements on digital cameras and photography have happened during the last century and continue to do so.
Today advanced digital cameras are found on almost all mobile phones, laptops and palm tops. Cameras can also be fixed onto computers for internet chatting, and they are called ‘webcams’.