Invention and Obsolescence – A Timeline of Photographic Processes










~400 BCE: Chinese mathematician Mozi explained how the inverted image works in camera obscura.

~1027: Arab physicist Ibn al-Haytham experimented with camera obscura by passing light through small pinholes, and contributed significantly to the study of light with his work Book of Optics.

1826: Nicéphore Niépce took the earliest known surviving permanent photograph, calling his process heliography.

1839: Louis Daguerre announced the invention of the daguerreotype in Paris, which became the first publicly available photographic process.

1841: William Henry Fox Talbot invented the calotype, allowing for a shorter exposure time and could make multiple positive prints.

1842: Sir John Herschel invented the cyanotype process.

1849: Sir David Brewster developed the lenticular stereoscope, which produced the illusion of a 3-dimensional image.

1856: Hamilton Smith patented the tintype process, a cheaper alternative to the daguerreotype.

1861: James Clerk Maxwell created the first color photo, an image of a tartan ribbon.

1871: Richard Maddox invented gelatin emulsion.

1874: Silver gelatin paper, a key component to one of the most common black-and-white photographic print processes, became available commercially.

1877–78: Eadweard Muybridge completed human and animal locomotion studies.

1888: George Eastman ignited the mass use of cameras with the Kodak No. 1 box camera, which featured unbreakable flexible film that could be rolled, with the slogan: “You press the button, we do the rest.”

1900: Eastman Kodak sold the easy-to-use, inexpensive Brownie camera, a very popular camera that greatly expanded the market for photography to amateurs.

1903: The Lumière brothers patented the first commercial colour photography process, Autochrome Lumière.

1925: The first practical and portable 35mm camera, the Leica I by the Leitz camera company, became a favourite among photojournalists and general public.

1929: Franke & Heidecke developed the Rolleicord, a twin-lens reflex camera.

1935: Eastman Kodak introduced the first colour transparency film Kodachrome.

1939: The View-Master 3D viewer corresponding “reels” of small stereoscopic images are introduced.

1942: Eastman Kodak developed the Kodacolor process using colour negatives to make colour prints.

1948: Edwin Land introduced the first instant camera, the Polaroid Land Camera Model 95, taking about 60 seconds to produce prints.

1963: Kodak released the Instamatic, the first point-and-shoot camera.

1975: Steven Sasson, of Eastman Kodak, made the first digital camera, which used a cassette tape to record black-and-white images.

1986: Nikon introduced the Nikon SVC, the first digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera.

1987: Thomas and John Knoll developed Photoshop and sold the licence to Adobe Systems Incorporated in 1988.

1992: The Joint Photographic Experts Group defined the standard for the JPEG file format.

1994: Apple launched QuickTake, one of the first digital cameras for consumers, at less than $1000.

1996: Epson introduces the Epson Stylus Color Photo, a six-colour photo quality desktop printer.

1999: The Nikon D1 was introduced, a 2.74 megapixel DSLR camera that was affordable to professional photographers and high-end consumers.

2000: Samsung’s SCH-V200 and Sharp’s J-SH04 were the first commercially available mobile phones with a built-in camera.

2000: The Epson Stylus Pro 9500 large-format inkjet printer is introduced and uses newly developed ColorFast ink to produce high-quality output.

2003: The Canon Rebel, the first digital SLR priced below $1000, was very popular as its price point allowed amateur photographers to switch to digital photography.

2004: Kodak stopped selling traditional film cameras in Europe and North America.

2004: Web-based image hosting service Flickr is created by Ludicorp.

2007: Apple launched the first iPhone and GoPRO launched the Digital Hero 3 camera.

2008: Polaroid discontinued the production of instant film products and the Impossible Project was founded to relaunch instant film for Polaroid cameras.

2009: Kodak discontinued of Kodachrome film.

2010: Photo-sharing social networking app Instagram is launched. By its first year it had 10 million users.

2017: Kodak announced the return and relaunch of its Ektachrome slide film.


Compiled by Cindy Couldwell
Illustrations (header image) by Sergio Serrano