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The origins of the modern camera can be traced back to the ancient Chinese and Greeks who used a pinhole to project an upside-down image onto a viewing surface. Centuries later, (Joseph) Nicephore Niepce used a small camera he had made to project an image onto paper coated with silver chloride in 1816, but the image did not last. In 1826, he used a sliding wooden box camera to capture an image that still remains today. In 1836, Louis Daguerre and Joseph Nicephore Niepce invented the daguerreotype, which used a copper plate coated with silver and treated with iodine vapor to develop images with mercury vapor.
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It wasn't until the invention of the roll-film camera by George Eastman in 1888, however, that our concept of the modern camera really began to take shape. In 1879, Eastman had invented a machine for coating dry photographic plates and started a company to manufacture them. This led to his 1884 invention of a flexible paper film and the 1885 invention of a roll holder that would fit on an existing plate camera. In 1888, Eastman invented the now-famous Kodak No. 1 which had a built in roll holder, shutter, winder, and 100 exposures. Users would send the camera to the Kodak factory where it was processed and then returned. The first patenting of a color photographic process was given to the French company Lumiere in 1903, but amateur color photography didn't really take off until 1942 when Kodak color print film became readily available.
Kodak dominated the market for many years, but eventually other companies such as Nikon entered the competition. In 1947, the Polaroid camera debuted, delighting consumers with its ability to produce instantly developed photographs. Sony debuted the first consumer camcorder in 1980, and in 1984, Canon demonstrated the first digital camera.
Today, digital cameras that allow users to instantly view, store, and delete photos are often more economical than roll film varieties. In fact, it is estimated that over 2.5 billion people use digital cameras, whether compact or more professional SLR models. In addition, many of today's cell phones also have digital camera technology, allowing users to snap photographs anywhere and instantly upload them for sharing through social media.
The invention of the camera has drastically changed the way in which we perceive and share the environment around us. It not only affects the ways in we share visual information with friends and family but has influenced everything from news and advertising to astronomy, cartography, medical science and more. The camera is one invention that we often take for granted but most of us could hardly imagine living without.
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