Photography could only be made via the Daguerreotype and Collodion process exposure systems, both of which were unpractical, and required the photographer to carry a box full of toxic or potentially flammable substances around, along with the plates on which the photography was to be taken. In 1884, George Eastman created the first photographic film with nitrocellulose coated with a dry gel emulsion of silver halide salts.
In 1888, Eastman introduced his Kodak Camera, along with the famous slogan “You press the button, we do the rest”. This was true: the roll of film meant anyone could take a picture, without having to develop the picture almost immediately. In fact, the whole development process could be made by someone else. In 1901, Kodak introduced the famous “Brownie” (Henri Cartier-Bresson’s childhood favorite). The first Brownie was a simple box camera, made of cardboard, and with an initial price of $1 dollar.
In 1913, the 35 mm film format was introduced for still photography. The format was created by Thomas Alva Edison as a way to feed film into a camera through sprocket holes, when all other cameras used friction feed. Edison patented his invention, forcing his competitors to use friction feed until 1902, when a court ruling invalidated Edison’s claim, allowing any producer or distributor to use the film design without a license. The new film format was practical and smaller than other film designs, but wasn’t popular until Leica Camera introduced the Leica I, or Leica A, a precision miniature camera.
The 35 mm snapshot camera design introduced by Leica has not changed much in more than 80 years. But the next great milestone in photography came in 1936.
Single lens reflex cameras were invented 1861 by Thomas Sutton. The sole design of the SLR had been around for more than two centuries before photography was born: Artists would use Camara Obscura fitted with a mirror placed in a 45° angle, which would reflect the image into a ground glass, allowing the artist to make a realistic drawing by simply tracing over the glass.
Early SLRs were large format cameras, and not as popular as the standard View Cameras of the time. They had waist-level viewfinders, and the mirror, most often than not, had to be raised manually before the picture was taken.
In 1936, Dresden-based Company Ihagee released the Kine-Exakta, the first 35mm SLR.
Between 1936 and 1937, Zeiss started working on a 35 mm SLR. The camera used an eye level pentaprism, which allowed the image to be seen in a correct left-to-right orientation, since waist level cameras showed a reversed image. Additionally, a Fresnel lens was placed in between the ground glass and the pentaprism, thus brightening the image. This design became the conventional SLR design used today. The camera wasn’t introduced until 1949 as the Contax S, mainly because all production halted when World War II intervened.