Cameras have been around for quite a while, in fact, the oldest photograph ever was shot back in 1838. Another year that is also important in the history of photography is 1933, back when first SLR (single-lens reflex) camera was released.
Now let’s fast forward to 1986, when Kodak and Canon teamed up to combine the mechanisms of a single-lens reflex camera with a digital imaging sensor instead of a photographic film. That’s when first digital single-lens reflex or DSLR was born and it wasn’t until then that cameras started getting more and more popular among the average consumer.
The first DSLR ever featured a 1.3MP sensor, which was developed by Kodak. They also launched the first commercial DSLR in 1991. It was named Kodak DCS 100 and it was actually a customized camera back bearing the digital sensor mounted on a Nikon F3 body. Unfortunately, Kodak stopped making digital cameras in 2012, after they filed for bankruptcy.
Two scientists whose discoveries in the field of transmission of light made DSLRs possible, George E Smith and Willard S Boyle, were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2009.
During the 1990s and 2000s, many camera manufacturers entered the DSLR market like Canon, Nikon, Sony, Sigma and more.
So, how do DSLRs work exactly? Well, it’s not that complicated actually. Light travels through the lens to a mirror, which can alternate and send the image to either the digital imaging sensor or the viewfinder.
In the last couple of years the sales of DSLRs have been slowly declining as a new type of cameras have emerged — mirrorless cameras. As the name suggests these cameras lack the mirror and rely solely on the electronic viewfinder, which means you see the exact same thing as the sensor itself. We should also note that the lack of mirror allows for a lot of benefits that include a smaller body design, in-body image stabilization, continuous autofocus and much more.
Another interesting fact is that since mirrorless cameras lack a mirror on the inside of the camera, it doesn’t have to go up while shooting a photograph, allowing for a completely silent operation. This is great for photographers who shoot weddings and similar ceremonies.
DSLR sales have declined a lot in the 5 years — they went from 16.2 million to 7.5 million, while mirrorless cameras sales have gone up from 3.3 million to 4 million. And while Canon is dominating when it comes to DSLR sales, Sony is leading the way with mirrorless cameras, especially thanks to their great value cameras like Sony A7III or Fuji X-T3, for example.
Interesting fact that you may not have known, which is true for both DSLRs and mirrorless cameras is that they can take photos in the RAW format, which makes it really easy for photographer to make changes to white balance, shadows, saturation and much more when they post process the images.
The quality of images on both of these systems depend on the camera itself, but the quality of the lens plays a huge role as well.
While we’re on the topic of lenses, did you know that the largest lens ever made is the Carl Zeiss Apo Sonnar 1700mm? It weighs about 564 pounds (256 kg)! The company custom-built this lens for a wildlife photographer who wanted to keep his name a secret.
In comparison, some of the smallest lenses for mirrorless cameras weigh less than 2 oz or about 55 grams!
Researchers estimate that about 1.2 trillion photos have been taken in 2017, however, most of them were taken by — you’ve guessed it — smartphones, and not with DSLR or mirrorless cameras.