How Far We've Come...

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How Far We've Come...

I was marvelling the other day at Nikon's new D90 digital SLR camera. For about $1,000, you get 12.3 megapixel resolution, Hi Def movies, 4.5 frames-per-second burst mode... and a host of other features. And this isn't even one of Nikon's pro-level cameras.

But it wasn't that long ago that the photographic world was marvelling at another Nikon digital camera. Only this one wasn't made by Nikon... it was from Kodak.

The Kodak DCS (later dubbed the DCS100) was introduced in 1991. The DCS - aimed at the photojournalism market - was built on aNikon F3 body and sported a 1.3 megapixel sensor. File storage was handled by a hard drive unit attached to the camera via cable. The hard drive pack also contained the batteries that powered the DCS.

Now here comes the punch line... This clunky, low-res digital SLR carried a price tag of $20,000.

Of course, that's not as bad as it sounds. Consider the Apple Quicktake 100, which shot black-and-white images at 640 x 480 pixels. Introduced three years after Kodak's DCS, the Quicktake originally sold for $749.

Today, Kodak alone offers more than two dozen models of digital camera, with only one featuring less than 7 MP. And four models have suggested retails under $100. None has less than a 3x optical zoom - and five have zooms greater than 10x. Several models also feature ISO ratings up to 3200.

The speed at which digital photography has developed (no pun intended) is incredible. Compare the 14 years between Apple's Quicktake and Nikon's D90 with these 35mm milestones:

1914 - Leitz's Oscar Barnack develops the first camera using the 35mm format with sprocketed roll film.

1936 - Exakta introduces the 35mm SLR.

1949 - The Contax S - the first SLR without a reversed viewfinder image - debuts.

1985 - Minolta brings out the Maxxum, the first auto-focus SLR.

2006 - Nikon discontinues 95% of its film camera line, leaving only two models in production.

35mm ruled the photographic world for about three-quarters of a century. But that digital camera you bought last year? It's probably already out of date.

   

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