When the first camera was invented, it took over eight hours of light exposure to develop and only lasted a short while before fading away. Now, we hold up a smartphone and are able to take hundreds of images in minutes and view them instantaneously. DEON PRINSLOO, Mobile GM at LG takes us through the evolution of the camera starting with the first camera ever made – the Camera Obscura.
Picture yourself taking a selfie, holding up the camera, tapping through to the front-facing camera, trying to keep your hand steady, laughing and shaking but finally getting the shot. Now imagine you tried to do the same thing 100 years ago. It was a whole different story, involving drawn out poses and development time. It wasn’t so long ago that the digital camera completely replaced the film camera, but that doesn’t really give us a full appreciation of just how much photographic technology has changed in a few hundred years.
Of course, we don’t have many pictures lying around from way back when, but cameras themselves provide the perfect example of the way technology evolves over time.
The earliest version of what we’d loosely consider a camera existed around 1000AD, in the form of the Camera Obscura. This was the device used to take the first photograph centuries later in 1827, when Frenchman Joseph Nicephore Niepce produced the first “sun print”. Unfortunately, one successful image took eight hours of light exposure to produce, and only lasted a short while before fading away. It took over a decade for Louis Daguerre (another Frenchman) to reduce exposure time to 30 minutes, and to keep the image from vanishing.
Even with the added speed of development though, the process was still far from perfect. To take a single photograph, groups of people would huddle together and pose stiffly for what must have felt like ages. Any sudden movements could ruin an image, so although they were participating in the use of incredible new technology, it was hardly any different than the posing done by the subjects of paintings for generations before. The entire process was arduous and drawn out, a far cry from the user-friendly experience of snapping a selfie today.
Things got a little better in 1889, when George Eastman developed the first flexible roll-up film, which anyone born before the 1990s may actually remember using. It took another 50 years for Kodak to produce colour film in the late 1930s, but black and white photography still persisted through the next decade. It seemed that even when we had access to new technology, it still had to share some real estate with the ghost of the thing it would replace. The first digital camera fared similarly when it debuted in the 1980s, taking two full decades to effectively replace film cameras.
Through all these changes in technology, our reason for taking photographs has remained the same. We record images because we want to remember important moments in our lives, to revisit them and to tell stories about them. Over the years we worked to develop the camera, people found better ways to speed up each step of the process, but it was always in an effort to streamline the effort it takes to share our stories
This has never been more apparent than today, where photography has become the most powerful storytelling tool in the arsenal of every single user on the planet. Smartphones have provided users with the perfect crossroads between communication and education, existing alongside the ghosts of landline telephones, desktop computers and photographers packing pounds of DSLR gear in backpacks and hanging from every available limb. And just as older cameras have had to evolve with the times, so too have smartphone cameras, evolving from simple low-res devices to the focal point of many devices.
Including cameras in smartphone devices has actually grown users’ interest and understanding of photography as an art, and so users are looking for more from their devices. More control, versatility and higher quality images are all important to users, which is why we’ve made improving the camera a focus with each new device.
Smartphones are now equipped with cameras powerful enough to capture professional quality images. LG’s G4 even offers an 8MP front facing camera, transforming the selfie into a high quality portrait. That’s on top of the phone’s manual mode, which offers users increased control over the shots they’re taking, allowing them to toy with aperture sizes and other specs before taking a shot, and to edit their images before sharing them online.
Today we’re light years away from the eight-hour development times and long, stiff poses of the 1800s, but up until now, smartphone cameras seemed like they were at the absolute peak of what they could do. Turns out users had other plans, and even what seemed like the best thing we could do was just a stepping stone along the way through history. Now picture yourself taking a selfie a hundred years from today… what will the camera look like then?
Welcome to world of 2099
The world of 2099 will be unrecognisable from the world of today, but it can be predicted, says one visionary. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK met him in Singapore.
Futuristic structures tower over the landscape. Giant, alien-looking trees light up with dazzling colours amid the hundreds of plant species that grow up their trunks. Cosmetic stores sell their wares via public touch-screens, with products delivered instantly in drawers below the screens.
This is not a vision of the future. It is a sample of Singapore today. But it is also an inkling of the world we may all experience in the future.
Singapore was the venue, last week, of the World Cities Summit, where engineers, politicians, investors and visionaries rubbed shoulders as they talked about the strategies and policies that would enhance urban living in the future.
As part of the Summit, global payment technologies leader Mastercard hosted a small media briefing by one of Singapore’s leading thinkers about the future, Dr Damian Tan, managing director of Vickers Venture Partners. The company’s slogan “We invest in the extraordinary,” offers a small clue to Tan’s perspective.
“We look as far forward as 2099 because, as a venture capital firm, we invest in the long term,” he tells a group of journalists from Africa and the Middle East. “Companies explode in growth because there is value in the future. If there is no growth, they won’t explode.”
The big question that the Smart Cities Summit and Mastercard are trying to help answer is, what will cities look like in the year 2099? Tan can’t give an exact answer, but he offers a framework that helps one approach the question.
“If you want to look at 81 years into the future, and understand the change that will come, you need to double that amount and look into the past. That takes us to 1856. The difference between then and now is the difference you can expect between now and 2099.”
- Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube
Use the page links below to continue reading about Tan’s visions.
Win a Poster Heater with Gadget and Takealot.com
This winter Gadget and Takealot.com are giving away three Poster Heaters, which look like posters but become heaters when you plug them in.
Three Gadget readers will each win a unit, valued at R550 each. To enter, follow @GadgetZA and @Takealot on Twitter and tell us on the @GadgetZA account how many Watts the heater consumes.
What’s the big deal about these heaters? Many of us are struggling to keep the balance between soaring electricity costs and the need to keep warm this winter.
However, the recently launched Poster Heater by EasyHeat and distributed in South Africa by Takealot.com is not only one of the most cost effective electric heaters currently on the market, it is also easy to setup and use.
As the name indicates, it is a poster similar to one you would hang on a wall. But, plug it in and it turns into a 300 Watt heater. The Poster Heater isn’t designed to heat hallways or large rooms, but rather smaller ones like a bedroom or a baby’s nursery or a dressing room.
It uses radiant heating, which means that it heats up in a couple of minutes and the heat is directed at the objects or people around it, quickly taking the chill out of the air and providing a comfortable ambient temperature.
The other advantage of radiant heating is that it doesn’t dry out the air like infrared or gas heaters. Users also don’t have to worry about their children or pets getting too close to it because, even though it gets hot, it can be touched.
To enter the competition follow the steps below:
Competition entry details:
3. The competition closes on 31 July 2018.
4. Winners will be notified via Twitter on 1 August and Takealot.com will be in touch to organise delivery.
5. The competition is only open to South African residents.