From the first prototype of 1975 to Sony's Cyber-shot RX1 of 2012, here's a chronicle of photography's inevitable march to digital
1997 Sony Digital Mavica MVC-FD5/FD7
Courtesy of the George Eastman House
The MAgnetic VIdeo CAmera line debuted as analog still video in 1981, and went truly digital with the FD5 and its 10x-zoom-equipped twin, the FD7. These got millions of consumers into the habit of popping their digital memory out of their camera and into a computer drive—a floppy-disk drive, in this case. Mavicas once accounted for 40 percent of U.S. digital camera sales.
1997 Sound Vision SVmini (a.k.a. Vivitar ViviCam 3000 & Umax MDX-8000)
A lesser-known innovator in digital imaging history, Sound Vision was founded by former Leaf employees in 1995 and created the first CMOS-based consumer camera, the SVmini. The company also made an early CMOS-based studio camera in 1998, the CMOS-PRO. Curiously, because CMOS sensors first appeared mostly in low-priced cameras, they were initially seen as inferior to CCDs. Now CMOS has almost entirely supplanted CCD.
1998 Olympus Camedia D-500L/600
Olympus pioneered the ZLR—“zoom lens reflex”—as 35mm SLRs with fixed long-range zoom lenses, and the concept went digital with these models. Their compact design, affordable price, advanced feature set, and TTL viewing attracted serious amateur photographers, as opposed to pros, mass-market consumers, or techheads.
1999 Kyocera VP-210
Imagine people wanting to take pictures with their phones! Kyocera did, with the Japan-only VP-200. It could store 20 stills and transmit live “video” at a rate of 2 fps. Sharp soon followed with its J-SH04, developed with inventor Philippe Kahn, whose 1997 prototype phone was the first to transmit a photo—of his baby daughter.