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Cameras are some of the world’s most fascinating tools of technology, capturing moments that you wish to hold on to, forever. An object of the elite and learned upon inception, and a tool in myriad forms and prices in its present form, cameras and camera innovators have presented to us iconic products to remember, over time. While each has differed from the other, what has remained constant is the quotient of novelty. Each of these cameras brought something ahead of its time with itself, hence giving rise to further innovation that has led cameras to evolve into what they are today.
We look back at five of the world’s most iconic cameras - tools of optic genius that succeeded in creating photographs not seen before, thereby evolving the art of photography itself.
Kodak Box Brownie
The Box Brownie was the first camera to have sold millions of units and reached out to the masses, over a century back. Sold at a price of $1, the Box Brownie was the first ever camera that the mass population could access, buoyed majorly by the ease of operation that it presented. It shot on 117 roll film, and remained in production till as late as 1967. Safe to say, this was one of the most influential cameras ever built.
Leica I, Model A
Such was its influence that the Model A miniature format camera by Leica was the first to bring 35mm format to the mainstream. Not only that, its layout and design, coupled with imaging excellence, was the formative basis to Leica’s now-legendary status as one of the world’s best optic engineers. Introduced nearly 90 years ago, the Leica I, Model A was key to camera designs for over two decades, and made 35mm cameras popular.
What’s photography without Hasselblad? After all, this is the same company that dares to think beyond present times, bringing revolutionary cameras like the H4D-200MS and the medium-format, mirrorless X1D. The one that started it all, however, was the Hasselblad 1600F back in 1948. You’ll surely recognise it from its photo, as the 1600F was key to Hasselblad cameras being spotted all over the world in studios. It was succeeded by redesigned models after about five years, but by then, it was already known as ‘THE Hasselblad Camera’, and the saga of Victor Hasselblad himself traveling and learning extensively for years before building it makes it one of the most enigmatic cameras ever built.
Such is the legendary status of the Nikon F, that its F mount mechanism has actually survived even in advanced full-frame digital cameras as today. It was deemed as the best, high quality professional Single Lens Reflex camera back in its time, and established Nikon as the company it is known as, today. Even over 50 years ago, the Nikon F featured a removable pentaprism, along with an external meter-coupling system. This made it compatible with more advanced camera technology of the next few years, making it one of the most iconic cameras of all time.
The Pentax 67 was a monster of a camera, being practically indestructible. Famous landscape photographers of the ‘70s have all revered the beautiful medium-format camera, that would take 6x7cm photographs, and was admired for the quality it produced and Pentax’s status as legendary camera-makers.
Minolta Maxxum 7000
In 1985, Minolta built a camera with integrated autofocus in its body, making the world’s first SLR camera with fully integrated autofocus, and the rest is history. The Maxxum 7000 by Minolta was a 35mm SLR camera that featured an AF motor that coupled with the focus points of AF lenses to focus really, really fast for its time. Interestingly, the Maxxum 7000 also provided the lens mount for Sony’s lineup of Alpha DSLRs of today.
Canon EOS 300D
The Canon EOS 300D deserves major credit for being the world’s first DSLR that really made it to the masses. Priced within Rs. 40,000 along with an 18-55mm kit lens, the EOS 300D, also known as the Digital Rebel, brought digital SLRs into the more affordable, mainstream camera market, creating a trend that thrives even today. Canon was the one that actually pointed the world of cameras to the direction where the rest of the imaging world headed to.
Honourable mentions: Nikon D100 (first consumer-grade DSLR, 2002), Polaroid Land (first instant print camera, 1948), Epson R-D1 (first mirrorless camera, 2004).