Harm Jagerman

Flashback to the year 2000 in photography

I wrote about the year 2000 in another article. I decided to write about photography, since it played an important role in my life. The year 2000 was important when it comes to photography. It’s time for a flashback to the year 2000 in photography.

Back in 2000, photography was definitely a hobby of mine. I must say, I went a step further than others. Because I developed my rolls films with studio equipment. When you didn’t own such equipment, you had to bring your rolls of film to someone who could do this. There were options to use a one hour service, but the photos didn’t always have the same quality when you decided to wait just a little bit longer. This was mostly a week. It was something special. From nothing came something. Very different from nowadays. You’re able to see the result directly after you’ve taken the photo.

The first digital camera.
The first digital camera.
Image source: The Wayback Machine

Steven Sasson and Eastman Kodak

The history of digital photography dates back long before 2000. In 1975 Steven Sasson of Eastman Kodak would write history. He introduced a digital camera that is considered as the first digital camera. There were other attempts to come up with a camera with the same features, but all of these examples weren’t self-contained. In other words: all the equipment and parts needed for (digital) photography were present on this camera.

Even longer ago, back in the Sixties, NASA began to use digital signals for their space program. The photos were still saved in an analogue way.

It would take some time before consumers would profit from all these technological developments. The first steps of Sony with the Mavica (Magnetic Video Camera) were promising in 1981. Still, this camera didn’t get as much attention to something else digital, that was launched in 1982. A joint-venture between Philips (The Netherlands) and Sony (Japan) gave birth to the Compact Disc (cd).

The Mavica wasn’t actually a digital camera, because the camera itself wasn’t really a digital camera. The images, however, were saved digitally. This was only for the happy few or photojournalists. If they would consider using a Sony camera.

In 2000 you were still using an analogue camera. It wasn’t until 2003 when the digital cameras were sold in larger numbers than analogue cameras. This was the time that analogue cameras would become outdated. But there are still some enthusiastic who shoot with these analogue cameras.


The J-Phone
The J-Phone/ Sharp J-SH04.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons.

Did you ever hear of the Japanese company SoftBank Group? There is a chance that you didn’t. Or that you didn’t know that this company would present something that would really change the world. I have to admit, they worked together with another Japanese company, SHARP, to develop a phone that would have a feature that was really new.

The J-Phone is considered as the first phone with a digital camera. Yes, Samsung launched the SCH-V200 just a few months before the J-SH04. The difference with the phone made by the SoftBankGroup and SHARP: you couldn’t send images directly from this Samsung device. The J-Phone allowed you to do this.

There is a good reason that you probably didn’t know about this J-Phone. It was launched in Japan in November 2000. It wasn’t released in other countries. Still, this was a phone for consumers, with a digital camera. And yes, it was launched in 2000. This makes 2000 an important year in photography.

You can debate about this phone being the first with a digital camera. As mentioned, Samsung launched its SCH-V200 just a few months before. It generated more attention from the media. It’s interesting to read how people reacted to this new phenomenon. Do check out the reactions on an article written by BBC News. The old website is still available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/1550622.stm.

The rest of the world had to wait for just a few years. The rest of the world would be able to buy phones with digital cameras after 2002.

What about ‘real’ cameras?

Fujix 'Card Camera' DS-1P (1988).
Fujix ‘Card Camera’ DS-1P (1988).
Image source: Flickr.

Especially those for consumers! Let’s step back in time to the year 1994. Or would that be 1989? Maybe it was 1990? That’s the problem with developments such as these: more than one company did their best to come up with a digital camera.

Let’s start off with 1989. In that year FujiFilm presented the Fujix DS-1P. On their website, they present this as the first real digital camera for consumers. If you decide to stick with this, no problem. Then this was the first consumer-ready digital camera. However, there was just one detail that is interesting. This camera was only sold in Japan.

So, what about 1990? Dycam Model 1 was presented. This has to be the first digital camera, right? It depends. Dycam Model 1 was a digital camera. Later it was also sold under the name Logitech Fotoman. Not only in Japan. The camera had its limits. You were only able to save photos in black and white. Does that really count?

Venus, Mars and Neptune. These were the code names for the photo camera made by Apple and came to the market with the name QuickTake. To be really honest: most of the parts weren’t really developed by Apple. Eastman Kodak and Fujifilm played an important role when it comes to developing this camera. Still, because of its possibilities and where it was sold, this camera is considered as the first real consumer-ready camera. The first model made its way to the market in 1994.

The Apple QuickTake 100 (1994).
The Apple QuickTake 100 (1994).
Image source: Wikimedia Commons.

Back to 2000. The last QuickTake model was launched three years before. Most consumers didn’t use digital cameras because they were simply too limited or too expensive. We used instant cameras, compact cameras, disposable cameras and SLR cameras. Compared to what our parents used, these cameras were modernized. But stuck mostly to the basics. During the following twenty years, photography and especially the devices used to take photos would undergo some major changes. The future forecast about how we would all use only cameras to take photos hasn’t really come true.

Yes, you’re able to take some great photos with some smartphones. But, the DSLR hasn’t faded away. Photographers, photojournalists, hobby photographers still use the same cameras as before (now DSLR). That’s because of the possibilities of these cameras.

Personally, I think this will be the same even within the next few years.

Olympus OM-1
Olympus OM-1.

In 2000, I sometimes used cameras such as these.I used the Olympus OM-1. An analogue camera. This camera (not the one in the photo) once belonged to my father. I still have this camera. Actually, I am the proud owner of two Olympus OM-1 cameras.

Image top of this page: Unsplash.

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