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vintage camera with bellows Whether you use an SLR, Polaroid, or digital camera, there is no better way to capture important moments in time and preserve them forever.

Photography owes much to camera obscura, a medieval technology in which an outside image was displayed on to an inside wall or screen.  This was accomplished by sending light through a small hole into a dark room.  Camera obscura was first invented as an astronomer's tool, but was later used as entertainment, as well as by artists who wanted to project an image onto paper so that they could use it as a guide for drawing or painting.

Today's modern mechanical cameras still operate on the same premise as camera obscura.  How?  Well, light is sent through a small hole, called the aperture, into the darkened body of the camera.  The image is captured on the surface of the film, which uses light-sensitive pigments to make the image indelible.

It wasn't until the late 1800s that photography became easy enough to use that the masses — and not just professionals — could take their own photographs.  The advent of modern films, as well as the first simple Kodak box camera, meant that families all over the world were becoming amateur photographers.

In the ensuing years, three important types of camera have been developed, above and beyond the early box camera:

  • SLR cameras.  A single-lens-reflex camera uses an angled mirror in front of the lens, which deflects light through the aperture to the viewfinder.  This allows the photographer to see what the exposure will look like.  When you press a button, the shutter causes the mirror to move itself out of the way, allowing the image to be projected on the film.

  • Polaroid cameras.  In a nutshell, Polaroid cameras are equipped with films that develop themselves via a dry, light-activated process that produces instant color pictures.  Polaroid cameras were the answer for anyone who wanted to take photos but didn't want to wait to see them, and also eliminated the darkroom process.  Today, Polaroid cameras are a relic of the past, because they have been replaced by digital cameras.

  • Digital cameras.  Digital cameras borrowed technology from television cameras, which use photoelectric cells to convert light into electrical currents of varying voltage.  Using essentially the same technology adapted for consumers, digital photography allows photographs to be stored in digital form, which can be transferred from person to person online, or printed out immediately at home using a color printer.

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Camera Obscura - History of Cameras