PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 June, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 June, 2009, 12:00am


A camera is basically a box that lets in light. It comes from a Latin expression - camera obscura - which means 'dark chamber'.

A camera has to have a 'hole' that lets in light. This is called an 'aperture'. The hole can only open briefly. This is done by using a 'shutter'. A shutter usually opens for a tiny fraction of a second. But sometimes at night the shutter can be left open for a long time.

In the old days, cameras needed film to record the light that comes into the box. Nowadays most cameras are digital. They record the light coming into the box using a 'sensor'.

Flickering images

For a long time, people understood that photography was possible. One of the problems was how to fix what the camera saw. Nearly 1,000 years ago, an Iranian scientist invented a device that reflected images. Around 300 years ago, scientists developed a way of recording images on a plate of glass with chemicals on it. Photography became much easier when film was developed. The first film was made in 1885 in the US by Eastman Kodak.

Pioneering Japanese

It was the Japanese camera maker Nikon that changed everything. It introduced its F series of cameras in 1959. With the Nikon F you could change the lenses. It used 35mm film - which became the standard for professional cameras. But the exciting thing about the Nikon F was photographers could see what they were shooting through the lens. This is called 'single lens reflex'. Most cameras before this were 'range-finders'. You looked at what you were photographing through a 'window' on top of the camera. Soon almost all news photographers were using the Nikon F.

Digital revolution

Digital cameras have made photography so easy, anyone can do it - even with their mobile phone. Most of them are so easy to use, they are often called 'point and shoots'. They focus for you and tell you when to use a flash.

Of course, most professional photographers also shoot digital today. Professional digital cameras are still based on the Nikon F.

now do this

1 Camera obscura is a Latin term meaning a...

a. box with a hole in it

b. light recorder

c. dark chamber

2 The first primitive camera was invented around 1,000 years ago by a (an) ...

a. Chinese scientist

b. Iranian scientist

c. A French scientist

3 Photographic film was developed by ...

a. Eastman Kodak

b. Nikon

c. Canon


June 3