A Visual Compendium of Cameras is the latest from Pop Chart Lab.

It shows 100 of the most important cameras ever made, starting with the original Kodak in 1888.

One of the most striking things is how consistent cameras have stayed, in terms of basic form factor, over the last 80 years.

"We’re of course now very used to the notion of a high-quality camera in the palm of your hand, but even the jumps from the 1888 Kodak to the first Leica in 1925 show design with portability and distillation in mind," says William Prince, Pop Chart’s managing editor.

"Whereas one might have to roll the 1897 Gandolfi Quarter Plate around on a cart (the lens was mounted in a brass-bound wooden box), the Leica A could be held in much the same way as a modern DSLR."

Of course, photography itself has changed quite a bit. We’ve ditched film for digital, and we carry snapshot-grabbing and HD video-capturing smartphones everywhere we go.

Infographic: A Timeline Of The 100 Most Important Cameras Ever Made

Over a century of photographic history on one poster.

Time travel back to 1950 with a Best Buy circular and you basically blow minds with every page. Flatscreen TVs? Crazy. Computers? Crazy. Smartphones? Double crazy. And then you get to the cameras, and the fedora-wearing fellow with the I Like Ike button whose world you just turned upside-down leans in for a closer look, squints a little bit, and says, "Oh, yeah, we’ve got those too!"

A Visual Compendium of Cameras, the latest from Pop Chart Lab, shows a hundred of the most important cameras ever produced, starting with the the original Kodak in 1888. And seeing all that history lined up, you can’t help but notice: compared to other gizmos, at least in terms of basic form factor, our picture-taking things have remained surprisingly consistent over the years. Not identical, perhaps, but definitely identifiable.

Which isn’t to say that photography hasn’t changed over that period. Of course it has. The most popular camera in the world today isn’t even really a camera--it’s an iPhone. We’ve ditched film for files, we’ve seen it become just as easy to capture video as individual snapshots, and we’ve even started celebrating our unaltered photos. So commonplace is the ability these days to transform our pictures with the touch of a button.

And clearly, even just in terms of outward appearance, it hasn’t been one long half-century of iterations. There was the ultra-slim Minox, that standby of Cold War-era espionage, and the Graph-Check, which used eight lenses and shutters to capture a sequence of shots. There was a detour to boxier forms during Polaroid’s hey day in the '70s and '80s, and the introduction of ergonomic bulges during the DSLR era.

And still, the period that saw the most radical change in the appearance of these devices came not at the dawn of digital but rather at the turn of the century. "We’re of course now very used to the notion of a high-quality camera in the palm of your hand, but even the jumps from the 1888 Kodak to the first Leica in 1925 show design with portability and distillation in mind," says William Prince, Pop Chart’s managing editor. "Whereas one might have to roll the 1897 Gandolfi Quarter Plate around on a cart (the lens was mounted in a brass-bound wooden box), the Leica A could be held in much the same way as a modern DSLR."

You can order a print from Pop Chart for $27.

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41 Comments

  • diimiitrii

    Since when is an iPhone a serious camera? I love my iPhone but that doesn't compare to anything on that list. Get real! This list is way too subjective. Basically, "These are the cameras I love and want to illustrate."

  • Clive

    Agree about the original plain prism Nikon F - where is it? Also, the Rolleiflex original model of 1929 was nothing like the camera illustrated. The film wind knob was on the upper left and the focus knob lower down on the same side. The camera shown is the Rolleiflex Automat from 1939 -1949, shown in the next row down as the Automat of 1937. The Hasselblad 500EL motor drive housing was the same width as the body of the camera, not a narrow little box stuck underneath as shown. Incidentally, where is the Hasselblad SWC, one of the best hand-held architectural cameras made?

  • Brendan

    What about the Epson R-D1?  The first digital rangefinder that was introduced before the M8?

  • mataxis

    The iPhone 4 is a decent consumer camera. Once I upgraded to the iPhone 4, I put my old Canon Digital Elf to rest. The pictures are better, you can edit the photos right on the device, and it is connect to the internet for easier sharing. In many ways, the iPhone trumps most consumer cameras.

  • Or Cohen

    My PC is a decent consumer camera. Once I upgraded to the PC with a webcam, I put my old Canon Digital Elf to rest. The pictures are better, you can edit the photos right on the device, and it is connect to the internet for easier sharing. In many ways, the PC trumps most consumer cameras.

  • mataxis

    The iPhone 4 is a decent consumer camera. Once I upgraded to the iPhone 4, I put my old Canon Digital Elf to rest. The pictures are better, you can edit the photos right on the device, and it is connect to the internet for easier sharing. In many ways, the iPhone trumps most consumer cameras.

  • Dale

    Where did they get these pictures of the cameras? That doesn't look like any Leica M9 I ever saw.

  • Szimages

    No Nikon Coolpix 950?  That one seemed to bring the digital era to Joe Consumer...at least in the camera store I worked in.  

  • James Mahon

    There's no rangefinder port on the Contax II or Leica M3.
    Also Pentax Spotmatic ?  Olympus XA ?

    Cool chart, however.