What Is Film Camera?

What is Film Camera? It can be simply answered in one line. A camera that exposes photographic film to light in order to capture a still image is called film camera.

A picture is equivalent to a thousand words. The need of capturing moments is increasing day by day around the world. From the entertainment business to social media, the camera has become an essential gadget now a days.

However, the demand of capturing photos was primitive. Camera obscura invented in ancient times with a view to taking pictures. That camera obscura evolved into a film camera later. Film cameras have been used since the late 19th century.

How do Film Cameras Works?

Once the light enters the camera, it creates an image by causing a chemical reaction on photo film. Outdoor light reflects off the dog, bouncing into the camera, through the lens and onto a mirror.

The light then bounces off the mirror into a five-sided piece of glass called a “pentaprism” and into the eyepiece.

Finally, the light passes through the eyepiece and into human eye. This allows photographer to see the image exactly as it will appear on film.

Brief History

Ḥasan Ibn al-Haytham is the father of modern optics. He is also the pioneer of camera obscura. The camera obscura was a big wooden box with a small hole covered in darkness. When the light entered the hole in the dark while taking the picture, it would have created a reflection of the opposite of the image. However, there was no way to save the photos.

The method of saving the reflected images did not come to anyone’s mind at that time. But in 1727, German physicist Johannes Stark worked on light-sensitive chemicals and proved that silver salt is light sensitive. But he could not use his discovery to save the photos, which had to wait for another 100 years to discover the way to save. In 1827, French scientist Nicéphore Niépce earned the credit to preserve first photograph in the history.

He put a designed bitumen-covered metal plate in the camera obscura. It reflects the sunlight from the object and sold in the parts that fall on the plate, and the rest remain dark. Then a picture of black and white found after it washed in a chemical sludge. But it took a long time to get a picture. It took 8 hours or more to expose under sunlight and would have faded very quickly.


Louis Daguerre began working on the stain to overcome this limitation of the camera obscure made by Niépce. He was able to bring its exposure to just 30 minutes and prolong it. After Niépce died in 1839, Daguerre discovered a more convenient and effective method by doing some more research and named it ‘Daguerreotype’ after his own name.


There was a problem with the Daguerreotype, from which no copy of the original image could be made. William Henry Fox Talbot worked to solve this problem. He was an English mathematician and a contemporary of Lewis. It mostly considered that he was the inventor of the first negative image. Talbot created the calotype in 1840 and obtained a patent in 1841. The Greek word calotype means beautiful picture.

Kodak Brownie and the Birth of Photographic Film

George Eastman founded the Eastman Dry Plate and Film Company in 1880. Eastman considered to be the promoter of photographic film. He started production of paper film in 185 and celluloid film in 189. Kodak launched his camera in 18 using photographic film. It was a normal camera, and had a fixed focus lens. In 1900 another of his cameras came on the market, the Kodak Brownie. It was much cheaper in terms of price and snapshots introduced with this camera. Brownie extremely popular and sold in huge quantities.

Different Types of Film Camera

Film cameras also have many variations. Even in the modern age of digital cameras, there are still a diversity of film cameras available on the market. They are:

  1. Single-Lens Reflex (SLR) – These cameras are the analog equivalent of the DSLR. SLR cameras also allow to swap lenses, enable to exert greater control over shots. The Canon AE-1 is one of the most well known and widely circulated 35mm SLR cameras.
  2. Twin-Lens Reflex (TLR) – Equipped with double objective lenses of identical focal lengths, twin-lens reflex or TLR cameras are able to continuously display the scene you are trying to shoot on the viewfinder screen.
  3. Point-and-Shoot Camera – Without mirrors or any of the other complex mechanisms found in more sophisticated cameras, point-and-shoots are generally very compact and lightweight film cameras.
  4. Toy Camera – Toy cameras normally made of plastic and are very easy to use, making them suitable for children. They’re also capable of shooting decent images regardless of the various defects in their lenses. Some Lomography cameras, like the Diana F+ Medium Format Camera categorized under this film camera type.
  5. Instant Camera – When all the cameras followed the conventional path, Polaroid Corporation launched an instant film camera named ‘Land Camera 95’. It came to the market in 1948. The special feature of this camera is that it would take a print out of the camera within a minute of taking the shot. The camera became quite popular after it came in the market. Although initially only able to take black-and-white pictures, the company launched a color film in 1963.

Besides, Pentax K1000, Nikon FM2, The Canon AE-1, Minolta X-700, Canonet G III QL17, Olympus OM-1, Leica M6 etc. are some popular film camera’s model name of all time.

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