The Disposable Camera: 1986’s Technological Breakthrough

The first disposable camera, by Fujifilm. Created in 1986.

To understand the technological breakthrough of the disposable camera in 1986, we first need to look at a little background on the product.

In the year 1949, a company called Photo-Pac created a cardboard camera. This camera allowed for 8 pictures to be taken and then had to be sent in for processing in order to receive the pictures. The idea behind this cardboard camera was that people were tired of missed photo opportunities. Cameras at the time were expensive and it was not practical to have them on hand at any given moment, so they were often left behind at home. The creation of the cardboard camera by Photo-Pac allowed for an easy to use camera to be on hand whenever a great photo opportunity presented itself. However, the camera did not do well in the market, and it wasn’t until 37 years later, that a disposable camera succeeded in the market.

Photo-Pac cardboard camera, created 1949.

Fujifilm revisited the idea of the disposable camera, and released it in 1986. It was a huge success, and was primarily used by tourists. It was a great way to take pictures at any moment without the hassle that a more developed or professional camera would provide. This technology was created in Japan and became popular over there, but soon came to North America. Fujifilm saw competitors such as Kodak and Nikon enter the market as well.

Disposable cameras were successful because of the very reason that Photo-Pac discovered all the way back in 1949. Consumers wanted a camera that was affordable and portable, so that a picture could be taken at any moment without any hassle. The disposable camera was seen everywhere in the 80’s and 90’s. I remember going in with my parents to hand in our disposable cameras and walking out with hundreds of pictures that ended up in the photo albums. It’s a shame that these days, those albums have been stored digitally, on Facebook for example. That’s not nearly as exciting.

That’s the way we’re headed I’m afraid. The days of disposable cameras are over. With smartphone cameras being better than ever, and the immense amount of storage available digitally, there is no such thing as a “missed photo opportunity” anymore.

If you want to learn more about the history of disposable cameras, visit https://disposableamerica.org/course-projects/della-keyser/pictures-first-cameras-second-the-history-of-disposable-cameras/.

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