The Most Popular Digital Cameras

A short history of Digital Photography.

Danielle Gibson
Nov 15, 2020 · 7 min read
Photo by Luke Porter on Unsplash

The first fully digital camera was successfully made in 1988. While Steven Sasson and Kodak claim they invented the world’s first digital camera in the 1970s, their claim isn’t entirely accurate. Kodak’s digital camera of the 70s was just a stepping stone to the first fully digital camera produced by Fuji in 1988.

While other types of digital cameras had been released in the late 1960s, the Fuji DS-1P was the first all digital camera ever invented. In this case, all digital refers to the way the camera was able to store its captured images. Early digital cameras, also referred to as electronic cameras, stored images to a magnetic medium called a video floppy. The Fuji DS-1P was the world’s first camera to be able to save image data to a semiconductor memory card. The digital cameras of today still operate using the same semiconductor memory card technology.

Since the invention of the Fuji DS-1P in 1988, technology has advanced significantly. While semiconductor memory cards are still used to store images in digital camera, the quality of digital cameras has increased significantly. Over the last three decades, there have been five major types of digital cameras to emerge. These five digital cameras consist of smartphone cameras, compact cameras, bridge cameras, mirrorless cameras, and DSLR cameras.

Smartphone Cameras

The first iPhone was released on June 29, 2007. The photo displays three iPhone 6, each equipped with a high definition digital camera. — Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The world’s first Smartphone was invented in 1992 and was released for purchase in 1994. However, this Smartphone is a far cry from what we know today. The modern Smartphone equipped with its own digital camera became a common possession during the 2000s.

In today’s day and age, you would be hard pressed to find many people in modern society without a Smartphone within their grasp. The rise in the popularity of the Smartphone has also put a camera in the hands of more people than ever before. Smartphones allow anyone and everyone to take photos.

The newest models of Smartphones even allow users to take high-quality images without having to buy a camera. For most individuals, the Smartphone camera has taken the place of a traditional digital camera in recent years. While lower grade digital cameras are still bought and sold, every year they are becoming increasingly obsolete.

The pros and cons of Smartphone Cameras:


  • Small and portable
  • Fast and easy to use
  • Can share your photos instantly
  • Full of apps for editing the perfect photo


  • Limited lens and image sensor size
  • Can be an expensive purchase

Compact or Point-and-Shoot Cameras

A common compact camera made by Canon. — Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The compact or point-and-shoot camera used to be the standard digital camera for the casual photographer. However, in the new age of the Smartphone, the compact camera has become somewhat of a redundant purchase. The common Smartphone produces photos that are the same quality compared to that of images taken using a traditional compact camera.

Since the boom of the Smartphone, manufacturers have moved toward only producing higher end compact cameras. These higher end compact cameras provide high quality images, but come with a much higher price tag. The lower price bracket of compact cameras has nearly disappeared as a result of the popularity of the Smartphone.

The pros and cons of Compact Cameras:


  • Small and portable
  • Fast and easy to use
  • Zoom lenses
  • Variety of shooting modes


  • Small image sensors (Does not provide the highest quality)
  • Can be expensive

Bridge or Hybrid Cameras

The Fujifilm FinePix S9000 bridge camera. — Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

A bridge or hybrid camera provides a mixture of the features that are found in both compact cameras and DSLRs. The bridge camera is significantly bigger than the traditional compact camera and are a step above in terms of the features available and the quality of photos they produce.

Bridge cameras are a great option for new photographers or hobbyists. They are great photos to use during travel or capturing important moments. The bridge camera provides enormous zoom ranges, significantly more than a compact camera or Smartphone camera allows for. The main drawback to a bridge camera is that the lens can never be changed. The lens is built into a bridge camera, so you will never be able to swap out lenses to get a higher quality image.

Ultimately, the bridge camera is a great option for beginners and hobbyists, but it will never quite be able to reach the quality that a DSLR or mirrorless camera can provide.

The pros and cons of Bridge Cameras:


  • High quality zoom features
  • Great for new photographers
  • Provides the user more control compared to compact and phone cameras


  • Can’t change out the lens
  • Limited quality compared to DSLRs or mirrorless cameras

Mirrorless Cameras

A Nikon Z 7, a 2018 full-frame mirrorless camera. - Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Mirrorless cameras have exploded over the last several years. The mirrorless camera is really at the forefront of camera technology in the 21st century. The first mirrorless camera was marketed to the public in 2004. The mirrorless cameras are smaller and lighter compared to traditional DSLRs. However, they provide photographers with similar quality images.

The lenses in mirrorless cameras can be changed, putting them a step above bridge cameras and on the same level as DSLRs. However, there are not quite as many lens options for mirrorless cameras as there are DSLRs. Much of this has to do with the fact that mirrorless cameras simply haven’t been around as long as the DSLRs. Therefore, the range that a mirrorless camera can capture just isn’t quite on par compared to the range that a DSLR can capture at this time.

The pros and cons of Mirrorless Cameras:


  • Smaller and lighter compared to the similar quality DSLR cameras
  • Lenses are interchangeable
  • High quality camera


  • Lens range is limited compared to DSLR
  • Can be an expensive purchase
  • Costs the same or more than a traditional DSLR camera

Digital Single-Lens Reflex or DSLR Cameras

A Canon EOS 70D APS-C DSLR with the lens removed. — Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The digital single-lens reflex or DSLR cameras have been the standard camera for both amateurs and professional photographers for the last few decades. DSLRs have traditionally produced the highest quality images and provided photographers with the greatest amount of control when shooting. However, as mirrorless cameras have evolved, they have been giving DSLRs a run for their money in terms of being regarded the highest quality camera.

The lenses on DSLR cameras can be changed and there are tons of lenses available for DSLR cameras. The DSLR cameras also contain large sensor sizes allowing the photographer to capture higher quality and more detailed images. Many DSLR cameras can also swap out lenses with SLR camera lenses. The SLR or Single lens reflex cameras are film cameras comparable in quality and function to DSLRs.

The pros and cons of DSLR Cameras:


  • Provides the highest quality and control among digital cameras
  • Lenses can be changed
  • Many SLR lenses work with DSLR cameras
  • There are tons of lenses available for DSLR cameras
  • Contains large sensor sizes


  • Can be quite expensive
  • Can be very large and heavy to carry around

Digital cameras and technology as a whole have evolved significantly since the first fully digital camera was produced in 1988. While each type of digital camera has its own set of pros and cons, some are better suited for certain individuals compared to others.

For most people the digital camera in their Smartphone will serve them well. An enthusiastic amateur may enjoy investing in a bridge camera. For those aspiring to be serious photographers, investing in a mirrorless or DSLR camera will be well worth it.

Ultimately, before purchasing your own digital camera, determine what your goals are with your new camera and go from there. Each camera has its pros and cons, but certain types of digital cameras will serve you better than others.

History Through the Lens

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Danielle Gibson

Written by

Writer | Storyteller | Poet | Historian | Entrepreneur | M.A. History • Modern American and Modern European Studies | Writing about History, Culture, and more.

History Through the Lens

Photographers are the ones who allow us to go back in time in the visual sense. They help to tell the history of our world through pictures. These are their stories.

Danielle Gibson

Written by

Writer | Storyteller | Poet | Historian | Entrepreneur | M.A. History • Modern American and Modern European Studies | Writing about History, Culture, and more.

History Through the Lens

Photographers are the ones who allow us to go back in time in the visual sense. They help to tell the history of our world through pictures. These are their stories.

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