STARS-Proposal:Digital Still Cameras


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Authors: Motokazu Ohkawa and Rik Nebeker


1973 Fairchild released the first commercial CCD chip (100 pixels x 100 pixels).
1975 Steven Sasson (Kodak) built a prototype digital camera.
1980 Kageyama et al. (Toshiba) submitted a paper on "Cassette Camera".
1981 Sony put the Electronic Still Camera (Floppy Camera) on the market.
1986 Kodak made the first megapixel image sensor (1.4 megapixels).
1986 Canon released an electronic still camera (RC-701) using the Still Video Floppy standard.
1988 Fujifilm developed a prototype of a digital still camera (DSC).
1989 Toshiba and Fujifilm jointly announced the first market model of a DSC.
1991 Kodak released a professional digital camera system for photojournalists.
1992 The JPEG standard was published by ISO/IEC.
1992 JEIDA announced the standard Exif of image file format for DSC.
1994 Casio announced the first consumer-oriented DSC QV-10 employing Exif.
1995 Casio put the DSC QV-10A on the market at a low price.
1997 The first megapixel cameras for the general consumer came on the market.
2000 Total sales of DSCs exceeded that of film cameras.


The first equipment to record images electrically was the Ampex VRX-100 videotape recorder announced in 1956. Such equipment aimed at reproducing images on TV screens, but they helped prepare the way for the digital still camera (DSC). To achieve sufficient image quality, work had to be done on image sensors, recording media, and image processing technologies, but with electronic cameras there was the promise of immediate image reproduction, lower operating costs, and fewer environmental problems.

An image sensor capable of sufficient image quality for a camera was developed by Fairchild, Siemens, Canon, Sony, and others. In 1975 Steven Sasson at Kodak built a prototype digital camera using a Fairchild CCD (100 pixels by 100 pixels), but this camera was not commercialized. In 1981 Sony put on the market its Mavica (magnetic video camera), or Floppy Mavica as it was sometimes called. Because this electronic camera was recording frame or field images of an analog video signal, this was not a digital image and the reproduced quality was adequate only for viewing on a TV screen.

The first report of recording still images on an audio cassette tape digitally was made by Toshiba in 1980, and they produced a prototype of this recording technology in 1985. In 1989 Fujifilm and Toshiba jointly announced the first prototype of a DSC, the DS-1P. It stored digital images in semiconductor memories, but the image quality was limited to video quality. In the United States, Dycam placed a digital camera on the market in 1990.

The next important steps occurred when Sony and Panasonic developed an image sensor dedicated to the DSC, when ISO/IEC (International Standards Organization/International Electrotechnical Commission) standardized the picture processing technique JPEG in 1992, and when Toshiba developed flash memory as a mass-storage medium. In the 1990s camera manufacturers, film manufacturers, and electric manufacturers individually or jointly announced their various DSCs in different specifications. In 1992 JEIDA (Japan Electronic Industries Development Association) submitted Exif as a unified format for DSCs.

These technologies were incorporated in the first consumer-oriented DSC, the QV-10, which Casio put on the market in 1994. In 1994 Apple Computer entered the market with the a digital camera, but it did not sell well and was discontinued in 1997. In 1995 Kodak introduced a digital camera intended for a wide market, the DC40. A feature introduced by Casio in 1995 with the QV-11 camera was the liquid-crystal display on the back of a camera.

The digital still camera achieved rapid growth in the marketplace, as it was part of a remarkable enrichment in the information environment, including mobile phones, the Internet, personal computers, and home-use printers. Digitally stored image data could easily be exchanged between digital devices. Total sales of DSCs exceeded that of film cameras in the year 2000, with Canon and Nikon dominating the market. The DSC brought a paradigm shift in people's daily lives and in the imaging industries.


References of Historical Significance

Satoshi Kageyama et al. 1980. "Digital Still Picture Recorder Utilizing an Ordinary Audio Cassette Deck". Magnetic Recording Committee of the IECE of Japan, MR80-25, October 1980 (in Japanese)

Motokazu Ohkawa. 2008. "Historical Development on Digital Still Cameras". Survey report vol.10, March 2008, National Museum of Nature and Science, Japan (in Japanese)

Satoshi Kageyama et al. 1995. "Digital Still Picture Recorder Utilizing an Ordinary Audio Cassette Deck". IEEE Transactions on Consumer Electronics, vol. CE-31, no.2, May 1995. pp 96-107

ISO 12234-2005. 2005. Electronic still-picture imaging -- Removable memory -- Part 1: Basic removable-memory model. ISO

SPIE vol. 1082. 1989. Applications of Electronic Imaging. SPIE (1989)/159

References for Further Reading

About the Author(s)

Motokazu Ohkawa graduated from Tohoku University and had been working in Toshiba from 1963 till2000. In Toshiba, he was a key member of the project team dedicated to development of the world first commercial DSC, and he acted as a chairperson of DSC Committee in JEIDA from 1990 till 2000. After retiring Toshiba, he worked at CIPA as a technical advisor. He also worked at National Museum of Nature and Science to draft a survey report about the history of the DSC. He was a co-chair person for 3 years of the ISO TC42 (Photography) WG18 standards group, and is still an expert in ISO TC 42.

Frederik Nebeker received a B.A. in mathematics from Pomona College, an M.A. in history of science from the University of Wisconsin, and a Ph.D. in history of science and technology from Princeton University. He worked at the American Philosophical Society and at the Center for History of Physics before moving in 1990 to the IEEE History Center at Rutgers University, where he is currently Senior Research Historian. He is author, co-author, or editor of ten books, most recently Dawn of the Electronic Age: Electrical Technologies in the Shaping of the Modern World, 1914 to 1945 (2009).