Analog camera

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Analog camera (also: analog camera ) is a retronymer term from the photograph . It is a camera that, instead of a digital storage medium (see: digital camera ) , requires photographic film or photo plates as a recording medium , or, in the case of high- quality printing processes, coated paper or metal plates or instant photo material .

It is based on the technology of classic analog photography (also silver photography ) for cameras and film cameras.


To distinguish it from the term digital camera within the new photographic processes of digital photography , the term analogue camera emerged at the beginning of the 21st century . Previously, cameras for the classic process were called film cameras , photo cameras , still cameras or simply cameras .

Calling the cameras analog is historically incorrect and the result of a misunderstanding. Steven J. Sasson's first “digital camera” in 1975 was actually a still video camera system (SVC) in which the analog signal from the CCD sensor was stored internally digitized on a magnetic tape (outside the camera). For viewing or even electronic image processing (EBV) , the digital information stored on the tape could not yet be used with the technology that was available to the pioneer Steven Sasson at that time. The images on the screen of a television set could only be viewed as a re-analogized signal .

In 1981, Sony developed the Mavica, the prototype of an SVC with which pictures (still analog) could at least be saved on a floppy disk inside the camera. This was followed by commercially usable camera systems and the like. a. from Canon (prototype in August 1984, market ready in July 1986 with the model RC-701 ) and Nikon (prototype SVC in autumn 1985, market ready in 1988 with the model QV-1000c), which were based on this analog storage method.

All of these systems did not yet allow EBV; Here too, the images were only presented on a television set. Strictly speaking, it was not yet digital photography. After all, the image data from the camera could already be transmitted electronically to the photo editors within minutes using a telephone modem, largely without loss , and used there for printing .

It was not until 1990 that the Kodak company presented the first fully digital camera system in which the analog image information from the CCD sensor (later also the CMOS sensor ) is immediately fed to an analog-digital converter , stored in digital form and then processed further using EBV could be (rotate, mirror, scale, alienate etc.). This camera for professional photographers, a Kodak DCS (called Kodak DCS-100 from 1991), is based on a Nikon F3 SLR camera , which has been expanded to include electronic recording components. The digital storage unit was not yet implemented inside the camera and was located in a separate module that was carried on the shoulder. In the same year, Logitech developed the Fotoman ( also marketed as Dycam in the USA ), the first real digital camera for the mass market. At the same time, Adobe Photoshop, the first commercial program for digital image processing , appeared in 1990 .

In order to explain this new type of digital storage technology to the public, it was compared technically in some publications with the analog image storage system used by the SVC until then. Due to translation errors and misinterpretations, as well as the prevailing lack of technical understanding of digital camera technology, some journalists erroneously referred to all of them - including the previous classic film-based camera systems - as analog cameras.

The term has generally been used to this day and no longer refers to still video cameras with analog storage technology, but - incorrectly - only the cameras for film-based (silver) photography (which will only be dealt with in the further course of this article). In this case, however, the image is neither digitally nor in analogue "stored", but fixed chemically and physically .


Today (2017) there are only a few manufacturers worldwide who produce cameras for analog photography; its share of the overall market has now stabilized at a very low level. The market for the necessary consumables (films, photo paper, developer chemicals) and for film development services has also declined sharply, but it still exists.


The use and importance of the analog camera as an imaging instrument in everyday life is becoming less and less important in industrialized countries. However, some amateurs and hobby photographers never took the step to digital photography and continue to use it as usual.

Among some professional photographers and “fine art” artists as well as with the use of large format cameras , photography with analog cameras up to the classic processing of images in the photo laboratory definitely enjoys an existence. Professional repro cameras with film material are sometimes still used today for the archival storage of image material over long periods of time.

Some photographers use analog cameras exclusively for instant photography on instant film in order to achieve both a unique original and an unusual and special image effect. In some cases, analogue instant cameras are also used in reproduction photography (museums, archives).

At the beginning of the 2010s there was a trend to reuse existing analog cameras for recording on film material . The developed negatives are then no longer enlarged in the darkroom , but rather scanned in so that they can then be digitally processed. This hybrid photography technique is part of analog photography . There are now manufacturers of new cameras within this niche market.


An image is created in an analog camera by projecting the recording object by means of an optical system on a focusing screen or latently on a film . First, the camera is loaded with unexposed photographic film that can only be used once (previously also glass plates ). Now the photograph is taken within the limits of the sensitization of the material used. The film contains particles of light-sensitive silver halides that decompose on exposure. Elementary silver grains promote the reduction by a reducing agent (developer) of other silver halide in their immediate vicinity. Unchanged residues of the silver halides are dissolved with a fixative. The fixed photographic image as an object is therefore only created in the photo laboratory or in the darkroom. The exposed film is then dried; depending on the development process, it now shows a transparent, so-called slide, or a negative with an inverted tone value. In a second process step, the developed slide or negative is then projected in the enlarger onto light-sensitive photo paper , which can also only be used once , or is placed directly on such paper using a contact copy and exposed. This must now also be developed, fixed and dried.

Instant cameras work a little differently . Immediately after exposure, the exposed film is pulled through nip rollers, which distribute a developer paste evenly over the image. It is developed within seconds.

In some fine printing processes , exposure was also carried out directly on a specially treated metal plate. The result after development is a metallic shimmering one-off.

Optical system

Analog cameras do not always need a lens for taking photographs . There are so-called pinhole cameras based on the camera obscura , with which images can be projected without optical glass elements. Usually, however, lenses are used for projection within the camera.

Types of an analog camera

Analog photographic camera

Analog cameras can be distinguished on the basis of numerous criteria, e.g. B. by recording format, optical system, recording medium used or area of ​​application. Due to the different classification criteria, a camera can also appear in several categories at the same time, for example a viewfinder camera can be a small image camera and a bellows camera at the same time. Cameras are classified mainly according to:

There are also various special cameras for specific technical areas of application, e.g. B. High-speed cameras , aerial cameras , measurement cameras , panorama cameras , stereo cameras , topographic cameras , surveillance cameras , underwater cameras , thermal imaging cameras / thermographic cameras / infrared cameras and two-room cameras . Another special type of camera is the Astrocam . It consists of a model rocket with a pocket camera in the tip and enables aerial photographs to be taken .

Classification according to recording medium

Photographic film :

Instant film :

For various camera systems with exchangeable film magazines for classic film material (roll film cameras and view cameras), there are polaroid backs as an alternative.

Photo plate :

Photo plates were and are still being made and used in a wide variety of formats. In France, collodion cameras existed for glass plates up to 30 cm × 30 cm; Round glass plates with a diameter of 5.5 cm were produced for spy and revolver cameras, with the help of which six circular images in the format 12 mm could be made.

Classification according to the recording format

Classification according to the optical construction

Historical analog camera

Historical cameras can also be classified and named according to the recording format, optical construction or film type. However, other historical terms have also become established:

Cameras with certain structural characteristics

Historical special cameras:

Cinematographic analog cameras

There are cinematographic film cameras for a wide variety of recording formats, depending on the film format used . The film formats 8 mm , 9.5 mm , 16 mm , 35 mm and 70 mm have recently become established .

A wide variety of designs were implemented: camera drives using a crank, spring mechanism or electric motor. Cameras with fixed focal lengths or zoom lenses and those with interchangeable lenses using single or revolver mounts.

See also


Photo technology, design and photo practice:

History, chronology:

  • Reinhold Misselbeck : Prestel Lexicon of Photographers: from the beginnings in 1839 to the present; with glossary . Prestel, Munich a. a. 2002, ISBN 3-7913-2529-9 .
  • Therese Mulligan, David Wooters, History of Photography - From 1839 to Today. 25 years of bags. Anniversary edition, Taschen-Verlag, 2005, ISBN 3-8228-4775-5 .
  • Beaumont Newhall : History of Photography. Schirmer / Mosel, Munich 1998/2005, ISBN 3-88814-319-5 .
  • Franz-Xaver Schlegel: The life of dead things - studies of modern object photography in the USA 1914-1935. 2 volumes, Art in Life, Stuttgart 1999, ISBN 3-00-004407-8 .
  • Wolfgang Kemp : Photo essays: On the history and theory of photography (paperback), Schirmer / Mosel 2006, ISBN 3-8296-0240-5 .
  • Lynne Warren (Ed.): Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Photography. Routledge, New York, NY [et al. a.] 2006.
  • About the value of photography. Scientific criteria for the preservation of photo collections. International and interdisciplinary conference Aarau (Switzerland), 23. – 24. March 2012.


  • (Franz-Xaver Schlegel) The work. Technical photography studies (1931) . Preliminary remark by Eugen Diesel (1931). Reprint of the first edition in 1931 along with materials on the history of the edition. Introductory essay by Franz-Xaver Schlegel (2002). Edited by the Albertina, Vienna. Koenigstein i. Ts. 2002 (= The Blue Books). ISBN 3-7845-3560-7

Web links

Commons : Photographic film cameras  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: camera  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Article in Channel Partner from September 6, 2001 ( Memento from May 21, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
  2. Patent US4131919 : Published December 26, 1978 .
  3. Steven J. Sasson: 'We Had No Idea' - Article from October 16, 2007 about the first digital camera ( Memento from March 16, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  4. Harvey W. Yurow Ph.D. Whither Analog Photography? (English)
  5. Article from January 1987 in the Swedish magazine 'aktuell fotografi' (Swedish)