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Home /History / Weirdest Cameras From the Past

Weirdest Cameras From the Past

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By Christian Roemer

These days, we take cameras for granted. Basically everyone in the United States has a digital camera built into their phone that lets them instantly capture hilarious cat videos and toddler hijinks.

Best of all, it fits right in our pockets!
Prior to that, I don’t even know how people captured candid moments. I guess they lugged their thousand-pound camcorder everywhere?

As silly as camcorders looked -- every dad everywhere in the 80s attending their kids’ birthday parties looked like they were auditioning for a job at their local news station -- they don’t hold a candle to some of the ridiculous cameras of the past (and present!). Some were as big as cars. Some you just threw in the trash. Others were specifically designed for creeping on people. Some live IN SPACE!


This is our list of the top 10 weirdest cameras in history.

 

Hubble Space Telescope 

OK, maybe this one is cheating, but I don’t think so. The Hubble Space Telescope is one of my favorite pieces of engineering in the history of humankind. It took my favorite picture of all time. Hubble showed us that, if you point a camera at the dark sky for long enough, even small slivers of the sky are full of entire universes that we can’t comprehend. Amazing!

 

Mammoth Camera 

The mammoth camera was hilarious. Basically, this dude named George R. Lawrence wanted to take a really big picture of a train. Doing the math, he was probably thinking, “How do I take a bigger picture? EASY, MAKE A BIGGER CAMERA!” That’s what led us to this monstrosity that was bigger than a Prius. It did take a cool picture though.

 

Chromemco Cyclops 

Technically the first widely available digital camera, this poorly designed piece of equipment took absolutely terrible photos. It was capable of taking pictures with a resolution of 32 x 32 pixels. That’s about the size equivalent of a quarter inch on a modern HDTV. Pathetic.

 

Daguerreotype 

If you’ve ever read One Hundred Years of Solitude, you’ve heard a thing or two about a Daguerreotype. This type of camera was one of the first reliable photography forms. It worked by polishing giant silver sheets to a mirror finish and applying toxic chemicals including Mercury. It’s no wonder these things went out of style!

 

Camera Obscura 

Camera obscura isn’t really a camera, but I had to include it here for a silly reason. Basically, people in the B.C.s figured out that you can use small pinholes to create reflections of things. Some people think camera obscura created a photo of Jesus when he was still alive. What a miracle!

 

Disposable Camera 

If there’s anything that shows the excesses of modern consumerism, it’s the disposable camera. You just go to the store, buy this little plastic camera, use it for a single week of summer camp, and throw it in the trash after the film is developed. It’s not even like film cameras are expensive if you want to buy one! Let’s cut down the waste, people!

 

Detective Camera 

This genre of creeper tools is both sobering and hilarious. While it’s hard for me to pick a favorite, a few rank higher than others. I’m particularly fond of the glasses camera. The camera in the mirror is just flat out spooky. The James Bond pen camera is neat though!

 

VolgtLander 

This strange German contraption looks like an invention straight out of The Jetsons. The VolgtLander was actually a type of Daguerreotype. Better yet, it captured round pictures! Neat!

 

Sony Mavica 

I’ve never seen a more 80s looking product than the Sony Mavica. This camera was called the Video Floppy, which is a hilarious name. It actually captured digital pictures directly to floppy disks. Some consider this camera to be the pioneer of the digital era, and I think it looks awesome!

 

Mini DVD Camcorders 

There’s nothing super special about these cameras, but I like them because the mini DVDs are so dang cute! For these camcorders, you just plug in a half-sized DVD and get to shooting. The little miniature discs could even go straight into your DVD player after recording.


Photography has gone through tons of changes over the last century and a half, but some of the weirdest milestones of camera development are on this list. With all these wonderful and weird cameras we’ve seen, who knows what the next 100 years will bring!


Eyeball cameras?!?!

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