History of Travel Cameras

Although early camera inventions established the base of photography, it wasn’t until George Eastman invented modern photographic film technology in 1885 that the possibility of cameras as a convenient product for everyday consumers became possible. With his technology, Eastman was able to create the first Kodak camera. This invention skyrocketed the popularity of personal cameras, but they were still a hassle to operate, as the size of the large camera was inconvenient.

kodak roll-film

The first Kodak roll-film camera, invented by a pioneer of the photo industry, George Eastman.

In 1901, Eastman created the new, simple, and affordable “Brownie” camera, which was able to take snapshots. The popularity and consumer demand of this camera skyrocketed, and by 1905, about ten million Americans had become amateur photographers, just by owning a “Brownie.” [i] Those who were previously excluded from photographic expression due to their gender, age, or economic status, were now able to partake in the leisure activity of photography.[ii]

Eastman's first mass-marketed camera, the Brownie.

Eastman’s first mass-marketed camera, the Brownie.

Following the Brownie, the Tourist Multiple Camera was invented in 1913, which did not become as popular due to its extremely high price, and the inconvenient time it was released. The factories, which produced these cameras, were converting to military production for World War I.

At this time, the Raisecamera, known as the travel camera, was invented, leading to Oskar Barnack’s camera that is considered the first engineering step in the design of the 35 mm camera we know and use today.[iii]

The Raisecamera, known as the travel camera,  was an extreme light weight camera.It was most desired by landscape photographers.

The Raise camera (travel camera), was light weight and portable, and desired mostly by landscape photographers.

oskar barnack 35mm

The first 35mm camera invented by Oskar Barnack, (also known as the candid camera) later became the standard format for all film cameras

Ernst Leitz expanded the basic design and ideas of Barnack, leading to the invention of the first successful and mass-produced 35mm camera in 1924.[iv]


Intended to be a compact camera for landscape photography, the Leica I camera became the first practical 35mm camera

In 1932, the 8mm video camera was invented by Kodak, which was later replaced by the Super 8 in 1965, becoming the home movie camera of choice.

Practical "home movie" cameras began in 1923 with the 8mm, but became more popular in 1965 with the invention of the Super 8mm. This  new revolutionary format was used by many of today's great cinematographers and directors.

Practical “home movie” cameras began in 1923 with the 8mm, but became more popular in 1965 with the invention of the Super 8mm. This new revolutionary format was used by many of today’s great cinematographers and directors.

Advancements such as the Polaroid camera in 1948, which allowed users to take and print a picture within one minute, and Disposable cameras were all used, and seemed convenient at the time for travel photography.

Edwin Land invented the Polaroid camera which could take and print  a picture in only one minute.

The Polaroid Camera, invented by Edwin Land  in 1948

It wasn’t until the invention of the digital camera that people were made aware of the disadvantages and limitations of camera’s using film. The advancements of the digital format further secured the cameras place in the homes of families nationwide, while also making users aware of the advantages it provides while traveling.

[i] Olivier, Marc. “Snapshot Photography and the Brownie.” In George Eastman’s Modern Stone Age Family: Snapshot Photography and the Brownie, 1-19. 1st ed. Vol. 48. Society for the History of Technology, 2007.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Patti, Tony. 2003. “A Short History of General Use Still Cameras.” PSA Journal 69, no. 5: 28.Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed November 9, 2014).

[iv] Ibid.

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