In recent years, technology advancements in the field of photography have been quite staggering. At first, the idea of having a mobile phone with a camera was fairly unbelievable, but now manufacturers are producing devices which feature professional photography specifications, that fit inside our pockets.
Most recently, Ricoh unveiled the first handheld camera that takes fully spherical 360-degree panorama photos in just one shot. Known as the Theta, this particular lightweight compact camera features state-of-the-art technology for picture taking and sharing, yet can be carried around easily and discreetly.
So just how far have digital cameras come? And is the Ricoh Theta a sign of things to come?
Brief evolution of digital cameras
The very first digital camera is generally considered to be an effort by Eastman Kodak’s engineer Steven Sasson in 1975. It captured images to a cassette, which could then be viewed on a special display device connected to a television.
Apart from a couple of analogue devices that followed, the first genuine commercial digital camera was the Fujix DS-1P released in 1989. It wrote files to solid-state memory cards and only appeared in Japan for a short period of time.
The market slowly began to expand in the 1990s, with Nikon bodies and Kodak digital sensors pairing up to create digital cameras that cost $20,000. In 1995, the Casio QV-10 was the first camera to feature a built-in screen and established a precedent for all future offerings.
Nikon then made a device that could connect to a computer, while Ricoh’s RDC1 recorded video. Numerous sizes and shapes continued to be developed, but by the turn of the millennium, the first digital SLR (single-lens reflex) cameras were released.
While technical specifications improved, the size and shape of components became smaller. Soon, cameras became commonplace in laptops, mobile phones and portable entertainment devices. Most recently, Nokia unveiled the Lumia 1020 smartphone with a 41-megapixel camera sensor and full HD video recording capability.
With its latest release, Ricoh hopes to create yet another landmark in the history of digital cameras, as the Japanese firm has influenced several developments in the past.
Weighing just 95 grams, the Ricoh Theta uses a proprietary twin-lens folded optical system that can capture all-encompassing images. Although there is no viewfinder or display, this would be somewhat arbitrary, as the device is guaranteed to capture the surrounding environment.
In today’s connected digital society, Ricoh hasn’t forgotten about the importance of sharing images. The Theta has a compatible iPhone application for viewing and distributing images on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. An Android app is expected before the end of 2013.
Ricoh announced that the device will cost £329 ($525) and is already available for pre-order in the U.S. and UK. When it launches, the Ricoh Theta will be compatible with the iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S running on iOS 6.0 just-released iOS 7.
While it remains to be seen whether Ricoh’s bold new advancement is yet another significant milestone in the evolution of digital cameras, there is a very good chance that the technology will eventually be evident in smartphones, tablets and other devices.