Inventor Portrait: Steven Sasson, Inventor of the Digital Camera


So, he’s the enemy – get him! No, just kidding. This portrait series is pretty interesting and we can’t argue on the impact of digital photography, be it for the good or bad.

Shot by David Friedman. The camera was created in 1975 by Steve Sasson, an engineer at Eastman Kodak, weighted around 8 pounds and recorded 0.01 megapixel black and white photos. I just like how vintage this thing looks, that it gets loaded with (digital) cassettes, how long it took for photos to be saved, his remark that he’s sitting in the pixel chair… But specially love this quote:

It took about 23 seconds to record and the tape would hold 30 images. A number I chose by the way to be conveniently between 24 and 36. I didn’t want to just store one or two images on there, because then they’d say “well, that’s not very useful”. I didn’t wanna store a hundred or a thousand images on there because nobody knew how to deal with that concept.

On the latter point: I still don’t. I tried digital, but this has always been one of the dealbreakers for me – I have no clue how to deal with this huge amount of photos. I like the limitations of analog photography.

Don’t want this to turn into a huge discussion about analog vs. digital, but what are your thoughts on this aspect: the amount of photos you get from a roll. If for the same money you’d get – let’s say – 200 shots per roll, would you go for it?

written by recurving on 2011-04-13 #lifestyle #analog #digital #discussion #limitation #steven-sasson


  1. istionojr
    istionojr ·

    my knowledge is now growing within this article.

  2. monkeyballs
    monkeyballs ·

    There are many joy's in analogue but one of them is the fact that you are limited. You have to choose your shots carefully to maximise your roll. If you expanded it so that people could take 200 pictures per roll then they'd start pictures of any old bollocks just like the people who use digital. Digital is expendable, analogue is permanent.

  3. kribbzor
    kribbzor ·

    and please! turn of HD everyone ;D haha...

    lovely to watch! :D

  4. t0m7
    t0m7 ·

    i think THIS is digital lo-fi-graphy :-D
    wish we could see pictures taken with this cam!

  5. dirklancer
    dirklancer ·

    There are times when it is pleasant to have no limitations. A car that never runs out of gas would be great at times, but even then I guess eventually the smog would kill everyone.
    Anyone worth listening to knows that constraint breeds creativity. Not efficiency. Not freedom.
    Robert Frost, whose poems often followed strict syllabic and rhyming conventions, once said of "free verse" poetry, "It's like playing tennis with the net down."
    I like the limitations in analogue photography, and so far I've been happy with my quality to crap ratio.

  6. recurving
    recurving ·

    @t0m7: if found this photo:

  7. metalhead_nl
    metalhead_nl ·

    totally agree with monkeyballs. But from the other side, on ebay i encountered a film containing only 12 frames... it would really be cool if more films where that short. Often I want to use several films while shooting the same subject, but the price of film today makes it really expensive to change your film before its spend.

  8. homer
    homer ·

    Well at 200 shots per roll as you suggest would be great at the same price as a 36 exp but i'd shoot more crap, like on digital, taking a large amount of similar frames.

    I recently used a half frame camera, so I had 72 exps on a roll and to be honest it annoyed me, but i think it was more that the half frame made it a portrait frame camera, plus it was a largely automatic camera too, which didn't help.

    I like 24 and 36 exp and even having only 12 on medium format, sometimes 8 with my Agfa Billy, it makes me more aware of the photos I'm making rather than shooting similar frames hoping that one of them is gonna work out the way I planned.

    I prefer making the most of film and having a limit on frames is not something i really ever think about coz I usually have a spare roll or two in my pocket (or spare loaded camera).

  9. yyyhorn
    yyyhorn ·

    The "limitations" of film is what makes it "romantic" for me. I only get 12 shots on my Lubitel and I love it!

  10. frequency_one
    frequency_one ·

    I will go ahead and agree with everybody so far and say that the limitations of analog photography is part of what makes it appealing. Ever since getting into this hobby, I have carefully framed each shot and tired to make each on count rather than mindlessly shooting away like I did when I first got a digital point-and-shoot about 5 years ago. I think the extendability (to steal monkeyball's word) of digital is part the reason why I stopped bringing my digital camera places. The obligation to take pictures while out and about "because you can" when carrying a digital camera became too much of a chore. Who really ever looks through those 100s of pictures you took while traveling through europe anyway? For me, the volume of pictures I was left with got to be too much to want to deal with. Ever since taking up analog just a few months ago, I've really enjoyed looking back at what I have shot so far and considering ways I could have framed something better or set the right exposure time. In a way, the limitations are helping me to become a better photographer because each shot counts that much more.

  11. angelc5
    angelc5 ·

    35mm, 36exp - I'll shot carelessly as the cost of process isn't that bad and I get free film. However, I've just purchased a pack of 10 slide film, 35exp, process paid, and I'm thinking before shooting as I don't want to waste it. I'm happy with 36exp, doesn't take too long to scan the negs....anymore than that and it becomes a job!

  12. reixox
    reixox ·

    I agree with Homer, I love my diana mini. However, if I'm shooting half frames I will purposefully choose a roll of 24. Otherwise I also get annoyed.

  13. panchoballard
    panchoballard ·

    Good point about using a 24 roll for the Diana Mini when shooting half frames. As for the question of using a roll of 200 frames - no way! Mainly because you'd be tied into that film speed, stock etc. for the whole roll. I like the fact that with 36, 24 and particularly 12, you can respond to changes in conditions quickly.

    And it's true, using film can often force you into thinking about your shots beforehand. Not always, as I've started taking a Diana Mini out and just going crazy, which can result in some fantastic, free-thinking shots, but when you're shooting medium format it's nice to stop and think before you press that shutter button.

  14. abrockman
    abrockman ·

    Analogue is wonderful, exciting, and addicting...I could never live without it, but I also shoot digital format as well. I usually take a few cameras with me when I shoot and my nikon DSLR is always in the mix. Sometimes having the option to shoot an obscenely large amount of photos is beneficial, especially I'm looking for references for my drawings and paintings. Otherwise, I absolutely prefer a roll of film with 24 or 36 exposures. The whole process of loading your camera, taking pictures, and developing and printing your photos is enjoyable. I think a roll with 200 exposures would take away from that experience and make everything a bit more difficult.

  15. juuldeliette
    juuldeliette ·

    True and all that limitations are good for getting those great shots, but on the other hand : for me as a cheapskate student I wouldn't mind getting more pictures for less money !

  16. j_rad
    j_rad ·

    It's not about the number of shots per roll, for me... It's about the number of continuous shots before I have to sit down and reload. It's always when I'm just getting into the groove that I hit number 12 on the Holga, then I have to pause and go through the motions of removing the back, pulling out the film, etc etc. (It's even more of a hassle on a medium format SLR). I shot some 220 recently and having twice as many shots was very convenient! I still do appreciate that we shoot with a finite number of images; I just want that number to be more a little higher.

  17. vicuna
    vicuna ·

    I love analogue and film because it's limited to 36 (or 24) pics a roll. One roll and every roll is like an unique experience and as you know you have only 36 shots, you shoot differently and that's all the thing about analogue: creativity (like says @dirklancer) comes from limitation, and real freedom doesn't exist without any limitation.... 200 pictures a roll? No, I don't think I want this! Not because of the total amount of course, but I prefer to have 5 or 6 different rolls of various films to play with and shoot 200 pics like that! :))

  18. fash_on
    fash_on ·

    Very often in life quality is preferred over definitely offers quantity, but most things loose their value when they are available in limitless supply, you care less about them, and you don't work/plan to get the best out of them.

  19. olen
    olen ·

    imagine carrying that in your pocket. hehehe...

  20. yawn
    yawn ·

    meh I wanted to SEE a pic taken by that camera!

  21. recurving
  22. nock
    nock ·

    What I can tell you is that, in film school you start by learning with film! Namely 16mm film, shot with Arri S cameras from the 2nd WW...! It's amazing... the rolls are expensive, processing is even more expensive and you don't get to see how it is until it's processed! Believe me, a lot more nerve racking then Lomo photography! But, and because money does not fall from the sky, you have to program, study, imagine, create and resolve all the aspects in your film in a much wiser way so that you don't spend a lot of film... That single thing makes you better! The moment you start shooting with digital all of the rules, the processes, the "modus operandi" goes out of the window and it's like you kind of lose some drive because if it is bad you just delete the take and do it all over again (even for the actors film is better, because they look better eheheh)


    Film rules but digital is needed anyway

  23. bass_clarinet_2000
    bass_clarinet_2000 ·

    I love my digital. I wouldn't go anywhere without my digital camera but the same goes with a film camera. Something about the idea of negatives makes me flutter with delight. I can tell what will happen with a digital camera in a few seconds but the negatives bring on an element of surprise. Even if the film can have more than 36 exposures on it, I would still go for it. I would give it a try.

  24. tattso
    tattso ·

    I still think the first model of the digital camera is quite analogue, I mean look at that tape!

  25. susielomovitz
    susielomovitz ·

    this video is just GREAT!

  26. photogt
    photogt ·

    If you have discipline, then you can moderate the amount of shots you take on digital, it helps being bought up on analogue!!

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