25 cameras that changed the world

We take a trip down memory lane, picking out some of the snappers responsible for breaking the mould and changing the game

Since the first photograph was taken in 1826, the camera has developed apace – moving from glass plates to film to digital, from large and unwieldy to pocket-sized, from prohibitively expensive and complicated to cheap and simple enough for even Big Brother contestants to use on a semi-regular basis.

Join us as we take a trip down camera memory lane, pausing to detail 25 cameras that, for one reason or other, were responsible for changing the world.

Hasselblad 500EL

The camera that went to the moon! Yes, three heavily modified 500EL medium format cameras were used on the Apollo 11 mission, and every photo taken on the surface was snapped on an even more tinkered-with EL Data Camera equipped with a 60mm Zeiss lens and film magazine allowing between 150 and 200 exposures. In all, there are twelve Hasselblads still sitting on the lunar surface.

Polaroid SX-70

Introduced in 1972, the SX-70 could be taken out of a pocket, unfolded and used to take five photos… all in ten seconds. An SLR – the viewfinder gave a through-the-lens view – that delivered shots instantly, the SX-70 was successful despite its then high price tag, selling 700,000 by mid-1974 and, thanks to association with the likes of Andy Warhol, Ansel Adams and Helmut Newton, gaining a cult status that remains strong today. 

[Image courtesy of Flickr user Timmy Toucan]

More after the break...

Nokia N95

Arguably the first smartphone to sport a decent camera, the N95 rocked a 5MP snapper with autofocus, Carl Zeiss optics and a range of tweakable settings. It could also capture VGA video. The flash wasn’t great, it’s true, but the N95’s photography skills sparked a range of phone manufacturers into raising their game when it came to cameras.

Fermilab Dark Energy Camera

Eight years in the making, this is the world’s most powerful digital camera, able to take images with a frankly mental resolution of 570MP. Built in the US and now attached to a telescope in Chile, it is currently undergoing testing prior to beginning a survey of the southern skies in December 2012 – where it’ll be looking to photograph incredible images of dark energy, galaxies, supernovae and more.


The tiny Minox was introduced in 1937 as a luxury camera, but gained fame during the Cold War when it became a favoured tool for spies. The diminutive size of the camera made it easy to conceal, while its ability to focus on subjects as close as 20cm away meant it was ideal for photographing documents and other sensitive material.

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