Monday, January 12, 2015


These days, digital photography has encompassed virtually all aspects of daily life.  Film has been forgotten by all but a dedicated few.  Digital photography, along with the ever increasing automation of our cameras, has resulted in pictures being taken with a frequency and multitude never seen before.

Leica has become an important player on the field of digital cameras with products that have to be considered at the forefront of digital photography, along with the names of many of their competitors.  Yet few are aware of the development of digital cameras. It seems as if they suddenly appeared out of nothing, destined to take over the world of photography.

Digital photography is a rather recent development, one that took substantially less time than the development of photography in the 19th century.  The first digital electronic camera was shown in 1975.  It was designed by Steven Sasson, an engineer at Eastman Kodak in Rochester, NY.  It used a CCD (charge coupled device) as a sensor.  The camera was a huge, 8 pound device, devoid of any portability.  But it did render digital images of 0.01 megapixels in black and white, using a cassette tape for storage.  The first images took 23 seconds for each exposure.  To view the images, the data was read off the tape and displayed on a TV monitor.

A portable digital camera would not appear until 1981.  This was the first marketed digital camera, the Sony MAVICA.  The name Mavica stood for Magnetic Video Camera.  It too used a CCD as a sensor, but it produced an analog video signal in the NTSC format at a resolution of 570 × 490 pixels (0.28 megapixels).  The color images were stored as still pictures on 2” magnetic discs which could be viewed with the help of a special playback unit on a television screen or they could be made into color photographs on a printer which was developed later on.

The magnetic disks were called “Mavipack” with a recording capacity of 50 color pictures.  The discs could be erased, reused, and removed from the camera at any given time, with no threat to their longevity or dependability.

File:Sony Mavica 1981 prototype CP+ 2011.jpg

The camera also allowed to be used as a motion picture video camera when coupled to a Betamax videotape recorder.  When the camera became available on the photographic market it sold for $646.00 which was a huge amount of money in 1981.

Of course image quality was very low and the camera was incapable to compete with analog film cameras.  Film would still rule supreme for a few more years until the digital photography revolution set in.  I think it is safe to say that most photographers and other members of the photographic industry were surprised how quickly digital photography replaced film.  It was this incredibly fast change that spelled the demise of many well established photographic companies.  Kodak, Agfa and Ilford, just to mention a few, have all but disappeared from the market and are alive today by name only.  Even Leica ran into considerable difficulties until the company was saved by Dr. Andreas Kaufmann.  Leica’s success with their digital (and analog) products has to be considered one of the photographic success stories of recent years and we can look forward to more exciting new items from Leica Camera AG.

Leica S1, the first digital camera from Leica


For high quality camera bags and accessories worthy of Leica equipment, go to


  1. 0.01 and 0.28 megapixel. That ought to be enough for a postage stamp.

    1. Don't knock it, we have to start somewhere. Without these pioneers, digital photography wouldn't be anywhere near of what it is today.

  2. What was the resolution of the Leica S1 and when was it built?

  3. The camera was made in 1996 with a resolution of 26 megapixels.
    This blog has an article about it at