The range of digital cameras have expanded greatly since the first true digital camera, a Dycam Model 1, was released on the market in 1990. The Dycam Model 1 could connect to a computer, but it was not until the development of CompactFlash memory, first used in the Kodak DC-25, that the portability and versatility of digital cameras started to catch the eyes of the general consumer. As the technology became less expensive to produce, digital camera prices likewise went from professional, to pro-sumer, to consumer level. Today, digital cameras come in a wide range of prices and have even become a standard feature of cellphones.
When the Kodak DC-25 was released in 1996, it had a 493×373 pixel CCD image sensor, which is less than 0.3 megapixels, could store up to 26 images on a 2MB CompactFlash card, and had a price tag of around $500. Standard digital cameras today start at 5.0 megapixels, can use memory cards with capacities between 512MB and 16GB, and cost around $80. Today, $500 can pay for a camera with 13.5 megapixels and a suite of features that were not even available to professional grade cameras in 1996. Digital cameras have come a long way since the Dycam Model 1 which would be over matched today by a cellphone with a built in camera.
Digital camera prices and image sensor strength were not the only features to have been improved since the days of the Kodak DC-25. Digital cameras today come in all sorts of designs and sizes. Older cameras had to be carried around in thick bags to protect the lens. Standard digital cameras today have a telescoping lens that recedes back into the device condensing the camera to pocket size. There are also models that are slim as an old cassette case.. Even the larger, SLR models of digital cameras are easier to handle than the professional grade cameras of the past.
When digital cameras became available to the general consumer, professional photographic quality was accessible off the shelf as never before. Cameras more powerful than the best available in the past are now contained within devices that can fit in a pocket. As the technology shrunk, so did the digital camera prices. Great digital cameras are easy to find, and with prices well within the consumer range, that influence will continue spread and steer the next generation of digital cameras into greater leaps in quality and affordability.