A digital camera is a camera that captures photographs in digital memory. Most cameras produced today are digital, largely replacing those that capture images on photographic film. Digital cameras are now widely incorporated into mobile devices like smartphones with the same or more capabilities and features than dedicated cameras. While there are still dedicated digital cameras, many more cameras are now incorporated into mobile devices like smartphones. High-end, high-definition dedicated cameras are still commonly used by professionals and those who desire to take higher-quality photographs.
The first semiconductor image sensor was the charge-coupled device (CCD), invented by Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith at Bell Labs in 1969, based on MOS capacitor technology. The NMOS active-pixel sensor was later invented by Tsutomu Nakamura’s team at Olympus in 1985, which led to the development of the CMOS active-pixel sensor (CMOS sensor) by Eric Fossum’s team at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 1993.
In the 1960s, Eugene F. Lally of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory was thinking about how to use a mosaic photosensor to capture digital images. His idea was to take pictures of the planets and stars while traveling through space to give information about the astronauts’ position. As with Texas Instruments employee Willis Adcock’s film-less camera (US patent 4,057,830) in 1972, the technology had yet to catch up with the concept.
The Cromemco Cyclops was an all-digital camera introduced as a commercial product in 1975. Its design was published as a hobbyist construction project in the February 1975 issue of Popular Electronics magazine. It used a 32×32 metal-oxide-semiconductor (MOS) image sensor, which was a modified MOS dynamic RAM (DRAM) memory chip.