Antique and vintage cameras are valued by collectors for many reasons, from the historical significance of 19th century wood cameras to the fine optics of classic vintage Leicas. Kodak and Polaroid are two other big names in camera collecting, as is Bolex in movie cameras.

The principles of the camera obscura - a simple light projection box - have been understood for thousands of years, but it wasn't until the late 18th century that Thomas Wedgwood discovered he could make simple prints using silver nitrate exposed to the sun. Over the next 100 years, a series of technical advances brought cameras into everyday life.

Nicephore Niepce and Louis Daguerre formed a partnership in 1829, and figured out a new chemical bath for prints, which shortened the exposure process to eight hours. Daguerre continued this research until he perfected the Daguerreotype, a print made on silver that was used up until the mid 1850s. Daguerreotypes and other formats (e.g. cyanotypes, ambrotypes, tintypes) were made with wood cameras, which were essentially camera obscuras with lenses, allowing for clearer image refraction.

It wasn't until George Eastman's 1885 invention of film that cameras got smaller - with his Kodak film loaded in, you would send the whole camera back to the factory to have it developed. Oskar Barnack began experimenting with 35 mm film in 1914 and built some prototypes of what eventually become the Leica I, the first practical 35 mm camera, released in 1925.

More improvements came when Kodak introduced the Retina I, the first camera to use a modern 135 film cartridge. Photography soon became affordable to all, even before the 1947 introduction of Polaroid's instant camera.

Development of movie cameras kept pace, building atop the basic slide projection technology (magic lantern) which had been in use since the 1500s. The first movie cameras were developed around 1888, and Thomas Edison produced the first copyrighted film in 1894. In 1895, the Lumiere brothers of France first showed off their 'Cinematographe,' a handheld combination projector and camera, in the first commercial public film screening.

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Collection D'Appareils Photo

Collection D'Appareils Photo

While we couldn't read everthing - it's mostly in French - the images on this site speak for themselves. Its an ext… [read review or visit site]

Magic Mirror of Life

Magic Mirror of Life

Jack and Beverly Wilgus have put together a great trove of information and images of camera obscura-related photos … [read review or visit site]

Cameras and Co

Cameras and Co

An impressive collection of antique and vintage cameras, this site features high-resolution images of over 120 came… [read review or visit site]

George Eastman House

George Eastman House

This showcase of vintage cameras and photography is plainly designed, but the camera collection and related referen… [read review or visit site]

Antique Cameras D. Tristram Ludwig

Antique Cameras D. Tristram Ludwig

David Tristram Ludwig shares high resolution images of his in-depth personal collection of antique cameras, includi… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

A German, Ernemann Of Dresden, Antique Mahogany & Brass Tropical Plate CameraStunning Antique Sanderson 1/2 Plate Mahogany Camera + Gilt Band Lancaster LensBlair, Eastman, American Usa Antique Stereoscopic Stereo Mahogany & Brass Camera4 Brass Lens Bbt Krauss Apo Quatryl Soupault Flange Rings Magic Lantern PetzvalNice Vtg.leica M3 Camera Body (only), Serial 984282, Works Ok Excp.frame CounterAntique Dallmeyer Petzval Daguerreotype Or Wet Plate Camera Brass Lens. Antique Old Wooden Folding Camera , Wooden Plate Camera With Lens UntestedAntique 1930s Folmer Graflex, Speed Graphic, 4x5 Folding Camera, Zeiss Lens, NrZeiss Ikon Super Ikonta A Model 531 6x4.5 Tessar Lens, Case, No Reserve, As SeenExc. Working Rolleiflex 2.8e Tlr Camera W/ Zeiss Planar 80mm 1:2.8 LensAntique Eastman Kodak, Rb Graflex, Series B 4x5 Slr Folding Camera, NrVintage Russian Jupiter 9 Lens F2 85 Mm Zorki, Leica (leica Srew Fit )Ussr Mto 1000mm Mirror Telephoto Lens For Slr Camera No ReserveGraflex 3-cell Flash Star Wars Skywalker Light SaberMinolta Autocord Cds Iii Tlr Medium Format Camera For 120 And 220 Film With CaseVoigtlander Heliar 1:3.5 F=7.5cm X2 Lenses In Compur Rapid Shutters S/r FaultsLeica Standard With Elmar 5cm/3.5 And CaseGraflex Miniature Speed Graphic Camera W/ Kodak 105mm Lens*beautiful* Zeiss Ikon Super Ikonta 532/16 Camera In Great Condition *no Res*Antique Century Mahagony Wood & Bellows CameraVintage Russian Universal Optical Viewfinder For Zorki, Leica Rangefinder Camera*rare* Vintage Minolta Auto Press Camera W/case In Great Condition *no Reserve*Antique Voightlander John Camera Lens May 22,1885 Ex Cond. No.25617Samoca 35 - Rare 35mm Film Camera With Original Case - Very CleanBeaulieu R16 16 Mm Film Camera With Angenieux Lens, Magazine And AccessoriesThree Vintage Rollei Tlr Cameras For Parts Or Restoraton Rolleiflex Baby Rollei Ensign Commando Folding 120 Roll Film Range Finder Camera. With Leather Case.Rolleiflex 2.8 E2 With 80mm F/2.8 Schneider Xenotar Lens & Prism Finder Fuji Ga645zi Autofocus "zoom" Medium-format 6x4.5 Camera + Flash In Usa: Nice!Nikon F Eye Level Prism Finder Viewfinder First Version With Square EyepieceIhagee, Exakta C (b W/backplate) Black 35mm Slr Vintage Camera (1933-1939)Antique Professional 3 Wick Magic Lantern Projector In Original Box Nikon Af Nikkor D 35-70 F/2.8d Lens For Film Slr, Digital Slr, 4/3 Or Micro 4/3J. H. Dallmeyer London Patent 2d 9" F/6 Soft Focus - Petzval Lens For 4x5"Heiland Flash Gun - The Original Star Wars Lightsaber!Antique Rare Brass Lens Mahogany Body Magic Lantern Spares Or RepairAnsco 5x7 Wooden View Camera #340418Vintage Nicca Iii S Camera W/ Nikkor H.c Nippon Kogaku Lens 5cm 1:2 & Bcb FlashEarly 8x10 Bausch & Lomb - Zeiss Protar Series Iv Lens In Volute ShutterLeica Leitz Iiif Black Dial Screw Mount 35mm Rangefinder Film Camera Wetzlar ExVivitar Series 1 90mm 1:2.5 Camera Lens W F2.5 Macro AdapterNikon Nikkor 24mm F2 Lens No.192968Nikon R10 Super Zoom Rare Super8 Movie Camera In Good Working Condition 8mm R8Rare Fallowfield Stereo Half Plate Tailboard Camera Mahogany Brass Wood C. 1875Black Nikon F Apollo Body, Eyelevel FinderVoigtlander Alpin Horizontal German 9x12 Folding Camera Cla Kollinear CollinearGraflex Speed Graphic 4x5 Kodak Camera Ektar 127mm F:4.7 Lens ~ Hugo Meyer 4cVintage Nippon Kogaku Nikon F Camera Body W/ Photomic FinderRicoh Ricohmatic 225 Tlr Medium Format Camera For 120 Film With CaseAntique Large Format Camera Lens RegnoAntique Brass Camera Lens - Large - 120 Mm - 5 InchesAntique Folding Box Camera Brass Barrel LensVintage Nikon Nikkor 180mm 1:2.8 Camera LensVintage Zeiss Ikon Contax 35mm Film Camera W/1:1.5 F=5cm T LensZeiss Ikon Contax Iii 35mm Rangefinder Vintage Camera (1936-1942) (body Only)Vintage Canon E.p. 125850 35mm Camera,japan,50mm F:1.8,98692Eastman Cine-kodak K100 Turret 16mm Movie Camera Ektar 63mm F2 Ii 25 1.9 15 2.5Sigma 18mm F2.8 Lens Nikon Mount No.211557Antique Wooden Camera Tripod Folding Legs, Adjustable Height 80 - 130 Cm Approx.Voigtlander Virtus German 6x4.5 Folding 120 Film Camera Cla Works Compur Heliar

Recent News: Cameras

Source: Google News

Unearthed millstones spark interest
Idaho Statesman, February 5th

From its antique camera collection to a Wurlitzer organ, the mill is a haven for history buffs. Flour sacks, handwritten ledgers and unique milling machinery are part of the four-story tour, along with an old-time photo parlor. Van Vogt and his wife...Read more

Did movie legend Jimmy Stewart own mystery camera found in Columbia Gorge?, February 4th

The vintage camera is inscribed with the words "Made in East Germany/U.S.S.R. occupied." Field has shipped the weathered film canister retrieved from the camera to Portland's Blue Moon Camera & Machine, hoping some photos can be retrieved. The two ...Read more

View From The 50: Super Bowl babies choir is ... wild, February 3rd

So yes, the scene was already a bit jarring for a rookie and there was freakin' Seal walking around the Giants locker room snapping photos with a vintage camera with a big smile on his face. Nobody was paying much attention to the famed pop star, he...Read more

Watch: Oregon hikers find mysterious Soviet-era camera in Columbia Gorge, February 2nd

When Field pulled the object out of the mossy muck, however, he realized he had actually discovered a Cold War-era relic from the other side of the world -- a vintage camera inscribed with the words "Made in East Germany/U.S.S.R. occupied." Two weeks ...Read more

Relics of the 'Stone' Age Unearthed in Southeast Washington
Centralia Chronicle, February 1st

From its antique camera collection to a Wurlitzer organ, the mill is a haven for history buffs. Flour sacks, handwritten ledgers and unique milling machinery are part of the four-story tour, along with an old-time photo parlor. Van Vogt and his wife...Read more

8 Classic Viewfinder Designs in Vintage Cameras
PetaPixel (blog), January 12th

What's in a viewfinder? The view within a viewfinder has always been an opportunity to display additional information to the user. In this post, we'll take a quick look at 8 film SLR and rangefinder camera viewfinders...Read more

Lawrence resident's antique camera full of century-old mysteries
Lawrence Journal World, December 25th

Lawrence resident Conrad Altenbernd holds up a glass negative of the Kansas River and many buildings along the south bank that no longer exist today. Altenbernd discovered the slide in an antique box camera that he bought at a Lawrence garage sale...Read more

Vintage cameras celebrated at Alice Austen House, November 8th

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y.— Vintage Camera Day at the Alice Austen House on Sunday drew more than 80 visitors who got a chance to see how Alice Austen would have worked; saw a cyanotype demonstration; got their old reliables checked out and had a ...Read more