The word “camera” is short for the term camera obscura or “darkened room.” During the 18th century, the camera obscura was a small box with a lens that allowed artists to project the world onto their paper or canvas. When Louis Jacques Mandè Daguerre announced the addition of a light sensitive plate to this apparatus in 1839, the basic camera was born—yet it was only able to create one-of-a-kind images. George Eastman eventually produced the first photographic film in 1884 for photos to be reprinted. During this period, many diagnostic instruments were outfitted with cameras for internal photography of the human body. However, internal eye reflections caused ophthalmoscopes to be ill-suited for this purpose. The problem was solved by Friedrich Dimmer’s fundus camera, which was developed in about 1904. Unfortunately, it was a large, complicated machine not suitable for most eyecare practices. In 1915, Johan Nordenson first reported the design for a smaller commercial fundus camera. A decade later, the Zeiss Camera Co. manufactured a lens that eliminated aberrations seen in earlier photographs. The resulting Zeiss-Nordenson fundus camera (shown above with image taken in 1940s) was the first successful commercial device that generated detailed fundus photographs for practitioners.
Courtesy the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s Museum of Vision and museumofvision.org.