a red and black video camera on a tripod.

Invention of the Video Camera (A Complete History)

Shooting videos is something we all take for granted nowadays, but do you know who invented the first video camera and when it happened? Let's find out.

Ever wondered who invented the video camera, and when it happened?

That’s a question posed to me by my grandson last weekend, so I decided to do some research!

So, if you want to learn more about the history of the video camera, you’ve come to the right place.

You can even watch the first-ever motion picture… on Youtube!

Who Invented the Video Camera?

a black and white photo of a man with a beard.

Louis Le Prince | Wikimedia Commons

The invention of the first video camera is widely attributed to Louis Le Prince in 1888.

Le Prince filmed the oldest video that exists: Roundhay Garden Scene.

The development of the video camera is actually a result of the contributions of numerous inventors over several years, each adding their own advancements to the technology.

When Was the Video Camera Invented?

The video camera was invented in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with various inventors making significant contributions to its development.

Here’s a timeline of events surrounding the invention of the first video camera:

  1. Louis Le Prince: In 1888, this French inventor created what is often considered the first motion picture sequences. He used a single-lens camera and paper film to record the “Roundhay Garden Scene” in Leeds, England. Although his technology was more akin to film cameras, his work laid the foundation for future developments in motion picture technology.
  2. William Kennedy Laurie Dickson and Thomas Edison: In 1891, Dickson, who was working for Edison, developed the first movie camera known as the Kinetograph. While Edison was also trying to create a video camera, it was Dickson’s design that proved to be more successful.
  3. Kazimierz Proszynski: This inventor made significant strides in 1894 with the invention of the Pleograph, a device that combined a camera and a projector. Proszynski also created the Aeroscope, the first compressed air camera, which was also the first handheld camera. This innovation greatly facilitated news broadcasters’ ability to film on location, including capturing footage of battles during World War I.
  4. John Logie Baird: In the 1920s, Baird, a Scottish engineer, developed the first operational television system capable of capturing moving live images, marking an early form of a video camera.
  5. Vladimir Zworykin and Philo Farnsworth: In the early 1930s, these two inventors are credited with the development of electronic television, which laid the groundwork for the video camera. Zworykin, a Russian-American inventor, developed the iconoscope, a tube for transmitting images used in early television cameras. Concurrently, Farnsworth, an American inventor, developed the image dissector, another type of camera tube.
  6. Ampex Corporation: In the 1950s, this U.S. company invented the first practical videotape recorder, a device capable of capturing live images from television broadcasts.
  7. Sony Corporation: In the 1980s, Sony introduced the first consumer camcorder for video, the Betamovie, which combined a camera and videocassette recorder into a single handheld device.

While it’s challenging to attribute the invention of the video camera to a single individual, these inventors and companies all played pivotal roles in its evolution.

What Was the First Ever Film?


The Roundhay Garden Scene was a short film shot in 1888 by French inventor Louis Le Prince.

It’s often considered the first recorded moving image sequence that used a single-lens camera and paper film.

The film, which lasts just over 2 seconds, shows four people moving around in a garden.

From 1894-1894, William K.L. Dickson produced what’s now known as the Dickson Experimental Sound Film at Thomas Edison’s laboratories.

It’s notable as the first known film with live-recorded sound, and it features Dickson playing the violin while two men dance.

Then in 1895, Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory was made by the Lumière brothers in France.

It’s often cited as the first real “motion picture,” and it shows workers leaving the Lumière factory.

The Lumière brothers were pioneers in early cinema and went on to hold the first public screening of films in December 1895.

These early films were all very short, often just a few seconds long, and they were silent, as synchronized sound technology hadn’t been developed yet.

They were more like moving photographs than the narrative films we’re familiar with today, but they laid the groundwork for the development of motion pictures and movie cameras as we know them today.

What Were the First Video Cameras?

a close up of a machine on a white background.

EMI Super Emitron Television Camera | tvcameramuseum

The first “video” cameras were essentially television cameras, as they were designed to capture moving images for live television broadcasts.

Here are some of the key developments:

  1. Iconoscope Camera: Invented by Vladimir Zworykin, a Russian-American engineer who was working for RCA, the Iconoscope was the first practical video camera tube to be used in early television cameras. Introduced in the early 1930s, it converted the light from an image into an electronic signal that could be broadcast.
  2. Image Dissector Camera: Philo Farnsworth, an American inventor, developed the Image Dissector camera tube around the same time as Zworykin’s Iconoscope. The Image Dissector captured images as a series of electron scans, which could then be converted into an electronic signal for broadcast.
  3. Emitron and Super Emitron Cameras: These were developed by the British company EMI in the mid-1930s. The Emitron was similar to the Iconoscope and Image Dissector, but it had improved light sensitivity. The Super Emitron, which was a combination of the Emitron and the Image Orthicon (another type of camera tube), was even more sensitive and provided better image quality.
  4. Image Orthicon Camera: Developed by RCA and introduced in the 1940s, the Image Orthicon camera tube was often referred to as the “Immy.” It provided very good image quality and was widely used in television studios for many years.

These early video cameras were large, complex, and expensive, and they were primarily used in professional settings like television studios.

It wasn’t until several decades later, with the development of the camcorder, that video cameras became accessible to consumers.

What were the first consumer video cameras?

a video camera sitting on top of a white table.

Sony Betamovie BMC-100P camcorder | Wikimedia Commons

The first consumer video cameras, often referred to as camcorders, were developed in the early 1980s.

These devices combined a video camera and a video recorder into a single, portable unit. Here are some of the key developments:

  1. Sony Betamovie BMC-100P: Introduced in 1983, the Sony Betamovie BMC-100P was the first consumer camcorder. It recorded onto Betamax tapes, which were smaller versions of the professional Betacam tapes used in television studios. The Betamovie was a significant development because it allowed consumers to record and playback video with a single device.
  2. JVC GR-C1: Introduced in 1984, the JVC GR-C1 was the first VHS camcorder. It was notable for its compact design and its use of full-size VHS tapes, which could be played back on any VHS VCR. This made it much easier for consumers to record and watch videos, as they didn’t need any special equipment to play the tapes.
  3. Sony Handycam CCD-V8: Introduced in 1985, the Sony Handycam was a significant development because it used 8mm video tapes, which were even smaller than VHS and Betamax tapes. This allowed for a more compact and lightweight design, which made the camcorder more portable and convenient to use.

These early consumer video cameras were revolutionary because they made video recording technology accessible to the general public.

This had a profound impact on society and culture, as it allowed people to record and share their own videos.

What was the first VHS camera?

a red and black camera on a tripod.

JVC GR-C1 | Camcorderpedia

The first camcorder that used VHS (Video Home System) was the JVC GR-C1, which was introduced in 1984.

This camcorder was revolutionary because it combined a video camera and a VHS tape recorder into a single, portable device.

The JVC GR-C1 was notable for its compact design and its use of full-size VHS tapes, which could be played back on any VHS VCR.

This made it much easier for consumers to record and watch videos, as they didn’t need any special equipment to play the tapes.

The GR-C1 was also notable for its appearance in the 1985 movie “Back to the Future,” where it was used by the character Marty McFly.

This helped to popularize the camcorder and contributed to its success.

The introduction of the JVC GR-C1 marked the beginning of the home video revolution, as it made video recording technology accessible to the general public for the first time.

What was the first digital camera with video?

a camera with a flash drive attached to it.

Ricoh RDC-1 | digitalkameramuseum

The first digital camera that had video recording capabilities was the Ricoh RDC-1, which was introduced in 1995.

The RDC-1 was a digital still camera that also had the ability to record video with sound.

The video quality of the RDC-1 was quite limited by today’s standards. It could record video at a resolution of 768 x 480 pixels, and the length of the video was limited by the capacity of the memory card.

However, the RDC-1 was revolutionary at the time because it was the first camera that allowed consumers to capture both still images and video digitally, without the need for film or tape.

The introduction of the RDC-1 marked the beginning of the transition from analog to digital video.

Over the next few years, digital video technology would continue to improve, with higher resolutions, better sound quality, and longer recording times.

This culminated in the introduction of high-definition digital video in the early 2000s, which has since become the standard for most video recording and broadcasting.

You may have seen on Wikipedia the Fujifilm FUJIX DS-X, released in 1989, was one of the early commercially available digital cameras.

However, it’s important to note that it was primarily a still camera and did not have video recording capabilities.

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Shotkit Journalist, Writer & Reviewer

Stephan Jukic is a technology and photography journalist and experimental photographer who spends his time living in both Canada and Mexico. He loves cross-cultural street photo exploration and creating fine art photo compositions.



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