Camera technology has come a long way since the early days of the camera obscura. Manufacturers and inventors have tried and tested a multitude of different camera designs some quirky, some bonkers, some incredibly successful. Over the years, there have been plenty of weird and wonderful cameras in all shapes and sizes.
From battle ready machine gun cameras to sci-fi designs and bizarre storage mediums, we round up a selection of the strangest, rarest and most usual cameras to be created.
Apple Quicktake 100
The Apple QuickTake was one of the first and last digital cameras developed by Apple. This camera looked more like a projector than the classic camera design and could take 32 photos at a staggering 0.08 MP or eight snaps at 640x480. Originally released in 1994, it was marketed by Apple until 1997 but failed to catch on and was abandoned in that year.
Sony Digital Mavica
In 1981, Sony launched the Mavica as the world's first electronic still camera. It wasn't a digital camera in the current understanding as its sensor produced an analogue video signal captured on Video Floppy discs. The captured images could then be viewed on a TV.
The Lecia DMR was the world's first hybrid 35mm SLR camera with the option for either digital or analogue photography. In typical Lecia fashion, it was priced at $6,000 and didn't make much financial sense but was seen by many as the holy grail of the transition between film and digital photography.
This Lecia camera was interesting not only for its shape and design, but also for the fact that it offered lens mounts for Nikon, Contax, Canon FD, and Minolta lenses. The unusual design meant it captured square images using 35mm lenses.
The Rollei 35 was a miniature viewfinder camera that was originally introduced to the world in 1966 and was the smallest camera of the time. Over the years that followed around two million of these cameras were manufactured and the design even continued on until 2015.
Lytro is a light-field camera that was originally developed in pocket-sized format and was interesting not only for its unusual shape but because it was capable of refocusing images after being taken. Later models would also be intriguing, with a fixed aperture it measured resolution in megarays instead of megapixels and was capable of focussing from 0 mm to infinity.
George Lawrence's Mammoth Camera
In 1900, George Lawrence built the world's largest camera in order to take a photo of a train and capture all the carriages in one single shot - a ground-breaking panoramic for the time.
George Lawrence made a name for himself with stunts like this and also took steps in aerial photography innovation that included taking photographs from hot-air balloons and with camera-carrying kites. Another of his famed panoramic images showed the aftermath of the 1906 earthquake with the ruins of San Francisco.
The Light L16 was a quirkily designed camera that used 16 camera modules to capture multiple high-resolution snaps at varying focal lengths, all at once. The idea here was to create a camera that worked as a nice middle ground between a large DSLR for quality and compact camera for portability.
The captured images were fused together into a 52-megapixel photo which could have its focus edited afterwards and offered "exceptional low-light performance". This one certainly looks like it was inspired by a fly and stands out on our list of unusual cameras.
Konishoruko (Konica) Rokuoh-Sha Type 89 Machine Gun Japanese WWII Camera
During WWII various battle cameras were built by military forces around the world for training purposes. One of these cameras was manufactured for the Japanese airforce by Konishoruko, a camera manufacturer who would later go by the name Konica.
These sorts of cameras were mounted to planes in place of real machine guns and helped with testing and training of pilots by confirming kills and evaluating their accuracy. When the pilot pulled the trigger on his weapons, footage was taken of what he was aiming at and the captured film could then be analysed after the plane landed.
If you like the look of one, it's currently available to purchase from eBay.
HARMAN TITAN pinhole camera
This pinhole camera was made from injection moulded ABS, stainless steel and finished with a non-slip coating that made it extremely durable and capable of withstanding both natural elements and rough handling. In the era of the digital camera, the HARMAN TITAN pinhole camera is keeping one of the oldest forms of photography alive with traditional film capture through a pin-hole device.
Impossible I-1 Instant Film Camera
This unusual looking camera is pitched as one of the "most advanced instant cameras ever made". In an era of simple smartphone photography and digital cameras, this camera is designed to allow users to experiment with their photographs and give analogue enthusiasts the ability to snap instant photos with digital precision.
It's an incredibly unusual looking camera in the digital era, but certainly has plenty of interesting quirks too with Bluetooth connectivity, a smartphone app and more allowing double exposures, light paintings and a multitude of other special features.
Lomography LomoKino 35mm film camera
A modern take on a retro camera, the Lomography LomoKino 35mm film camera is a classically styled, hand-cranked 35mm motion-picture camera that allows users to capture 144 movie frames on a 36-exposure roll of film. No doubt a camera with a very niche market appeal, but also a quirky and wonderfully unusual addition to our list.
DxO ONE digital camera with Wi-Fi
The DxO ONE digital camera is a weird one as it doesn't work as a camera in its own right, it needs to plug into an Apple iPhone in order to work. This smartphone add-on captures 20.2MP images through a 32mm equivalent f/1.8 lens. With shutter speeds up to 1/20,000 of a second, a max ISO sensitivity level of 51,200 and a mass of other settings it delivers incredible photographs straight from your phone.
Minox DCC 14.0 digital camera
This is a miniaturised version of the classic MINOX camera and is pitched as a true example of first-class German engineering. With precision mechanics and a high attention to detail, this tiny camera is capable of 14-megapixel snaps with a quality that belies its size.
The Minox DCC 14.0 digital camera is available to buy from Amazon.
Lomography Konstruktor F do-it-yourself 35mm film SLR camera kit
The perfect gift for the photography enthusiast who already has it all is a box with a DIY camera inside. The Konstruktor F allows people to build their own 35mm from the ground up with all the necessary parts. The idea here is to give the user a new found appreciation for the intricate mechanics behind the analogue cameras and how they work. Plus there's no doubt something special about using a working DSLR camera you built yourself.
Avangard Optics Smiling Face Brooch Spy Camera
A pinhole camera built into a smiley face brooch that works as a spy camera and can be pinned to clothing to capture 480p video at 30fps. It's also capable of capturing still images and recording images on a microSD card. Certainly a weird camera, we doubt many spy cameras are this unsubtle.
This unusual looking camera by Konica was originally released in 1991 and quickly became referred to as the Darth Vader camera due to its unusual styling features. The Konica AiBORG is a 35mm point-and-shoot viewfinder camera with a large and incredibly distinctive design. It's notably one of the first cameras capable of autofocus superzoom.
This podgy bulky looking 35mm film camera was released by Kyocera in 1996 and boasted a unique autofocus system that worked with manual focus lenses. This was unusual for the time and made it stand out as a weird and wonderful camera design.
Olympus AZ-4/Ricoh Mirai
In 1988 Ricoh released this curious-looking bridge camera to market. It was co-created with Olympus and was one of the only autofocus SLR cameras made by Ricoh. This camera featured a design that made it look something like a cross between a video camera and a projector and was intended to offer a futuristic feel backed by impressive specifications. With a fixed 35 – 135mm zoom lens, an aperture of f/4.2 (wide) to f/5.6 (telephoto), shutter speeds of 32 sec – 1/2000 sec, TTL autofocus it was certainly an interesting camera for the time.
This unusually designed Olympus camera was part limited run of just 20,000 units. The Ecru was a limited edition camera which took its name from the French word for "unbleached" and was intended to be a symbol for "living an intellectually enhanced life as natural as unbleached cloth."
Another camera that looks like the battle cameras we featured earlier in this list, the Zenit Photosniper one of several rifle-styled cameras that was originally intended for military use or use for battlefield photography. These styles of camera were most famously used by Nikita Kruschev who was the leader of the Soviet Union from 1955 until 1964.
Pentax Auto 110
The Pentax-110 camera system claims to be the smallest interchangeable-lens SLR system ever created. It was so small that the camera itself would fit neatly into the palm of the hand. This camera system was capable of working with a number of different interchangeable lenses and quickly became extremely popular among 110 film cartridge enthusiasts.
This Fisher-Price camera was known as the KiddieCorder and was a black-and-white camcorder which was released in the 1980s and used audio cassette tapes for its recordings. Although hardly bleeding-edge camera tech, this little video camera was still highly sought after at the time for being a fantastic toy but also afterwards by alternative film-makers who love the low-fi aesthetic look.
In the mid-1950s, SECAM developed this pen-shaped camera which looked like a perfectly sized spy camera. The Stylophot camera used double perforated 16mm film and captured 10x10mm images that were hardly astounding quality. Nonetheless, it was certainly a weird and wonderful camera and a great addition to our list.
In 1947, the Petal Optical Company of Japan create the PETAL, the smallest subminiature photographic camera in the world. The Guinness Book of World Records holds this camera as "the smallest camera ever made" measuring at just an inch in diameter. This tiny camera was capable of taking six photos on a piece of cut film that could be replaced in daylight but was difficult to use.
Minolta 110 Zoom SLR
This oddly shaped camera was the first SLR in the 110 film format to be released. This unusual shape came about when Minolta took the flat shape of the typical 110 pocket camera and added a larger lens and prism hump to it. It boasted a number of other features including aperture priority autoexposure, exposure compensation and allowed the use of film speeds other than the ISO 100 and 400 too.
The Doryu 2-16 is yet another example of cameras created in the shape of handguns and weapons. These pistol cameras were developed in the 1950s for police and surveillance task forces but only around 600 were produced.
The Canon Photura was an oddly shaped Canon camera that went by several different names including the "Epoca" in Europe and "Autoboy Jet" in Japan. This camera was part of Canon's Sure Shot camera range and had a 35-105mm zoom lens with a powerful built-in flash. This odd looking camera looks more like a torch than a camera, but is so funky it was selected for display by the New York Museum of Modern Art.
The Petri Fotochrome was an unusual camera with a quirky design. This camera reflected the captured image onto the film plane that ran parallel to the ground, hence the cameras unusual design. This design was a failure as it required the use of proprietary film which made it difficult and expensive to use. The result was a remarkable camera that was a complete dud and can still be bought today in its original packaging because so many were never used.
Video Girl Barbie was a point-of-view video camera aimed at kids. This little camera was built into a Barbie Girl model with the lens being part of her necklace. An LCD viewfinder on her back allowed children to see what they were recording and Video Girl Barbie was capable of recording upto 25 minutes of footage that could then be transferred to a PC. Certainly quirky, if nothing else.
Casio Exilim TRYX / TR100
This weird and wonderful camera from Casio featured a swivelling and rotatable frame with a touch-screen display that allowed users to capture images from a variety of angle. It was also a super-slim and compact camera that was easy to use and even easier to take with you on the go.
Ricoh GXR System
The Ricoh GXR is an unusual addition to this list as, where standard cameras have either a fixed lens and sensor or interchangeable lenses, this camera takes interchangeable units, each holding a lens, sensor and image processing engine. This allowed for several benefits, including each unit being able to be optimised for specific photographic tasks where other cameras would all rely on the same sensor even with different lenses.
The sealed units produced for this system also protected the sensor from dust, damage and contaminates. There is an added cost of course, which might put many off the purchase.
Seitz 6x17 Digital
This camera is a camera that's not a camera. It's actually a scanner that scans images very slowly and needs to be mounted on a steady surface due to the slow scan times. It also requires the use of accompanying computer equipment and batteries to make it work which make it pretty specialist. Nonetheless, the Seitz 6x17 Digital got people excited back in 2006 when it promised 160MP photographs for just $40,000.
Ricoh LX-22 XOBBOX
This see-through camera is also known as the XOBBOX, not to be confused with Microsoft's game console. It boasted a transparent shell which allowed users to see the inner workings of the camera. Of course, the film chamber itself wasn't see-through as it needed protection from natural light. Still a brilliantly unusual camera with a colourful and quirky design.
Pentax 'Korejanai' K-x
This Pentax camera saw an extremely limited run with just 100 units being created and sold. The Pentax 'Korejanai' K-x was colourfully crafted to match the Korejanai Robot Model. The colours were the only thing that made it stand apart from the standard models with both camera body and lens being otherwise identical to standard Pentax DA-L cameras.
Game Boy Camera
The Game Boy Camera was released as pocket camera in the late 1990s and was compatible with all the Game Boy devices on the market. The camera could capture black & white digital images using the four colour palette of the Game Boy system but was a little quirky and not something that was in high-demand. The company ceased production four years later.
Pentax Optio NB1000
This weird looking camera worked with nanoblocks and allowed users to create their own camera designs by attaching blocks to the front of the camera. This camera is available to buy in a variety of colours and is capable of capturing 14MP images with a 4x optical zoom and 3" digital display. Certainly a weird camera, brilliantly designed for the creative people out there.
The SMaL Ultra-Pocket is perhaps best described by the blurb from the company's website:
"The Ultra-Pocket is the perfect entry-level digital camera for individuals and families who desire a true pocket camera without sacrificing affordability and quality. "When people see and use the Ultra-Pocket, it is common for them to react with a ‘Wow!’ at least twice," said Keith Fife, Vice President, Engineering, SMaL Camera Technologies. "The first ‘wow’ is a reaction to the camera’s ultra-thin size – literally the size of a credit card and only 0.2" (6 mm) thin. The second occurs when they see how the Autobrite™ technology clearly captures the dark details of a scene while ensuring that the bright regions never saturate."
The Ultra-Pocket boasts durability and a sleek silver contour. Its VGA resolution (300,000+ pixels) is ideal for sending images via e-mail or for posting on the web. The included 8 MB MultiMediaCard removable memory can hold up to approximately 40 images. USB connectivity ensures fast downloading and connectivity with Windows. The camera fits easily in your pocket, goes virtually everywhere you go, and offers simple point-and-click use. With the Ultra-Pocket, it’s never been more convenient to capture and share life’s images."
Certainly some interesting boasts and a quirky little camera that's as thin as it is bonkers.
The Sanyo IDC-1000Z was a pretty interesting device when it was first released in 2000. This camera was certainly unconventional using Magneto Optical discs to store images. It only took 1.5MP snaps with a 3 x zoom but certainly included an interesting design.
This camera really stands out from the crowd. It's a super-telephoto zoom digital camera that offers a staggering focal length from 450 to 1350mm. It has an SLR-style and uses a remote control shutter to minimise camera shake which would otherwise be a serious problem at such high zoom levels.
This spherical camera includes 36 separate lenses encased in a protective plastic shell. Each lens uses a 1/4" sensor which allows for the capture of a 108MP 360-degree image when all the photos are combined. Certainly staggering, definitely weird.